With winter here and in full force already (whether we like it or not), I’ve had to bring in a number of our outdoor plants. My first concern was to find space for all of the various sized pots and to make sure no one was going to trip over them. Once I had my living clutter settled in for the season, I began thinking about how to keep them healthy and happy throughout these long cold months, especially when we have everything from cacti to hardy herbs like Rosemary. Depending on what type of plants have moved into your home for the holidays, here are some general rules of thumb and just plain good advice for keeping them alive and well.
We don’t think much about the amount of light outside as it changes from season to season, when we’re indoors and warm with electric lights, but this is a major factor for your plants. Especially with this time of year being the shortest amount of daylight we’ll see, you need to make sure your plants are getting the amount they need. Though probably dormant for the season, your flowering plants tend to like more light than evergreens, cacti and other foliage hardy plants. Whether you unsash your curtains, open the blinds or add additional artificial light, your plants will need a little UV boost through the winter. Make sure to turn them occasionally to allow all sides and leaves to get plenty of light. This will also help them from growing at a crooked angle, as most tend to grow towards a light source.
If you’re feeling dried out from running your heat on high, chances are that your plants may be, too. Make sure to water them appropriately. Excluding cacti and other succulents, an easy way to tell if your plant needs water is to stick your finger partially into the dirt to test it. If it’s bone dry, don’t drown it. Water moderately and monitor its progress. If you find that your plants are needing water at alarming rates, check to see where you have them placed. On top of a radiator or next to your fireplace may be too hot for their liking.
So, you’ve moved your little green friends indoors and you figure that should keep them safe from the temperatures, right? Think again. Some plants can be highly sensitive to heat and cold so make sure you aren’t placing your Basil plant near a cold, drafty vent or your Lemongrass right beside your wood furnace. Depending on their particular needs, temperature can even speed and slow the growth process for your plants, just like an artificial changing of the seasons. For example, with Amaryllises, because they are flowering bulbs, temperature plays a huge part in their growth cycle. We brought some in from the greenhouse for the holidays and the ones placed near our radiator bloomed in a week! I guess we tricked them into thinking it was Spring!
Cleaning and Prevention
Another great thing about having your plants close at hand when it’s too cold to go outside, is that you can’t help but to notice them. The winter months are a great time to get to know your plants’ personalities and to give them a good cleaning. Dust and microscopic debris build up on the plant’s leaves which can block sunlight and the plant’s pores. Try cleaning the tops and bottoms of your plant’s leaves with a damp cloth to remove any unwanted buildup that may be hindering your plant from being its healthiest. While you’re at it, take a close look for insects and disease. For a longer lasting plant, it’s best to nip an infestation or blight in the bud. In most cases, warm water and a mild soap will do the trick to remove many common pests. For a deeper rooted problem, try an all natural pesticide or fungicide, which can be bought at your local hardware store.
Plants prefer a routine and moving them into your home can be quite an adjustment. To alleviate further disruption to their transition indoors, try to find permanent spots for them when you bring them in. If you can place them in areas where they won’t be disturbed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays, pets, kids or just because they’re in the way, they’ll greatly appreciate it. Moving potted plants too often can really disrupt and unsettle their soil and root structure. Leaving them to settle in and stay sedentary will cause the least amount of stress on them, as leaves, stems, flowers and branches can break, become weak or tear during the moving process. This will also allow the roots to stay strongly grounded, as soil won’t be jostled about, loosening the plant’s hold.
Making sure your plants are in the best pot or container is also crucial to its health. Think about it. When you start to outgrow your shoes, the constriction and tightness is uncomfortable, right? Well, many plants need to be moved to larger containers as they get bigger to give them more adequate space to stretch and grow bigger. The winter is a great time for this as the cool temperatures make the process less stressful on your plants. Give your plants plenty of room to grow and you’ll get to enjoy larger and longer lasting results.
Once the stress of the holidays has wound down, indoor gardening can be a terrific therapeutic hobby…or, during the holidays if you need an escape from the madness! Gardening year round allows you to enjoy the fruits of your hard work constantly and the calming presence of your indoor plants will bring beauty and fresh aroma to these bleak winter days. Many plants can be easily started indoors during the colder months, for transplant in the spring to an outdoor garden. Try growing your favorite culinary herbs indoors this season to spice things up in your stews and other hearty recipes or just to lend a savory fragrance to your home. By growing now, you will be more prepared once spring gets here!