By Jennifer Ruisch
We all know that seasonal changes affect plants outside, but did you realize that your indoor exotic plants can get the winter blues, too? From temperature to humidity to photoperiod, your indoor environment fluctuates, and the effects can be downright shriveling! Since nobody likes shriveling, here we go: Use this checklist to troubleshoot your floundering ficus; it might perk up your poor pothos, or explain that old browning begonia. If you can keep your plants healthy through the cold months, you will be rewarded with a burst of growth in the spring!
Watch Those Windows!
Are you sitting near a window? Put your hand next to it. Feel that? Windows are a source of cold air. Some plants, if pushed up against cold glass, will begin to experience die-off in the stems or leaves exposed to the frigid pane. Consider covering a few windows with shrinkable plastic. Not only will this help save on electric bills, but it will create a buffer that will allow your plants to remain near their window light source without danger of frostbite. If this isn’t an option, and you have a little space, just pull them back 6 to 12 inches.
Elevate Your Thinking. Levels, That Is.
Cold air falls and warm air rises. This is true for huge weather systems, and it is also true for the micro-climate in your house. It’s the reason we pine away for heated floors. It is not uncommon to have some larger plant containers sit directly on the floor. This can lead to chilly roots, which can slow water absorption to a crawl. This can be solved by putting the plant on a platform. Raising it up a few inches from the floor will allow a warm air buffer between your plant and the cold floor. Even a small increase in height can give your plant a leg-up on Old Man Winter.
Be Very Vehement About the Vicinity to Vents!
Hot air vents can create a small heat wave that is sure to dry out anything above them. I have a spider plant that hangs over a heat vent. I make sure the soil doesn’t dry out by diligently watering it.
Water Schedules Change In The Winter
Part 1: Like surfers stuck in cold climates, most plants will enter into a resting stage in the winter. They will continue respiring and metabolizing, but at a greatly reduced rate. Growing will all but stop. This is known to science-y types (like me!) as homeostasis. This is a resting period where the plant is maintaining, but not growing. If they’ve entered this stage, they don’t need as much water as when they are working to grow lots of new cells. If you continue to inundate your containers with the same amount of H2O that you do in the summer, you put your plant at risk for mold and root rot. Check to make sure the surface of the soil is dry before you pour. Part 2: Some plants may continue to grow at a steady rate, or choose this time to bloom (like my Christmas cactus and various orchids). Due to the heated air being blasted about, the air can become quite dry, and the soil can dry out more quickly than in the sticky summer heat. If a plant is actively growing or changing, make sure it’s getting enough to drink.
Like I said above, heated air can just suck the moisture out of anything it touches. Keep those leaves supple by misting them occasionally. This is good for pretty much all plants. It might even be the preferred method for getting water to your desert species.
For those of us in the northern part of the northern hemisphere, our photoperiod, or length of daylight hours, decreases considerably in winter. Let’s shed some light on this situation, shall we? Put a small table lamp or, even better, a grow light next to your plant. The extra light and heat will encourage your plant to grow to its full potential.
Just Say No to Re-Potting!
Perhaps you’ve realized that your plant is outgrowing its pot, and you figure now is the time to move it on up to a bigger pot. Well now is not the time! If you re-pot right now, you could shock the roots of your plant, and since it isn’t doing much growing, it might not be able to recover. Save re-potting for the spring, when your plant will be better able to adapt to its new, bigger home. With a little extra time and attention, even the most fickle plants can get ahead in the cold months!