It’s inevitable. The days get shorter, the air cold and dry. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, winter means less daylight, less humidity and colder temperatures. As snow blankets the ground, our plants become important sources of nature in our lives. However, as the colder temperatures set in and we turn our heat on, your plants may need a little more care as they also face the winter ahead. To help your plants survive the long winters, we recommend you consider the following:
Water your plants less frequently (maybe)
With less light, plant growth will slow down compared to the summer months. This typically means watering your plants less to prevent the root rot that can occur from overwatering. While you may have been watering once a week in the summer, it may become every week and a half or two weeks in the winter. Checking how moist the soil is prior to watering becomes more important. Push your finger into the soil about 1” or 2” deep and only water if the soil is dry. While you may water less frequently, you will not typically give the plant less water since it still needs to go deep enough to reach the roots. Keep in mind that not all plants are the same and getting to know each of your plants preferences will contribute to their well-being.
We say you maybe will water your plants less frequently, but not always. We have forced air heat in our home, with an east facing window. While our plants grow less in the winter, we do continue to see new growth. This growth combined with the dryness from the heat typically means we don’t adjust our watering schedule by much. Checking the moisture in the soil of each plant ensures we don’t overwater.
Keep that humidity up
The warm air from heaters, furnaces and fireplaces will dry out the air in the rooms of your home. While some plants won’t be too affected, you may begin to notice some with leaves that have brown edges and/or drooping leaves. Increasing the humidity in the room will help take the stress off your plants.
One of the easiest ways to protect against dry air is to group your plants together. When the plants are grouped they create their own micro-climate, expelling water as they transpire and providing humidity. If you only have one or two plants, placing them on a tray filled with stones and water will provide a consistent level of humidity. Of course, if you don’t mind having a humidifier running, this will give you the best and most consistent level of humidity.
We often get questions about misters. Using a mister will not harm the plant, but it won’t provide the consistent humidity that the plant needs given the mist evaporates so quickly. If anything, misting your plant will contribute to keeping the leaves clean, aiding in your plant processing sunlight (for more see the section on dusting below).
Maintain Consistent Temperature
As the temperature outside drops, make note of where your plants are located inside. Plants located closer to windows are likely to be subjected to cold drafts. On the other hand, being located too close to any heating ducts or radiators can dry the plants out. Ideally, plants will be located in a place where the temperature varies the least throughout the day. Maintaining your plants as close to +20ºC is best.
Do Not Fertilize
Plant growth will subside during the winter months and depending on how much light your plant receives, may even go dormant. Fertilizing your plant during this time will not only have no benefit to your plant, it actually may even damage it. Since the plant won’t be using the fertilizer, it will sit in the soil and can burn the roots if it isn’t absorbed quickly enough.
Dust Your Plants Regularly
Keeping your plants clean and dust free will help keep them healthy during a challenging time. As your plants absorb as much light as they can, a layer of dust on the leaves will inhibit their ability to photosynthesize. Additionally, keeping your plants clean protects them from bugs. Spider mites love to breed during this time, attacking your plant when it is most vulnerable. Wipe down the leaves with a damp cloth regularly and remove any yellowing or dead leaves.
Taking a few simple steps will ensure your plants make it through the long, dark winter months without harm.