Caring for house plants in winter is very different to the simple ‘throw some water at them’ system that many of us apply in the warmer months. House plants have become very much a part of our lives, we use them to brighten up areas of our homes bringing some much needed colour especially in winter – think of the beautiful red leaves on the Poinsettia that brighten up our Christmas décor. To fulfil that role they need a little extra care.
As we hurry through the cold months we can conveniently forget their needs until a dark and sunless February or a pile of dropping leaves forces us to give them a second thought. By then, it’s can be too late for some of them, which by this point in winter have been damaged by the low light or the wild swings in temperature as we crank up the central heating during the day and switch it off at night. We don’t talk about it much but winter is brutal on plants that haven’t adapted to long, dark nights and benign neglect.
Quite a few common house plant varieties haven’t adapted for light-starved living. They’re often tropical plants that live outside year-round in warmer climates, or tender plants that you have brought in for the winter. In fact, some of these plants will die within a few weeks after being moved indoors for winter, turning that lovely green corner you created into something that looks like a wasteland.
Understanding the Needs of Your House Plant
House Plants need four things to survive – much like humans. Food, water, shelter and care – not necessarily in that order. Although your plants don’t grow so much in winter they will still need to be in a good potting medium that provides food, or a light feed every now and then.
They won’t need quite so much water as when they are growing rapidly in the warmer months but they do need some. It’s a fine line between giving them too much and risking root rot, or not giving them enough so that the heating causes them to dry out. Check regularly to make sure the soil is slightly damp to the touch but not wet.
Shelter is important – even though they are inside. Houseplants need to be kept out of draughts and protected from sudden temperature changes. Cache pots and planters will help keep the root temperature constant, as will grouping plants so the hardier ones protect the more tender from draughts or cold air. Try and keep them where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate too wildly between day and night – windowsills are not a good idea. Using something like Potty Feet will keep the pots off the cold floors and help them reach for the light without too much effort. Light is important as many house plants are light lovers, an indirect natural light is best for a long as possible – artificial light doesn’t do the job in the same way.
Good old fashioned TLC is just as important in the winter as the rest of the year, removing dead leaves and flowers. Taking a few moments to make sure the plant is free of pests and diseases is time well spent and will reward you later in the year. It is especially important for winter flowing houseplants like the Christmas cactus.
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The Benefits of House Plants in Winter
House plants make your home or office more attractive and in some case help to clean the air, giving you a better physical environment – even more important now so many of us are working from home. Plants are one of the most important parts of a home, they are a relatively inexpensive way of brightening up areas and give a feeling of calm and well being. You can change the look of a room almost instantly by adding a few well chosen plants without having to spend hours redecorating which is never fun in winter. Nurturing plants is also particularly good for our mental health. They might not be as much fun as a puppy or a kitten but they are a lot less trouble!