How Are Your Houseplants Doing This Winter?

Indoor plants are a lovely addition to any home and one way we gardeners can feed our gardening addiction during the winter months. But their needs change with the seasons, just like our outdoor landscaping. When was the last time you really looked over your houseplants?

Proper watering is especially important in the winter. The heat is going and our homes are much drier, even if we have humidifiers. The trick is to not over or under water! Most houseplants are dormant now, and simply not using much water. A good 95% detest wet soil in winter, and should be allowed to dry out completely between watering. (The big exceptions to this rule of thumb are lemon, orange, grapefruit, other potted citrus; they REQUIRE a moist soil; do not let these few types dry out.) For smaller potted plants, the weight of the pot is the best way to judge; pick up your pots. If they feel very light, place them in a few inches of water in a sink or tub and allow them to soak it up through their drain holes until the pot feels heavy. Then let them drain in the dish rack, put them back in place and don't water again until the plant feels light once more. For those great big pots, use a long bamboo skewer. Drive it into the soil, then pull it out and check it for moistness. If the skewer is damp, no need to water - sort of like test a cake!

Your plants also need humidity in the air around them, more than a home humidifier can provide. Place all of your houseplant in a slightly larger plant tray with a layer of pebbles in the bottom. Fill with water - this will evaporate into the air around your plants providing much needed additional humidity.

Also very important during the winter is to NOT FEED your houseplants! Remember, they are dormant this time of year. They won’t be looking for any nutrition until the first of March, so no feeding!

If your plants are looking long, lanky or weak (tempting you to feed them!), it is most likely due to not enough sunlight. Don’t prune them back now; rather move them into a south or southwest window. Try to give them as much daylight as possible.

Come the beginning of March your houseplants will begin to come out of their dormancy. The sun is stronger and longer, waking everyone up! This is the time for the first feeding and pruning of the year. Want more houseplant tips? Check out Lisa Steinkopf's suggestions at The Houseplant Guru.