No Winter Wonder by James Freeman
As winter approaches, we see and feel the outside world changing. Leaves are released from their duties as plants bare themselves to all. Clouds sometimes turning to ice as are skin dries and our lips chap.
Scenes far from what we expect to be displayed by our houseplants. But how do we ensure our plants stay away from the big sleep? (and I don’t mean hibernation)
Here are my do’s and don’ts;
As a general rule slow down or stop your feeding regime. Plants aren’t growing as much now; they’ve sensed the days shortening. Feeding them now can cause unwanted new growth that’ll be hard to sustain given the shortened windows for photosynthesis to occur.
Keep in mind that flowering plants will require maximum light during short, grey winter days. A lot of my light hungry plants like my Croton petra and my Maranta leuconeura (herringbone plant) have moved to my desk as it’s the only place seen by my south facing window. A window I now have to keep shut to stop my plants being exposed to cold draughts and fairly extreme temperature changes.
With the days shortening your plants must get any light they can so make sure to dust leaves with a damp cloth so their leaves can function unimpaired.
Time to start watering your now flowering Schlumbergera bridgesii (Christmas cactus) again. Learning about plant dormancy is useful in these situations. If you own Alcocasias or Caladiums its worth having a quick google about this.
When watering in winter, the soil is going to remain damp a lot longer. Over watering in winter is quite common. Stems will go mushy in cases of winter overwatering. If this does happen, you’ll want to cut off any non-mushy bits and see if they root. I wrote my last blog post on overwatering so I’d suggest a quick catchup if you’re seeking advice.
Drying heat sources like radiators cause the soil to become overly dry. In some cases, you may see gaps appearing between soil and pot. Make sure to give pots a good soaking if this happens.
Humidity will need to be addressed too. I use a spray bottle to regularly give my plants a light misting, although not on my cacti or succulents as they like the dry, also not advisable for plants with furry leaves. My spray bottle is always filled up and it’s good to have two if you have plants in different rooms. Good to have one always to hand and start making it part of your plant care toolkit.
The dry air created by our increased use of central heating causes our skin to dry out and gives us chapped lips and our plants aren’t having any more fun with their epidermis.
Buy a humidifier if you can afford one, if you can’t, a trip to the steamy shower room for your plants may be in order.
Grouping plants together can help with the dry air too, but only if they’re properly watered.
Humidity trays are another solution, basically a tray of water with pebbles in. The pebbles help keep the pot raised and prevent drainage holes of your pot from standing in water. As the day goes on the water will evaporate from the dish adding moisture into the air surrounding the plant.
With houseplant popularity still on the rise, I suspect many of us may have a lot more plants than last winter, right? I know this is certainly true of many of our customers as I watch people regularly ban themselves from coming into the shop. The real key for winter care is keeping up the good work. Observe your plants regularly and give them a pick up too. Knowing how heavy a sufficiently watered pot should feel is a handy skill.