Most of us have at least one houseplant that has come from a friend or relative that is a mainstay in our home. If you are anything like myself it can sometimes be a struggle to keep them alive and looking healthy in the winter months. We have put together a few things over the years that we have found work well for our plants at home and hopefully you will find something that works for you too.
Know Your Plants (and their needs)
The first step to keeping plants happy inside in the winter is knowing what they are and what they need for light (sun or shade) and moisture, both in the air and in their soil. If you are uncertain about what plant you have, snap a picture and share it with us, we can help identify it for you.
Pay attention to how the light shifts in your house throughout the months and where the sun is really reaching. If you have a plant that requires more light than it is getting consider moving it, or if it’s too large to move add a grow lamp to help supplement the sunlight that it should be getting.
The air in our homes is very dry in the winter and though this may be ideal for cactus, your tropical
plants may suffer. See if you have a place for them in your bathroom or kitchen where there will be higher humidity. Also try to keep plants away from heating vents as this will dry them out much faster.
Its not uncommon to overwater plants this time of the year so water sparingly and stick a finger into the soil before watering to really test the moisture of the soil and how deep it goes. Often its best if the soil dries out between watering. Plants can recover more easily from being too dry as opposed to too wet.
Look for Pests & Diseases
Check on your plants every day if you can to spot changes in their appearance and always be on the lookout for pests and diseases
Aphids, spider mites, white flies and mealy bugs are the most common insects that are found on our houseplants. They are all relatively small so it can be difficult to notice them at first which is why it’s important to give your plants a good look over every day.
Insects can easily be treated with Neem Oil or Insecticidal Soap sprays that will need to be reapplied every 5 days to account for the hatching of new insects. When you are spraying make sure to get the underside of the leaves as this is where the main concentration of the insects will be. These are both safe and natural options for treatment so you don’t have to worry about special handling. If you can move the plants to the kitchen sink or bathtub to prevent the spray from getting on anything else.
Fungal and mildew problems are less likely in the winter months because of the low humidity levels but they are still a possibility. These can be treated naturally with Neem Oil or a Copper Fungicide.
Repot your plants
This is a great time of year to repot your house plants, it not only makes it seem like a new plant if it’s in a different pot but it’s great for the plant too.
If you are seeing roots come out of the bottom of the existing container it’s time for a larger pot. Gently remove your plant from the old container and carefully loosen up the bound roots. Make sure your new container has proper drainage. Add and inch or two of stone to the bottom to prevent the roots of your plant from rotting. Add fresh soil to the container and repot your plant.
Even if your container doesn’t need replacing it’s a good idea to take your plant out, loosen the roots and add some fresh soil. This will help with root growth, and drainage and you will have a healthier plant soon afterward.
Other Care Tips
Occasionally wipe down the leaves of your plants. They can become dusty and this can prevent some of their natural processes and impede growth. You can also put them in your shower or sink and gently spray them with room temperature water.
Pay attention to yellowing and falling leaves. Many plants will have leaves that yellow in the winter months as part of their natural process but this can also be a sign of overwatering, so remove the yellow leaves and check the soil moisture
Don’t fertilize until closer to spring. Plants are more dormant this time of year because of the natural day length and as the days get longer it will be time to fertilize before they begin to actively start growing.
When in doubt ask a professional. We are always here to help you with any plant questions you may have. Bring in or email us some photos and we can help you diagnose what might be going on and recommend treatment.
Houseplants can be a great addition to our homes in the winter and really help us with our cabin fever. They can be frustrating at times but hopefully now you are a little better prepared to make caring for them easier.