How to Help Your Houseplants This Winter
Days are fast, cold and sometimes gray, temperatures plummet during long nights, and dry heat from furnaces and fireplaces strips moisture from the air. In short, the interior climate in your own home is the polar opposite of that which occurs outside for three or four months a year depending on where you live. This is because houseplants are genetically engineered to thrive in a warm and moist environment.
During these challenging months, you can still show your plants the love they need to thrive and survive. The first step is being aware of the greatest dangers your houseplants face. Becky Brinkman, manager of the Fuqua Orchid Center at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, describes these problems as “the classic combo of low light, low humidity and cool temperatures.” “The remedy” she suggests is the real estate philosophy of location, location, location and some attention. You may also show your houseplants some love by avoiding the three biggest mistakes home growers make when caring for houseplants in winter:
Extending tropical plants too close to hot or dry air sources, including unheated porches or garages.
Keeping them too far from a source of direct sunlight.
Not checking for water in them.
Know the Temperature of Your Location
The ideal night minimum should be no more than 58 degrees Fahrenheit (14.4 degrees Celsius) and the daytime maximum should not exceed 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.9 degrees Celsius).
Choose a Location With Good Natural Light
Avoid cold drafts by caulking your windows or moving the plants away from the glass if cold air leaks through your windows. If you want to place a small plant on your windowsill, make sure that no leaves touch the glass.
Check for Watering Needs at Least Every Other Day
Check the soil for moisture with your index finger when you check the top quarter-inch of soil. Soil will get lighter in color as it dries.
Don’t Use a Garage for Tropical Plants
Brinkman said that tropicals, the ones from moist tropical lowlands, need warm and moist growing conditions all year round. “In nature, they never experience a long period of darkness or a cool dry rest, so an unheated dark garage would likely lead to an irreversible degeneration. Bring them indoors! Even a dry indoor climate is better than an unheated dark garage.”
Reduce Fertilizer Given to Plants
This is because as the number of daylight hours decreases and the house becomes cooler in winter, plant growth slows down. Some plants like succulents even undergo slow growth or partial dormancy. During periods of slow growth, plants require fewer nutrients than during periods of continued growth. As a result, you can cut fertilizing in half from the recommended dosage on the container. “We reduce the dosage and frequency of fertilizing in our greenhouses by half in the winter, from 200 to 100ppm and from twice a month to once monthly,” Brinkman said.
Know Your Indoor Humidity
In order to maintain a healthy living environment, the humidity in your house must range between 30 and 50%, as specified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Having too little or too much humidity in your home can cause health issues and damage the furnishings and home’s structure. Hygrometers, devices that look like regular thermometers and can be acquired at a hardware store, are one way to test the humidity in your home. Whenever you are living in an environment with a humidity level less than 50 percent, Brinkman suggests choosing plants with thick waxy leaves and avoiding plants with thin leaves. The humidity percentage displayed on the screen of most recent digital home thermostats paired with the temperature is a humidity-sensing device.
Based on How Stuff Works, relative humidity represents the ratio of the actual water vapor in an air volume at a particular temperature to the amount the air could accommodate at that temperature, expressed as a percentage.
Brinkman continued, “Humidity sensors are a lot more accurate now than they used to be 10 years ago, so you may not need a hygrometer anymore.” “The maximum relative humidity houseplants can tolerate is 80 percent, but most people would find that intolerable in their homes. If you’ve created an enclosed microclimate for your plants, like a terrarium, remember to ventilate it occasionally to control humidity and allow CO2 inside.”
Dust Your Plants
When leaves are left untouched, dust can accumulate on them, reducing their ability to absorb moisture. Wipe them with a soft cloth dipped in water.
Don’t Let Plants Sit in Saucers With Water
This will cause root rot.
Check for Spider Mites
If you dust your plants in the winter, you’re more likely to find these pests, because their reproduction is rapid and they thrive in warm, dry air. Check the leaves for dusty-looking spots on the tops and bottoms, and if you find an infestation, spray the plants with a stream of water to knock off any mites. The plants should be sprayed with insecticidal soap or horticultural oils if the infestation persists, making sure to thoroughly cover all leaves. Proper watering can help reduce pest infestations.
Run a Small Fan Near Your Plants
Feel how good it makes them to have the air flowing through them. It’s just like a gentle breeze on a warm day.
Don’t Re-Pot During the Winter
If you must re-pot your plant, you should avoid over-potting (using a bigger pot than necessary) unless the plant is so pot-bound it’s becoming obvious stressed. Select a pot whose size is appropriate for the root ball instead of using a pot that appears proportionate to the leaf mass.
When spring finally takes a firm hold again, here is one final piece of advice for any plants you might decide to move outdoors in the spring and store away until temperatures drop again in the fall. Get them used to their ideal light levels by taking small steps into brighter environments. If you take plants directly from low light to bright light, they may get sunburned black spots on their leaves. Those sunburns won’t fade away. Instead they will serve as a constant reminder to never make the same mistake again.