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Get Your Houseplants Through the Cold

It’s winter, finally, and even though the daylight stretches a bit longer each day, our houseplants are still feeling the effects of the long, dark nights. Here’s how to help them through the shorter, darker days of winter.

Water

During the growing seasons, most houseplants require more moisture to help feed those actively growing roots and foliage. But in winter, some of your favorites may need less. Factors that determine their water needs depend on the species, as well as the air temperature and the container they’re in. You’ll want to be careful not to over-water, which could cause roots to rot.

One good way to determine if it’s time to water is by checking the soil moisture with your finger. The potting mix may feel dry on the surface, but poke a finger an inch or so into the soil to test for moisture. If it still feels dry, it’s time to water.

Of course, if the leaves are drooping, the plant is most likely telling you it’s thirsty, but in some plants, that could be a sign of too much water. Before you automatically fill up the watering can, get to know the plants’ individual needs.

Humidity

One thing about heated indoor air in winter: it’s dry. And if your houseplants are not the type that prefer an arid environment, they won’t live up to their potential unless you provide the humidity – the amount of water vapor in the air – they crave.

There are several ways to raise the humidity level around plants: Mist them occasionally with a fine spray of water; place them on watertight, pebble-lined trays filled halfway with water; group them close together so that they form their humid own micro-climates. If you can put them in a bathroom or other space that is naturally more humid but still provide the light they require, your work is done.

Fertilizer

In general, many houseplants are going through a period of slower growth or dormancy, and don’t need as much fertilizer as they might when they are actively growing. An exception may be plants that are growing under lights. If you do find the need to provide nutrients, feed plants when the soil is already moist to avoid possible damage to the plant’s root system.

Plant pests

In spite of best efforts, sometimes unwanted guests appear on your houseplants. Aphids, mealybugs, scale insects and mites are among the most common pests. Left unchecked, they can cause damage and weaken the plant. And since there are no natural predators inside your house — no birds, ladybugs or other beneficial insects — they can multiply rapidly and move from one plant to another. If you spot any of these pests, take action to keep your plants healthy during the winter months.

It’s also important to keep the plants and the area around them clean. Remove wilted leaves and dead, dry foliage from the soil before they rot or grow mold, and sweep up fallen leaves and debris that could harbor bacteria or fungi. 

Find this article + more information about winter care for houseplants at Gardens of Babylon.

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