Keeping Houseplants Alive in Winter

Many people think they wouldn't make good gardeners just because they can't keep their houseplants alive. But really, there are many circumstances which conspire against indoor plants, especially during a winter on the prairies.

In the north, the days get really short. In December in Edmonton, for example, the sun is down by 4:30, which is depressing for plants and people alike. Try to move ailing plants to a brighter room during the winter, or even consider supplemental lighting. A "cool" or "daylight" coloured compact fluorescent bulb will fit in a regular fixture and can really help a plant.

The next problem is that it is dry! You know what it's like to live in a dry house if you're afraid to give a kiss in the winter unless you ground yourself first. Many houseplants are used to a humid, tropical home, and don't appreciate such an arid environment. A pebble tray filled with water and placed under the plant can add to the humidity around it, but some people argue that it is not enough to be useful. Try to select houseplants with glossy or succulent leaves, as these are often better at withstanding dry conditions.

Obviously, winter is cold. We heat our homes, but that doesn't stop cold air coming in through windows and doors, so keep tender plants away from drafts. I turn the heat down quite a bit at night, too, to save the environment (just kidding, to save money), and some plants won't appreciate that, although many won't mind. Beware also of overwatering during cool weather, as the soil won't become dry as quickly as it will during warmer weather, and soggy roots can equal death.

Although potted plants need to be given small amounts of fertilizer frequently, they won't be able to use the nutrients during the winter, when there is not enough light for growth. Overfeeding during this time can cause leaf tips to brown. Stop feeding when the plant is no longer putting out any new growth, usually around November, and resume when the days begin to get longer, sometime in February or March.

If all these ideas fail you, houseplants also make good additions to the compost bin, and you can always try, try again!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are somewhat moderated.