Having a few houseplants can help increase the oxygen in your home, and can also help to reduce stress, remove contaminants and more. But just as winter can be hard on us, it can be equally hard on houseplants! Most are in somewhat of a “nap mode” during the early winter, and the care required during this time is different than that during the rest of the year. Here are a few tips for keeping your houseplants happy this winter.
Humidity: Most houseplants perform best at a 40-50 percent humidity level. However, in homes that are heated throughout the winter, the humidity may be only 10-20 percent. To increase the humidity, group plants together. Water that evaporates from the potting soil plus water lost through the foliage will help to increase the humidity in the area around the houseplants. You can also place your houseplants on trays filled with gravel or pebbles and water. The bottoms of the pots should be above the water level. This method increases the overall humidity without overwatering the plants themselves.
Watering: Avoid overwatering! Most houseplants aren’t in a strong growth period during the winter, and therefore require less frequent watering during the winter months – even in dry houses. Houseplants benefit when the soil is allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. If the top inch or two feels dry, it’s probably ready to be watered. Water should be at room temperature and let the water drain all the way through. The amount of water needed depends on the type of plant.
Light: The amount of light houseplants need also varies by the type of plant. If your houseplants are getting “leggy” they should be moved to an area that gets more sunlight. Remember to turn /rotate your plants regularly to keep them from getting lopsided as they stretch toward the light.
Location: Keep houseplants away from radiators, cold drafts, air vents, etc. Most houseplants do well on window sills or table tops near windows. However, when the outside temps drop below 20° move houseplants away from the windows during the night. If your houseplants are in a room that gets very cold at night, covering them with a single sheet of newspaper helps to maintain the temperature.
Cleaning: This is a perfect time to clean your plants. Removing dust helps the plant breathe. A good cleaning also helps to remove pests. Using water at room temperature, you can wipe the leaves with a sponge or cloth dipped in soapy water (mild dish or hand soap or baby shampoo is fine). Finish by wiping them once again with clean water. Larger plants can be placed in the shower to be washed and rinsed with tepid water.
Fertilizing: Don’t . . . at least not until the plant starts to show new growth in the late winter/early spring when the days grow longer in late February or March.
Just as we all look forward to spring, your houseplants will too!