Winter's here, and it's time to give our houseplant babies the opportunity for a little downtime, and after a year-long display, they deserve a little T.L.C.
I've put together a short guide on how to provide them with just the right amount of attention while encouraging them to take a break.
The culprit of most houseplant illnesses is overwatering. At this time of year, plants aren't using nearly as much water as they would during the Summer months.
Here are my four top tips to prevent damage:
- Reduce Frequency: I usually only water once a month during the winter, but check every week to see if the soil is starting to pull away from the side of the container. If it is, then it's time to water.
- Reduce Quantity: I also apply less water than I would do in Summer. Ideally, I try only to get a small amount coming out the bottom.
- Reduce Soaking Time: During Summer I would usually leave plants to sit in any excess water that's collected in the drip tray for 20 minutes. This allows the plant to soak up as much as it needs. In Winter, I tip it away after 5 minutes.
- Increase The Water Temperature: I prefer using lukewarm water as my rainwater store outside is so cold at this time of year. I shudder when splashed, and can only guess my plants are as equally unhappy with the shock. To combat the cold, I have a bottle of water warming up on the windowsill, hidden behind an ornament.
Water in the morning if possible, so if you do inadvertently over water, there is a higher chance the excess will evaporate before the evening. No one likes sleeping in a damp bed.
Humidity is going to be specific to your living conditions. But as a rule, central heating tends to dry out the air, and tropical plants may struggle. Here are a couple of tricks we can apply.
Misting twice a week will make them feel a lot more at home. I would recommend taking them to the kitchen sink or bathroom to do this, as I've previously ruined a lovely wooden windowsill with watermarks by being lazy. Popping them in the shower for a wash now and then will freshen them up as well.
Pebble Trays: Keep your plants on water-filled trays of pebbles, making sure the water level is just below the surface, so the roots don't get damp. The evaporating moisture will create a localised humid environment around the leaves to help keep dry air at arms (or leaves) length.
Don't feed them. Our babies have gone dormant or semi-dormant. If you give them the equivalent of a roast dinner, it will encourage them to try and put on new growth. Another possibility is the build-up of unused salts in the compost, which can affect the roots ability to absorb water.
Wait until the plant is actively growing in spring before repotting, as the plant won't extend roots into the new compost during the winter months. New compost will simply act as a sponge and increase the likelihood of roots rotting.
If you have a decorative mulch over the surface, it might be worth considering removing it for the Winter to help excess moisture escape.
Hot: Like us, our plants are happy in a warm environment, but keeping them too close to the heat will make them uncomfortable. So make sure they're not directly above radiators or next to hot pipes.
Cold:Think about cold blasts coming through opening doors and windows. If your baby lives in a windowsill, you may want to drop them down to the floor before you trap them between a drawn curtain and a freezing window pane.
The shorter days can affect our plants, so they might need to be moved to get the maximum light available. Remember to turn your plants around, so both sides receive an even amount of light. I rotate mine every month to prevent them from reaching or leaning towards the sun.
As tidy as we are, there will always be some dust in your home, which can settle on plant leaves. Dust can block the stoma cells of a leaf, preventing respiration, the evaporation of water vapour and sunlight reaching the leaf. Use a soft damp rag to wipe away any build-up.
Clear away any dead or dying foliage to improve airflow and remove hidey holes for any pests or diseases that may have arrived.
Try to keep windows as clean as possible so our plants can fully benefit from any winter light. No heroics to reach that awkward top corner please, broken bones aren't worth it.
As we retreat from the cold, so do the pests. Spider mites and mealybugs thrive in our warm homes and will happily make themselves comfortable on any of our plants that show signs of stress. I check my plants every two weeks for unwelcome visitors.
Spider mites don't like humid conditions, so I tend to start daily misting to encourage them to move on.
I remove mealybugs by hand using sticky tape on my fingers to collect them off the plant.
Fungus gnats thrive in cold damp soil, and I tend to isolate any infected plant until I've got the infection under control.
Most of these pests will only thrive if we provide the conditions they like. By watching and listening to our plants, and adapting our care as needed, we can prevent them from getting a foothold.
I hope this helps you care for your plants over the coming season. If you've any other #Houseplant care tips, please share them with us in the comments!