Why Do Plants Need Air?

The two primary reasons plants need is air to photosynthesize (make food) and to breathe. Plants need to breath for the same reason people and animals must breath – they need oxygen to convert food into energy. The relationship between air and indoor plants is crucial to keeping your plants looking their best.

Air Above Ground

Air is often taken for granted as it is invisible and seems readily available to plants above ground. However, even though air is abundant in our atmosphere, there are factors that can disrupt the availability of fresh air to a plant. Stagnant air may be low on vital gases such as oxygen and high on other gases that may harm the plant.

For example, when plants are placed indoors, fresh air is depleted over time and can cause the build-up of toxic gases. A good example of this is a banana wrapped in a plastic bag. When wrapped in the bag, fresh air is depleted quickly. Oxygen levels drop and ethylene released by the banana. The ethylene causes the banana to ripen faster than it would if it was sitting out in the open. These same types of reactions may happen to foliage plants if not exposed to fresh air, resulting in damaged or dead foliage. Read More »

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Video: Cymbidium Orchid Care

Charlee Storner is a St. Louis-based designer for Ambius who has decades of experience designing and maintain plant displays. For more on Charlee, visit her personal Designer website.

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How To Prune Plants Properly

How To Prune

Pruning is the selective removal of plant parts, including branches, buds, leaves, blooms and roots. Pruning can involve the removal of living, dying or dead plant parts. Pruning applies to both soft-tissue (herbaceous) plants and woody plants (trees, shrubs, etc.).

Understanding the goals of pruning is very important. People often prune plants without knowing why they need to prune the plants in the first place. This leads to mistakes and may waste time and resources on pruning that may not be necessary or pruning too late in the plant’s life. Understanding the goals of pruning can also save much time and resources in the long term. For example, proactive pruning to train a younger plant can save much time and hassle pruning later, prolong the lifespan of the plant and improve the appearance of the plant.

Pruning is an art and science of many levels of sophistication. Basic pruning techniques can be learned very quickly—others are more complicated and require ongoing training and extensive hands-on experience. There is no “one way” of pruning plants. Proper pruning practices depend on many factors, including the type and health of the plant and the goal of the pruning. Read More »

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How Does Humidity Affect Plants?

Learn how humidity affects plants indoors

Along with receiving the correct amount of water and light, moisture in the air in the form of water vapor greatly affects plant health. Water vapor is the gaseous, invisible state of water in the air known as humidity. Like soil moisture, some plants have evolved and acclimated to very dry, arid air with little or no humidity. Many of these plants are ‘low moisture’ plants with thick, waxy leaves and other adaptations for water retention.

Other plant types, particularly ‘high moisture’ plants prefer higher humidity due to their environmental adaptations. Ferns, particularly Nephrolepsis (Boston Fern) are notorious for requiring higher levels of humidity. In lower humidity, susceptible ferns will excessively drop leaves, creating a mess. This is one of the main reasons Nephrolepsis ferns are not used extensively in interior landscaping. Most palm types, Ficus, bamboo, and Schefflera, and others thrive in higher humidity. Most other non-succulent plants benefit from higher humidity because it reduces transpiration, leaf tipping, and can discourage mite pests. Read More »

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Plants and Soil Moisture


The amount of soil moisture a plant requires for optimal health varies from plant to plant. Similar to light and the forest canopy concept, various plant types have evolved and adapted to different environmental conditions based on moisture availability.

Indoor plants that require less soil moisture have developed modified plant parts and structures to help them cope with drier conditions—similar to the way camels have evolved and adapted to dry conditions. For example, many plants native to dry (arid) regions have developed thick waxy leaves with fewer stomata, effective at storing water and reducing water loss. Sansevieria, Zamioculcas Zamiifolia (ZZ plant), Jade plant and Aloe are examples of these. Many of these plants are considered ‘succulents’—a large group of low-moisture, ornamental plants. Plants native to extremely dry areas, including cactus such as Cereus, don’t have any leaves at all. Instead they have a modified stem(s) that hold abundant moisture and carry out photosynthesis.

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