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Caring for houseplants during the winter
s. My collection of beautiful houseplants, which I got in the spring to brighten up the kitchen and living room, is starting to take on a tattered look. Leaves turn yellow and fall off. Others have brown tips. Some now have weak, leaning legs. What can I do to restore their beautiful appearance?
a. At this time of year, low natural light levels, short days, and cranky heating systems combined with the resulting dry air make life difficult for most houseplants. Keep them alive through the winter and they will revitalize with new growth in the spring.
I simplify houseplant care by placing the pots on window trays, available at some garden centers. When this situation suits you, pumping small amounts of lukewarm water into the trays supplements watering from above and provides moisture as the water evaporates.
Dry air, drafts, sudden temperature changes, and low light levels can contribute to leaf drop. Overwatering in winter can cause plant roots to rot, causing leaves to yellow and fall. Except for plants that are actively or flowering, reduce watering in winter. Water the plant when the top layer of soil dries and the pot feels lighter than usual when lifted.
Use room temperature or lukewarm water.
High temperatures, hot drafts, dry air and/or dry soil are common causes of dry, brown leaf tips and edges. If possible, lower room temperatures slightly.
Physical contact will damage some plants enough to cause brown leaf tips. Ferns are particularly susceptible to turning brown from exposure.
Poor and oblique growth occurs in insufficient lighting. Leaves become pale and smaller, and new growth is weak and spindly. Stems lengthen and bend as they reach more light.
The distances between the older leaves increase, and the lower leaves decrease. Variegated plants lose their distinctive color and philodendrons with split leaves stop dividing.
Gradually move affected plants to a brighter location. If brighter natural light is not available, provide some artificial light.
Winter care for perennials
Planting white paper bulbs in the soil is the easiest way