Updated: Jul 3, 2019
How to acclimate mitragyna speciosa to a lower humidity environment
If you have a fragile young kratom plant or you're growing in winter or in a frigid climate ---- or if you simply want your specimen to experience as much growth as possible and don't live in the tropics ---- it's best to keep your kratom indoors or in a grow tent or some kind of humidity chamber inside your home. It's easy to control environmental variables in a tent setup, and with enough light, heat, humidity, water and nutrition, your kratom will experience optimal growth and maximum yield.
But there comes a time when your specimen will benefit from leaving the tent and getting out there in the world to experience the wonders of real life: sun on her leaves, wind in her hair, bugs taking the occasional bite. Not only does this toughen up your plant (if done correctly), it can also trigger the production of extra alkaloids.
Grow Mode vs Protection Mode
There are two distinct modes live kratom toggles between:
1. Grow Mode
2. Protection Mode
These two modes are outlined in more detail in a coming article titled "How To Boost Alkaloids." For now, suffice it to summarize as follows:
When a kratom tree has all its needs met, it charges ahead in Grow Mode, making new leaves and branches as quickly as it can. When one or more of its needs is not sufficiently met, or it is somehow stressed or under threat, the tree slows down or halts its growth and uses its energetic resources to produce protective alkaloids.
When you are growing your specimen in a grow tent with ideal light, heat, humidity, water and food, she will be in Grow Mode, producing a lower number of alkaloids and spending her life force on the production of new foliage. When you remove her from this enclosure to acclimate her, she has to adapt to her new surroundings and this stress will switch her into Protection Mode until she fully adjusts to the new levels of resources available in her new environment. During this time, she will slow her growth and spend her life force producing extra alkaloids to protect herself.
It is not necessary to remove your specimen from her indoor grow environment to trigger increased alkaloid production, however, but rather than tangent into that, we will save that for an upcoming article. Be sure to join our mailing list so we can let you know when our articles go live.
The Basics of Acclimation
Let's say you want to bring your specimen outside for the summer, or put her on display in your home or store. Or maybe the grow tent and equipment have become cumbersome. Or you like to garden outdoors because all your other plants are our there. These are just a few of many possible reasons why you may want to acclimate your tree to lower humidity.
There's a wrong way to do it, and a right way. The wrong way is to rush and put your beautiful green being outside without slowly acclimating her to the sudden change in environment. It's also a mistake to pay no attention to the way she responds. Doing it right takes longer, but the results are worth it.
There are two notable ways to acclimate. The first can be done to a younger plant or an older plant:
Approach #1: Gradual Acclimation
The first step is to simply remove her from the tent.
It is important to choose a time when the temperature outside the grow tent is not too drastically different from the temperature inside. Late spring into summer are generally the most ideal times. Because the temperature is not wildly different, the plant should not shock. However, the humidity change can cause stress and visible damage to leaves.
One of the first things to happen is leaves begin to exhibit humidity curl. When humidity drops too low for the likes of your specimen, the tips of the leaves dehydrate and the edges curl up and begin to develop a brittle or slack edge.
Eventually the leaves drop off and new leaves more suited to the environment form. Perfect, happy, fresh new leaf development is a sign of successful acclimation.
Wet Plastic Bag Trick
Watching many of the leaves exhibit damage and fall off can be disheartening, but keep the faith. Losing some is inevitable, but you can mediate the negative effects of a sudden high-to-low humidity transition with the wet plastic bag trick. Begin by generously misting the leaves with pH 5.5-5.8 water and misting the inside of a very lightweight plastic bag, then put the bag gently over the leaves for a few days. This creates a makeshift humidity tent immediately over the foliage. Use multiple bags as necessary to encase multiple branches. It is important to use the most lightweight plastic possible, like the bags they have at the grocery store in the produce department. Anything heavier can weigh down the plant and damage it.
Leave the bag open on the bottom so some air can circulate, and eventually you will be able to remove the plastic bag after a few days.
Some leaves will inevitably develop humidity curl. That's ok. Let them fall off. Fresh new branches will eventually start to grow out of every empty leaf socket, and the terminal buds will bloom into fresh, pristine new leaves perfectly suited to the new environment.
Approach #2: Complete Defoliation
Another excellent way to acclimate your specimen is complete defoliation. If your specimen is mature enough but doesn't seem to want to acclimate the slow way, take off every leaf except the top two on each branch and simply leave the specimen in the new environment. The top leaves will eventually fall, but the entire tree will rebound with massive new growth perfectly suited for its new environment.
It really showcases the intelligence of the species to do it this way. You get to see the new leaves develop, and they will look notably different is the environment is notably different. For example, leaves grown in high humidity tent to be smooth and velvety. Leaves grown in lower humidity tend to be more rigid and thick like a potato chip. Put your specimen in the wind and the leaves will be shorter, thicker and very rigid. Kratom has a wonderful environmental adaptation response.
Your plant might not even look like the same plant once you do this. This environmental adaptation response is certainly a contributing factor to why people mistakenly think there are so many kratom strains. The secret lies in a combination of genetic diversity and environmental adaptation response.
The downside of acclimating your specimen
Transitioning your specimen to a lower humidity environment will slow its growth. Heat and high humidity work very well along with light, water and nutrition to make your plant grow like crazy. Although you can acclimate your plant to less than ideal tropical conditions, that doesn't mean it will continue to grow at the rate it exhibited in the tropical-style environment. Expect your plant to grow much more slowly in low humidity. This means a smaller plant and fewer leaves.
The upside of acclimating your specimen
When you've acclimated your specimen, it becomes less maintenance. You can move it anywhere in your house or transition it outside. Keep in mind that whipping wind will induce dehydration and going from inside the house to outside requires an additional step of acclimation. The same steps outlined above can be observed going from inside the living room to outside in the yard.
Be sure to keep your eye on your specimen and watch for any undesirable changes including wilting, dehydration and humidity curl. Although accepting that some leaves will be lost to humidity curl is expected, be conscious of what's happening and keep misting the leaves to make the transition more bearable.
Moving from indirect sunlight or an artificial light source to direct sunlight outside is a pronounced transition. Transition in increments. You may even move the plant outside a little on one day, then back inside, until a level of homeostasis is reached.
What specimens to acclimate
It's best to keep younger, smaller specimens in the humidity tent. If you have the grow tent and equipment, and your specimen fits inside, use it. Don't think that you have to remove your plant from this setup to instigate the production of high alkaloid levels either. There are multiple ways to boost alkaloids inside the tent, and keeping up that high humidity environment keeps your plant growing large quickly, the way it would in its natural habitat.
If you live in a tropical or sub-tropical environment, you can care for your plants in the humidity tent until they are strong or big enough to transplant (tropical) or seasonally transition outside. If you have warm summers, you can keep your specimen in the tent growing all year until the outside weather beckons, then let her experience the joy of a sunset on her foliage, the kiss of the wind, the delicate feet of a honey bee.
Your plant knows these are her birthright and will be grateful to you. Be conscious of the rain, as some rain has very high or low pH that can burn your plant's leaves. Kratom likes slight acidity, but anything too acidic or too alkaline make her unhappy and can even hurt her. If the pH is right, she will lift up her leaves in the rainfall in unabashed joy, catching the raindrops and sending rivulets of water streaming down her trunk to nourish her roots. Too much rain, or inclement weather, can damage her, so always pay attention. Think of her like a pet. She has feelings and doesn't want to be in pain, neglected or forgotten.
When acclimation is inevitable
Eventually your indoor specimen will outgrow her humidity tent. By this time, you have a full blown tree, and moving her inside in the winter and outside in the spring and summer is an effective approach to maintaining her health and happiness. The wet plastic bag trick is impractical for huge trees, so a big outdoor greenhouse becomes helpful when you reach this stage.
Once your tree is large enough, she should also be tough enough to withstand colder weather. Kratom can survive the 40s but not the 30s, temperature-wise. For best results, don't let her environment drop below 60. Remember not to worry if all the leaves drop off following a sudden environmental change. They will grow back so long as you do not let the tree freeze. Perceived winters will cause this evergreen species to go dormant until warm weather returns.