As winter slowly creeps in on us here in the Hudson valley, many things start to slow down. Bears go into hibernation, birds migrate, amphibians retreat to deeper water for a long sleep & trees go dormant. What about your beautiful non native tropical houseplants? Maybe you’ve noticed a few yellowing or dropping leaves? Do not panic. This is completely normal.
In this blog we are going to talk about 5 helpful tips to keeping your tropical indoor plants thriving through this cold winter season!
1. Water Less!
As the outdoor temperatures drop, plant growth slows down dramatically. In many circumstances. You will find that you do not need to water as frequently. Over watering your plants can lead to issues such as root rot and pests like mealy bugs, gnats & other unwanted pests.
It is very common to wonder how often to water your houseplants but watering requirements will vary from plant to plant & home to home. So what I am doing with my Neon Pothos might be slightly different than what you need to do in yours but here are some things to keep in mind:
- Get to know how your plant feels in its pot when it is bone dry & ready for a drink. When you lift the pot you will get familiar with the weight. How it feels when it is dry & ready for a drink (light as a feather when you pick it up) vs. heavy to lift (does not need water).
- Look at your plants. Although some yellowing & dropping of leaves is very normal when houseplants are slowing down in the cold months, if you find your plant is very wilted then they probably need a good drink. If your plants stems and foliage are perky and firm then you can wait a few days and check again to see if they are thirsty.
- Is your house dry? This happens if you are running heat often or if your plants are in a room with a significant heat source like a wood or pellet stove. Plants in conditions like this could benefit from a humidifier and probably more frequent watering as they will dry out much faster.
- Remember, the soil needs to dry out completely (in most cases) as this will cut back on risk of root rot & pests.
GOLDEN RULE – do not follow a watering schedule. Each plant will have different needs in each home. Learn how to observe your plants. Are they wilted? Water them. Are they perked up and vibrant? Leave them for a day or two then check again.
2. Don’t fertilize houseplants in the winter!
You may have asked yourself, “do I need to feed my houseplants in the winter?” and 99% of the time the answer is no. There is no need to fertilize because plants aren’t growing as vigorously as they will in spring. Fertilizing in the winter months may even cause more harm than good. Unused fertilizer can cause salt build up and root burn. This may disturb or damage the natural growth cycle of your plant.
Forcing growth (fertilizing) will lead to leggy, straggly stems & pale colored foliage.
3. Move plants into light in winter
As we know (and for me I hate this fact) our days in the winter get shorter and light levels decrease. Moving your plants closer to the window will allow them to absorb more light. Just be mindful of any cold droughts creeping through the windows. Tropical plants HATE the cold.
Now that your plants are closer to the window, rotate your plants closer to the light source. Often will ensure that each plant gets adequate light. Be sure to familiarize yourself with what type of light your plants enjoy. Here is a great visual on direct, indirect & low light options:
Drought tolerant plants such as cacti & succulents need lots of warmth & light so they are definitely ones to keep a good eye on. If you are wondering why your succulents are struggling, it is probably because they aren’t getting enough light.
4. If possible, monitor humidity to care for houseplants in winter
Many of the most popular houseplants are tropical and prefer humidity rather than dry air from what sources, so misting your plants every few days will help create a more natural environment for them, or at least one they are more used to.
Many plants such as Philodendrons, Pothos or Orchids thrive in much more humid conditions so keeping their home environment on the humid side will really help them flourish.
Grouping plants together is a simple way to create a micro climate as plants release water vapor as they transpire. This is then trapped by the leaf canopies of the plant groupings.
NOTE: I personally love this method. At home I have a 12+ foot tall Monstera Deliciosa that is kept company by various smaller philodendrons, pothos & even some snake plants are tucked away under there and they seem to love it! I have found that allowing my plants to grow in a more natural manner, it has aided in their productivity in the colder months.
Humidifiers are another great tool or even placing bowls of water near your plant friends will help. The idea is to add moisture into the air & not allow your plants to sit in a tray of water to rot.
5. Dust your house plants
Yes you read that correctly. Dust off your plant babies with care. The buildup of dust on their foliage can block pores and can also harbor pests so it is important to clean foliage regularly especially in the winter.
Dusting will also allow your plants to soak up more light. The accumulation of dust may reduce the amount of light leaves get. This makes it very difficult for them to feed themselves through photosynthesis.
Simply wipe off the leaves with a damp cloth every few weeks. If you have a wood stove you will need to wipe off your leaves more frequently as wood ash settles everywhere (trust me I am speaking from experience).
6. Check for pests often
This tip ties into our last point as cleaning your foliage gives you a hands on advantage to getting & staying ahead of any pest you might encounter.
Humidity also plays a role in pest control, for example:
Spider mites thrive in dry environments. White fly, spider mites and scale are the most common houseplant pests, so while you are cleaning your leaves check in all of the nooks and crannies of your plants to see if any unwanted house guests are hiding out.
HELPFUL TIP: about two weeks before I bring my houseplants inside my home for the winter I will check individual plants’ soil & change the spent soil for fresh soil. This is on a case by case basis & is a labor of love but it is so helpful. I also treat my plants (after refreshing the soil) with a granular houseplant insecticide and wipe them down with neem as a precaution. Doing this a few weeks before bringing my plants in allows the product time to be absorbed via the root systems and start working its magic.
I will also give them a “bath” in dawn dish soap & water finishing them off with a neem oil mist. In years prior I did not take these steps and I lost a handful of plants to pests, inadequate soil nutrients and also over watering/rot. Now that I take a few weeks to prepare, I have minimal to no pest activity and the house is bug free.
Owning houseplants (I think I have about 40 total ranging in sizes from 4” pots to 30+” pots) can be tedious work but it is so worth it in the long run! Plus I find it therapeutic.
For more information on houseplant care please do not hesitate to reach out directly to us or stop in and we can chat. Follow us on Facebook for the most up to date information on all things Devitt’s!