Houseplants are faced with artificial wind from fans and air conditioners which can easily cause stress. Stress, which can easily be avoided by knowing how to position the plant or the fan.
A fan can cause stress to a plant by subjecting it to an unhealthy amount of wind. Air conditioners, fixed and oscillating fans can blow wind directly onto the plant causing “windburn” which results in under-curling leaves. Fan stress can be avoided by either repositioning the plant or the fan.
In this article, we have outlined the solutions to having fans close to plants and what you can do to help keep your plants healthy in such situations.
How Can a Fan Stress Houseplants?
A fan can stress your indoor houseplants in several ways depending on the speed, direction, and working time.
Throughout their lives, nearly all indoor and outdoor plants need to balance five key requirements:
- food making (aka photosynthesis),
- water management,
- physical support.
Interestingly, wind can significantly influence all these five key requirements.
The moving air (wind) from your fans can significantly affect the proper growth of your plant in the same way as a wind in the natural environment can do. This is called windburn.
Wind burn is a form of stress. Plants respond by curling their leaf tips under or “clawing” when the wind is too strong. In the worst cases, leaf tips and edges can become brown and crispy.
Artificial wind from fans can stress indoor houseplants, altering plant growth patterns in more than one way.
Wind stress from fans can cause your house plants to have lower stature, smaller shoots, and thicker stems & roots.
See our article on caring for plants in air-conditioned rooms.
Symptoms of Fan Stress:
1. Plant Growth
A fast-speed fan can:
- reduce indoor houseplants’ growth,
- reduce the number and size of leaves,
- increase the root/shoot ratio,
- increase leaf thickness,
- increase petiole length,
- increase leaf flexibility, and stem diameter & height.
Your indoor houseplant will focus more of its energy on defending itself against the high-speed fans rather than focusing on proper growth and development.
Plants develop different strategies to counterattack environmental factors, especially light and wind.
If you have placed a high-speed fan right in front of your plants and the fan is constantly blowing air into them, your plant will divert all its attention and energy by developing thick leaves and roots to survive the dragging wind.
Wind stress can cause your plant to have a smaller stature compared to its normal height.
2. Transpiration Rate
Constant or intermittent blowing and ruffling of leaves can significantly alter the balanced natural processes of your indoor houseplants, especially the rate of transpiration.
According to Dr. E.V. Martin and Dr. F.E.Clements from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, a wind speed of up to 0.26 m.p.h can significantly increase the transpiration rate up to 50%.
Whereas wind speed is above 2. M.p.h can cause slight wilting in plants. It can also cause closure of the stomatal opening in the houseplants’ leaves, reducing the rate of transpiration.
Fans that directly blow high-speed wind on the indoor houseplants can bring more depressing results in the fall as compared to in the spring
Depending on plant type, wind speed, and wind temperature, artificial wind from a fan can influence the photosynthesis process of plants in more than one way.
High-speed fans can increase the water requirements of indoor houseplants as well.
If the air temperature around your plant is low and your fan is constantly blowing and ruffling your houseplants’ leaves, it can reduce photosynthesis.
This happens as a result of leaf temperature going below the optimal range, leaves rolling up as a defense mechanism, and closing of stomatal openings in leaves.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, high wind speed from the fans can close the stomatal openings in the leaves and with stomata, photosynthesis may get reduced.
4. Wind Burn
Constant or intermittent blowing and ruffling of leaves can also cause windburn. Windburn is one of the many stresses that plants struggle against.
To survive high-speed wind, the plants curl the tips of their leaves.
The plants can suffer gravely from high-speed fans, especially, if the fan you are using is not an oscillating one.
When your fans, placed directly in front of plants, don’t rotate or move (oscillate), the constant wind pointing directly at plants will curl their leaves.
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How To Fix The Problem?
The following solutions can help you prevent any potential stress caused by the fans:
1. Lower The Setting on The Fan
Your houseplants just need moderate and gentle rustling to thicken their leaves and stems. Therefore, all you need to do to prevent potential stress caused by the fans is lower the setting of the fan. Minimize the speed of your fans.
Low to moderate wind speed from the fans would be enough to gently blow air above and under your houseplants.
2. Change the Fan Direction
Instead of having the fan pointed directly to the plant, you can try having it faced to a wall. By doing this you can still provide air circulation in your home without having to stress your plants.
3. Buy a Small Oscillating Fans
As we mentioned earlier, fans that don’t rotate or move (oscillate) and provide constant wind pointing directly at plants can force your plants to curl their leaves.
Hence, buy small oscillating fans. Small oscillating fans are ideal to gently ruffle the leaves and circulating air around plants. The best thing about them, though, is how cheap and cute they are. Personal opinion, LoL!
4. Move The Plant or The Fan
Another solution to avoid wind stress caused by the fans is by changing the position of your fans. Place your fan somewhere where it isn’t directly pointing strong wind at your houseplants.
If, for any reason, you can’t move your fans then move your plants. Place your plants somewhere where they can avoid getting direct strong wind from fans.
Can Wind From The Fan Help Thicken The Plant Stem?
Yes! Here’s how wind from the fan can help thicken the plant stem and leaves:
As we described earlier in the article, Plants develop different strategies to counterattack environmental factors, especially light and wind.
A fast-speed fan will trigger your houseplants’ to change their normal growth patterns.
Constant or intermittent blowing and ruffling of leaves trigger the plants to develop thick leaves and stems. So that they can stand firm against the blowing wind.
Wind from fans will not only thicken the stem and leaves but will also trigger the plants to increase their petiole length and leaf flexibility.
Your indoor houseplant will focus more of its energy on surviving against the wind from fans.
However, keep in mind that the speed of your fans should not be more than 2 m.p.h. Keep it within reasons. You sure would not want your leaves along with shoots to break and fly away.
Furthermore, a fan is also a great source to provide the necessary ventilation indoors.
Plants need a constant flow of carbon dioxide for the process of photosynthesis, your fan can favorably assist them in getting a sufficient amount of it.
Otherwise, photosynthetic rates can considerably decrease if there is very low or no air movement present.
Other Sources of Wind That is Not Good For Plants:
In addition to high-speed fans, air conditioners can also stress your houseplants. Both hot and cold wind isn’t good for plants’ growth and healthy development.
Both can disrupt the natural phenomena of plants: photosynthesis, transpiration, and reproduction.
Cold air from air conditioners can freeze the guard cells in the stomata, closing the stomatal openings in the leaves from transpiration.
It can also freeze and block other pathways, reducing water and nutrients uptake by the plants. In short, cold air from air conditioners can starve your indoor houseplants.
To prevent your houseplants from starving, make sure your plants aren’t directly facing the air conditioners as it can strip the plants of their moisture as well. If possible, place them far away in a corner from your AC.
However, if you notice your plant’s leaves turning yellow or wilting, immediately remove your plants from the room with an air conditioner.