Winter Houseplant Care

Winter houseplant care by domenick tonacchioIn New York’s concrete jungle, a little bit of greenery is a great way to spruce up your apartment, especially in the cold and drear of a New York winter.  But in winter, right when you need them more than ever, your houseplants also need you.  Dry-heated central air, less sunlight and cold drafts can all take their toll on your houseplants.  Here are some guidelines to keeping your houseplants healthy year-round, taken from a blog post I recently read:

Identify your plant’s needs: Treat each plant as an individual.  Do a little research on each of your plants to determine what it is they need year-round.  If you don’t know your plant’s identity, then lightly moist soil, good drainage, ventilation, humidity and a little more attention are all good rules of thumb.  

Water the right way: Before you water, make sure that your pot has a drainage hole to prevent rot, and a saucer to catch any excess moisture.  When the top of the soil is dry, then water thoroughly, but make sure you don’t splash the leaves.  Deep watering promotes healthier root growth.

Jungle plants need humidity: The dry central-heated air is awful for houseplants, most of whom come from steamy tropical forests.  Dry air also leads to pest infestations.  Place your plants on a tray of pebbles, then fill it halfway with water, which will slowly evaporate and give the immediate area a boost of humidity.  

Group plants by needs: Grouping plants together by needs is a great way to make your and their lives easier.  For actively growing plants, choose a well-lit bathroom or kitchen so they can benefit from the extra humidity created by running water.  Desert plants should be in a south-facing window, so that they can receive the maximum amount of direct sunlight.  Any subtropical bulbs or flowering plants that need rest in the winter should be put in a cool area with indirect light.  

Inspect regularly: Whenever you water your houseplants, pay close attention to the leaves, stems and potting mix.  By occasionally wiping your leaves with a damp rag and cotton swab, you’ll be able to discover and remove all sorts of things you otherwise never could.

Prevent the spread of pests and diseases: Houseplants are particularly vulnerable to bacterial diseases this time of the year, so be vigilant.  Dead leaves are ideal breeding grounds for pests and diseases, so get rid of them once they appear.  To prevent stagnant air, use a small fan to boost ventilation.  If your plants get infected, quarantine them so they can recover without infecting the other plants.  If the leaves are stunted, mottled and twisted, then the plant most likely has a virus and needs to be discarded as soon as possible.  


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