General Care: Winter Preparations
As the days shorten and the leaves turn from green, to orange and red, to brown, winter is inevitably on it’s way. It is without a doubt, winter is one the toughest times of the year for tending to your plants; and for multiple reasons. The decreased sunlight, cold temperatures, central heating and shortened days can prove to be tricky conditions for our houseplants.
Typically, learning how to care for your plants is a process of trial and error, with of course a few casulties along the way, and surviving the winter is no different. But have no fear, we’ve put together a few pointers and tips to help you keep your plants happy and healthy during the winter. But before we begin, it is crucial to understand that houseplants, aside from many epiphytes (such as rainforest cacti), become dormant during the winter months. In this time they’re given the chance to rest and recuperate before entering into their active period in the spring. It is most important to acknowledge that dormancy is essential to ensure strong, healthy, happy plants.
Bringing the outdoors in
If you’re fortunate enough to have an outdoor space and have moved your houseplants outside during the warmer months, now is the time to start bringing them back in before we experience the first frost. When bringing your plants back inside, do be sure to check for any unwelcomed pests and bugs, with a particular focus on both sides of the leaves, as well as the roots. The last thing anyone wants is any unwanted guests.
When buying plants during the winter one should be mindful of where you buy them from and how you transport them to their new home. On the whole, the plants we fill our homes with are not used to temperatures below 10C and prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can cause serious damage on a cellular level. Try not buy purchase plants that have been sat outside on display and when transporting them home, ensure they’re kept in a covering i.e. a plastic sleeve or a bag and brought home as soon as possible.
Throughtout the winter radiators provide us with the warmth and comfort to get us through the dark, long nights, but for out plants it is a different matter. As with bouts of cold temperatures, sudden burst of heat can shock your plants and dry them out quicker, calling for more frequent watering and increased levels of humidity. If one fails to compensate for the dry air caused by central heating, you fill find your plants will suffer from crinkling and browning of the leaves.
Drafty windows are another problem to watch out for. To protect your plants from both extreme hot and cold temperatures ensure your plants are at least half a meter away from any drafty windows and radiators.
There’s no doubt we are all in someways creatures of habit, and when it comes to watering your plants, most of us set aside sometime on a weekend morning or afternoon where we care for our foliage friends. But, winter is the time to relinquish your watering routine as overwatering during this time can be detrimental.
We mentioned that our plants typically become dormant at this time which is triggered by reduced levels of light, and less light means less water.
Before you decide whether you need to water your plants, stick your finger in the top 5cm to 10cm of potting medium, and only water if the soil feels completely dry. You will find that some plants will need more water that others, and these tend to be in the warmer parts of your home, so do always check each individual plant. However, in the case of desert cacti and other succulents, slowly reduce the amount of water your give them from late October through to mid November at which point you want to cease watering them until the early days of spring. However, if you find that your cacti and succulents start to shrivel, give them a small amount of water to placate this.
Unfortunately, not seeing the sun for days at a time is a problem endemic to colder months which for plants, as briefly mentioned, translates to slower growth, and in some species, a complete halt in growth until spring finally rolls around. To help there are a few things you can do to help: LED grow lights, moving plants closer to natural light sources such as windows and sky lights, and ensuring your plants’ leaves are kept clean of any dust to enable as much absorption of light as possible.