NGA Articles: Winter Care for Houseplants

Winter Care for Houseplants

By: Rebecca Kolls

Fall

Everyone needs a little R and R, and for houseplants winter is the time to get it. Daylight is dramatically reduced, the air is dry, and temperatures are cool — not the perfect growing conditions. Follow these tips to keep your houseplants in shape through the winter.

Watering

Remember these words: neglect with respect. Simply put, most houseplants don't need as much water during the winter season. Once a week test the moisture level (if the soil is dry at a 2-inch depth the plant needs water). Water thoroughly and allow the water to drain completely. If the plant has a saucer, dump any excess water after an hour or so. Obviously, there are certain plants that prefer being moist at all times. If you don't know what your plants require, check out on-line information such as Houseplants, a helpful resource from the University of Illinois Extension Service.

Fertilization

Houseplants, like people, need food to thrive, especially when they are actively growing. Spring and summer are necessary feeding months; however during the winter, feeding is not necessary for most. If you do fertilize, do it sparingly. Dilute the fertilizer by 50 percent or more. Once you see the plant setting new growth (typically in late February or March) you may start feeding again.

Keeping Plants Clean

Winter is a great time to do some housecleaning on your plants. Removing accumulated dust and debris helps the plant breathe and look good. Also, a good cleaning will help wash away unwanted pests. A simple bubble bath by hand is all it takes. Be sure the water is tepid and use a very dilute solution of liquid dishwashing soap and water. Place the plant in a sink and sponge off the leaves with the warm soapy water. Finish by wiping the leaves once more with clean water. You can place larger plants in the shower to sponge off the leaves. Then use the showerhead to rinse the leaves! Allow the plant to drain thoroughly before returning it to its original location.

Other tips:

  • Most houseplants prefer daytime temperatures of 65° to 75°F, and night temperatures of 60° to 65°F.
  • Keep houseplants away from cold drafts, vents, and radiators.
  • Watch that foliage doesn't touch cold windows.
  • Many houseplants prefer humidity levels of 40 to 50 percent. Humidifiers are an option for increasing humidity in your home. Contrary to popular belief, misting houseplants does not raise humidity.
  • Another way to raise humidity around your plant is to fill a large, waterproof saucer or tray with gravel or pebbles, then add water to half the depth of the stone. Set the plant pot on the stones or pebbles, making sure the bottom of the pot is not sitting in water. As the water evaporates, it raises the humidity level around the plant.
  • Don't repot in winter. Wait until new growth appears in the spring.


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