Did you know the needs of your houseplants change during winter? Being aware of this can help your indoor foliage plants look good and remain healthy throughout winter. It’s important to remember that you are not trying to actively grow luxurious plants during colder months; rather, you are simply trying to maintain your houseplants’ overall health during this period. This means that you should not fertilize as much or as often during the months of December, January and February. Fertilizing houseplants promotes growth and during the winter months with much lower natural light levels, your plants are not as likely to receive nearly enough light to support this new and active growth.
Proper lighting is another crucial factor in maintaining attractive and healthy houseplants during winter. Have you ever noticed that if your indoor plants do start to put on growth during the winter that the new growth often looks spindly? Do the stems appear to be stretching themselves toward the light of a nearby window or the light from a lamp? Do the leaves get spaced so far apart that your plants don’t really appear very attractive anymore? If so, that is because there is not enough light to support the plant’s new growth. The stem between the leaves is called the internode. That internode can get quite long if your plant doesn’t get enough light. This is really noticeable on vining plants such as nephthytis, ivy, pothos and philodendrons. If you start noticing this problem, supply your plants with more light, either artificial or natural. Keep in mind that giving your houseplants more fertilizer or plant food will not stop this “stretching” problem.
Remember, too, that your houseplants may need more water during winter months than they would normally receive during other times of the year. As outside temperatures drop, your heating system may cause the air in your house to become extremely dry. That, of course, causes indoor plants to dry out much faster and more often than when the air is cooler in spring or fall or even in the summer when the air conditioning is on. You will need to check the soil moisture in pots more often. If the soil feels dry at a depth of one inch, then it is time to water that plant.
Do not haphazardly water your houseplants during the winter. Too much water can hurt much more than too little by drowning the root systems. Over-saturated root systems very often develop root rots, such as Phytopthora or Rhizoctonia.
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One last note, dry air is particularly rough on certain plants, especially ferns.
Warm, dry air inside our homes during winter causes many plants to drop their leaves or fronds in the case of ferns. These plants can look pretty sad by springtime. If possible, mist your plants or place them in a protected area like a sun porch on warm winter days, but bring them back inside if night temperatures go below 45 degrees.
DATES TO REMEMBER
THURSDAY: Cat. 24 Recertification Training, Perry $45, lunch, pesticide credits
For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at http://www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston/ for more news about your local Extension office.