By Tamara Galbraith
It's not the heat...it's the humidity. You've heard it a thousand times, right? But for plants brought inside for the winter, the saying is especially true.
Most plants thrive in 80% relative humidity. The average home's winter humidity level is a pretty desert-like 20-60%. So you know plants are suffering. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to raise humidity around your plants.
Humidifiers are wonderful additions to any household, and a benefit to humans as well as plants. There are both cold mist and heating humidifiers, and they work as their name implies: one sends a cool mist into the atmosphere, while the other heats the water and shoots warm vapor into the air...an especially nice treat for both tropical plants and folks suffering with the flu.
One of the most popular methods is to use a pebble tray. Fill a drainage saucer with small pebbles or rocks. Fill the saucer with water to just below the top of the rocks. Put your container on top. Over time, the water will evaporate and increase the humidity around the plant. You can also group plants closely together to build up the humidity in one area.
Two big don'ts: Don't place plants near outside doors where they will get frequent blasts of chilly air, and don't place them near furnace output vents, where they will dry out faster than you can say "Mojave Desert."
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Mistletoe, in older times, was believed to have protective properties and was hung to ward off evil spirits. Celts believed that mistletoe, a parasitic plant that grows on trees, had special powers that could heal diseases, make poisons harmless, protect against evil spells and bring fertility to childless women. For many years, Christian places of worship did not allow it inside because of its pagan associations. But nowadays it is mostly used as an excuse to steal a kiss.
The origin of our tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is lost in the mists of antiquity. Some say it probably stemmed from the Druids, who considered it sacred and would declare a truce in an area where it grew.
Others say the custom comes from the old festival of Saturnalia, and still others claim it comes from old Norse mythology and the tale of Baldur's death from a twig of mistletoe. Legend has it that the tears of his mother, Frigga, changed the berries of the mistletoe from red to white.
Whatever the origin of the tradition, most consider it a good deal of light-hearted fun to steal a kiss under the mistletoe. Just be careful whom you kiss--a jealous spouse may be lurking.
Despite its use as a holiday decoration and its association with love, peace, and stolen kisses, mistletoe is actually a parasite. It lives on trees and shrubs, tapping into the plant's nutrients by sending its roots under the bark. Mistletoe can weaken, or even kill, a plant. It is also poisonous (all parts), so keep it out of the reach of children and pets!
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