Winter Considerations for Houseplants
Reduce Watering: While houseplants have a wide range of water needs, in general, winter watering can be reduced significantly. The majority of our indoor plants do best when the soil is allowed to almost dry out between waterings. Growth decreases significantly in the winter months resulting in reduced water absorption. There are several ways to check if your plant is ready for watering. The first is to use your finger to feel the top of the soil with your finger. The second is to know the weight of the plant when it is fully saturated versus its weight when it is dry. The last method and the one I like best is to stick a wooden skewer into the bowl and pull it out. The depth of where the soilless media adheres to the spit will tell you how dry the plant is.
Increase Humidity: Many houseplants are tropical plants that enjoy high humidity. Unfortunately, indoor humidity tends to drop, sometimes to less than 20%, in winter. Most houseplants prefer a humidity range of 40-50%. To alleviate this problem, use a humidifier near your plants. Alternatively, placing your plants close together in a cluster can create a microclimate during the transpiration process. Bathrooms tend to have higher humidity which makes them good places if there is enough light and space. If moving your plants is not an option, you can place trays filled with pebbles and water underneath your plants. The most important thing to note in this practice is that the bowl is not placed directly in the water. Finally, I must debunk the myth of foliage spraying. The benefits are simple and have a short-term effect of only a few minutes.
Consider Light: Even in the best windows, light tends to be the biggest factor limiting the health of indoor plants in the winter. The days are short, and the sun is low on the horizon, so now is the time to make sure the light reaching your plants hasn’t changed dramatically. Where north- and east-facing windows create significant indirect light in the summer, they can become too shady in the winter months. Consider moving your plants to a sunny location or outfitting them with grow lights.
Reducing temperature fluctuations: As for the previous considerations, severe fluctuations in environmental conditions are difficult for plants. Winter can bring drafty windows and hot, dry air from vents. Most plants prefer daytime temperatures between 65° to 75°F with a low of 10 degrees
Drop at night. Digital thermometers can help track temperatures and make sure fluctuations are not extreme.
Stop Fertilizing: While houseplants are fertilized periodically from spring through summer, fertilization is generally not necessary during the winter months. Plants grow much slower during the winter. Resume fertilization in March or April when conditions become more suitable.
Dusting leaves: Dust and debris can accumulate on plant leaves. Not only is this unattractive and will slow plant growth, it creates an environment for insects and mites. This is a great time to take out a cloth, mix a very mild soapy solution, and wipe down the leaves. You can even give your plants a shower! Make sure the water is not too hot which could burn the leaves and roots.
Research highlights the many benefits of having plants in our homes, so it is important to care for them for both plant and human health. This winter, pay attention to the environmental conditions in your home to keep your indoor plants happy and thriving.
For questions about houseplant care, call NC Cooperative Extension, Richmond County Center at (910) 997-8255. Additionally, follow us on Facebook or visit our website for upcoming events and updated information.