Tips to care for indoor plants in the cold winter
Even common houseplants need a little extra help when the temperature outside is chilly. Learn three common problems and how to avoid them.
When the days are short and snow covers the ground, growing plants indoors allow us to be surrounded by cheerful greenery.
But cold winter weather poses issues even for indoor plants. The three most common houseplant care problems are:
• Incorrect watering
• Cold drafts
• Insect infestation.
Learn a few strategies to help keep these disturbances at bay.
How to water plants in winter:
You may find that you need to water indoor plants more frequently when the weather is extremely cold. When the furnace comes on more frequently, indoor houseplants can dry out rapidly. Watch your plants for signs of wilting. Check the soil every four days by sticking your finger in about an inch.
Water plants deeply, allowing water to run into the drainage saucers. Don't let those saucers remain filled with water longer than a day, though; this can lead to root rot. A plastic turkey baster is the perfect tool for removing excess water from plant saucers.
Turning yellow: If your indoor plants turn yellow, don’t automatically assume it’s due to lack of water. This also can be a sign of overwatering. Check the soil before you reach for the watering can.
Indoor houseplants: drafts and dormancy
Keep your houseplants away from hot and cold drafts. This can be difficult in winter, because plants need the light from windows, and cold seeps through glass. In addition, heating vents are usually below the panes.
Keeping indoor plants away from the cold glass, and placing them to one side of heating vents, will help create stable temperatures.
Don’t feed the plants
Remember that most houseplants aren't actively growing during the winter months. Shorter days signal the dormant period for your indoor plant. Withhold fertilizer from the majority of plants until February.
Lower temperatures reinforce winter dormancy. An air temperature between 60 and 70 degrees is ideal for indoor houseplants.
Insects and indoor plant care
Even in winter, your houseplants can attract insects, which may include:
Scale insects: They resemble tiny tan dots, and cluster on stems and the veins of leaves.
Whiteflies: When plants are shaken, these tiny insects flutter off.
Mealybugs: These invaders resemble little tufts of cotton.
Aphids: This pest forms green, red or black clusters on new growth.
Plants infested with any of these pests often are sticky. Another common pest:
Fungus gnats: These are the small, black "fruit flies" that drive most people absolutely crazy. However, gnats in houseplants do minimal damage. To control them, you can add a pesticide containing spinosad to the can when watering, and put yellow sticky cards (also known as whitefly traps) around the plants to catch the gnats.
Treat all of these with repeated applications of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, used according to directions.
By following these general guidelines and giving your houseplants some ongoing attention in the winter, you can enjoy indoor greenery all season.