Tag Archive | winter plant care

Home Alone

House-Plants-All-My-Favorite-Low-Maintance-House-Plants-5As the holidays are coming to an end, and the cold weather sets in, many of us are looking forward to getting away to warmer temperatures for a while. But, what about your houseplants while you’re gone?! Only a plant-savvy human being can give an assortment of houseplants the different amounts of water they’re likely to need while they are home alone. But it isn’t always easy to find a willing plant sitter, and it’s even harder to find one who not only means well but has houseplant skills (returning to find that two-thirds of one’s little green children have drowned is no better than finding them dried to a crisp). So if you must leave them unattended, the following steps should keep them alive — if not happy — for up to a month.

  1. One at a time, bring the plants into very bright light and check them over top to bottom for pests and diseases. Don’t forget to look under the leaves and against the stems where they enter the soil. Problems that are very small now can balloon in your absence, and since the plants will be grouped together, those problems are likely to spread. Any afflicted plants should be treated and, for good measure, kept quarantined in a room of their own while you’re gone.
  2. Decide on a water-delivery system, ideally one that is triggered by the plant itself. Like the overzealous friend, timer-driven waterers usually deliver more than the plants need. Garden-supply stores and catalogs sell an assortment of capillary mats and water wicks that are less likely to drown plants, or you can go the low-tech route and opt for just supplying humidity (put the plants in plastic dish tubs lined with deep layers of pebbles or styrofoam peanuts and shallow layers of water.
  3. Set up the system where the plants will stay cool and get only a small amount of light. The bathroom is probably the best place since it is usually both cool and dark, and is the room best protected against water damage. If the plants will all fit in the tub, plan to put them there. Don’t draw the shower curtain unless the room is very bright.
  4. Water everything thoroughly. Soak clay pots until saturated; bottom-water plants in plastic pots until soil at the surface is wet. Let excess water drain, then group plants closely but not tightly — there must be a bit of air circulation or they’ll all get fungus diseases.
  5. Speak to them lovingly and close the door. They’ll be fine.
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Houseplant Survival Guide

by Diana Alfuth, horticulture educator for Pierce and St. Croix counties UW-Extension

Houseplants-GettyImages-72195187-59d3a98b519de20012d7af62January and February are probably your houseplants’ worst months. While we northern Wisconsinites dream of a winter vacation in warm, sunny places, your houseplants can only sit and wait for better conditions to come to them. Winter’s short days, low light levels, and dry air are hard on houseplants. And, by now your plants’ leaves may have accumulated dust and your windows may be in need of washing. Dirty windows block even more light.

To help your plants make it through their worst winter months, inspect and treat plants for any insects, such as mealybugs, scale, or aphids that may have appeared. Clean off any accumulated dust by wiping each individual leaf with a damp cloth or giving them a shower. Small plants can be washed in the kitchen sink with a sink sprayer. Large plants can go in your shower. I recommend covering the soil surface with aluminum foil to prevent the potting mix from splashing out or getting waterlogged.

Next, wash your windows inside and out. Even though it’s cold outside, when the sun hits the window you can wash the outside without your cleaning solution freezing.

If your plants are looking stressed with sparse or light-colored foliage, try adding supplemental light. Even a table lamp with a fluorescent bulb above the plant can add extra light to get your plant through winter in better shape.

Normally, you do not want to fertilize houseplants from October through January because with low light levels, plants will not be growing. Fertilizers can build up in the soil and damage roots, or they can force plants into spindly, weak growth. But by the end of February, with the days getting longer and the sun getting higher and stronger, pinch back leggy growth and give your plants their first fertilizer of the year to help them put on new, vigorous growth.