Winter is traditionally a time to slow down for houseplants. Remember that most houseplants species we love originated in the tropics and are not cold-weather friendly. To some extent, all plants go through this recharge cycle in winter. Take a break too and stop fertilizing and cut back on watering. Let your plants have some down time.
Although your plants need less attention, there are still a few things to check to help keep them happy and healthy.
• No one likes a cold draft blowing on their neck! That’s kind of what it’s like when the door opens and your plant gets a blast of cold air. Move your plants away from busy entrances. Trapping your plants on a windowsill between the cold glass and shut curtains can have the same effect.
• Winter brings me dry, cracked skin if I don’t moisturize as needed! The same things can happen to your plants. Keep your plants away from heating vents and radiators.
• A lot of times household air becomes dry too! Treat your plants to an occasional misting. Some plants, like African Violets should only be watered from the bottom so misting is not an option. Instead, set your plants on a tray filled with pebbles, or fishbowl stones. Fill the tray with water. As the water evaporates, the plants benefit from the boost of moisture in the air.
• Clean winter dust off leaves with a soft, damp cloth.
• Remove any dead or fallen leaves. Debris encourages insects, mold and fungal growth.
• Remove any salt build-up left behind from fertilizer. Gently scrape this yellow or white crust off the soil surface. Don’t try rinsing it off; this causes salt to get washed back into the root system.
• Check top and bottom of leaves, stems and soil for signs of insects. Insects overwintering in your house, like stink bugs can cause a lot of damage.
• Small discolored spots, curling or wilting are signs of piercing or sucking insects like stink bugs, aphids ,whitefly or scale.
• Leafminers leave a distinctive path by working through the leaves to feed.
• Lumps or “galls” form along the stem, roots or between nodes (where the stem and leaf meet). Gall insects sting a plant from inside, causing the plant to form a defensive growth. Eggs are laid inside the gall. As the larvae grow and feed they secrete more toxin keeping the gall growing. Little can be done to treat plants with galls, since the gall is part of the plant. I had an indoor orange tree that my Mother grew from seed. Isolated, it lived about nine years after the initial infestation.
Keep the above tips in mind and your houseplants will love you back come spring with lush, new growth!
Have a question about a particular houseplant or gardening in general? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer them on Mondays here on Daily Dish!
Cindy Kerschner is a Master Gardener Alumni. All information is derived from State Universities and their partners. Sources are available upon request.