Written by Chris Campbell
Despite the snow and cold, a new tropical or ornamental plant can bring a fresh look to your home or office spaces. A beautiful green or blooming plant set inside a colorful pot, will make anyone smile!
Not only are the winter months a difficult time for humans, it is also a tough time for houseplants. The shorter days with less light, low humidity and cooler temperatures slows plant growth. Many plants enter a resting or dormant period during winter. With proper care, houseplants can be maintained in winter.
You must be alert to needs and potential problems
Inactive growth phase: Because of less active growth, fertilizer should not be applied. If you think your plants need feeding, use a weak dilution of fertilizer once or twice during the winter.
Less Water: In most case, you can cut back on the watering. Be sure to check the soil when you water plants. If the soil feels moist, wait a few more days before watering.
Dormancy: Certain houseplants enter a dormant period during cold weather months. These plants loose their leaves during the dormancy period and should not be watered at all or very infrequently. Be sure to read about individual plant care, especially if you have a new plant in your collection.
Temperature: Winter brings a lot of temperature extremes in your home. Some plants may be sensitive to cold drafts or cold from windows. Also, the warm, dry heat from your home heating system may cause plants to dry out faster than usual.
Humidity: Home heating also reduces humidity levels. Plants may show signs of humidity stress, such as brown leaf tips. Below are some suggestions for raising the humidity levels around your houseplants:
- Add a humidifier to the room.
- Group plants together. Plants release water from their leaf stomatas during transpiration and created a layer of moist air around a plant, which can benefit surrounding plants.
- Use a pebble tray. To make a pebble tray, place plants on top of a tray filled with pebbles or marbles. Then fill the tray with water, making sure that the plant rests atop the pebbles and is not sitting in the water. As the water in the pebble tray evaporates, it will raise the humidity level around the plant.
Pests: Insects may continue to be a serious problem during the winter. Be sure to check plants for signs of infestation. Scale, mealy bugs, spider mites, white flies and aphids are common household pests.
Do you miss those fresh summer herbs from your garden?
If you use herbs in cooking, growing herbs during the winter is a true delight of indoor gardening. Many herbs make attractive indoor plants. Others provide luscious fragrances. Fresh herbs give extraordinary flavor to foods that can’t be matched by dried herbs. To successfully grow herbs indoors, you need adequate light, warmth, water, humidity and nutrients, as well as plenty of space.
Here are some basic guidelines for indoor herb gardening
Light: Herbs need about 12 hours of strong light each day. Since winter days are short with less intense light, you will need to supplement natural light. Fluorescent lights provide the most light over the largest area for the lowest cost. Plant grow lights are more expensive and cover a smaller area.
Water & Humidity: Most herbs prefer to stay evenly moist and are sensitive to over-watering or soggy soil. Check the soil moistness for herbs every few days. If you can feel moisture, leave it alone. If the soil is dry, water the container thoroughly, let it drain, and don’t water again until the top of the soil is dry.
Air: Indoor herbs like good air circulation. Don’t put herb containers in areas where airflow is restricted.
LOCATION, Location, location: Sunny kitchens are idea for herbs because they are usually more humid and bright. If you don’t have a sunny kitchen window, consider growing herbs under a bright below-the-cabinet light to provide artificial light for about 12 hours each day. If your kitchen is windowless, grow herbs in the brightest room you have.
Containers & Soil: Any container with adequate drainage can be used for herbs. Clay pots release moisture and let the soil dry out more quickly, which helps avoid root-rot. Herbs need a well-drained potting soil high in organic matter.
Fertilizing: For more intense flavor, keep your herbs a little hungry. When you do fertilize, use a water-soluble plant food at half strength.
Pruning: Using your herbs keeps them pruned and encourages new growth. Remove yellowing or brown leaves to keep the plants healthy.
Insects & Disease: When dealing with pests on edible plants, be sure to use products safe for vegetables and other edible plants. Either of our garden center locations have appropriate insecticides and pesticides.
HERBS MOST SUITABLE FOR INDOOR GROWTH
Some herbs don’t grow well indoors. The following herbs will give you the best chance for success:
- Garlic Chives
- Winter Savory
Some herbs will need extra light to grow indoors. Those include:
- Lemon Verbena
I hope you have a warm, happy and healthy February! And don’t forget what a little green or blooming plant or fresh herbs grown in your kitchen window can do for your winter blues!