Are your houseplants surviving but not thriving? This is the time of year when you might be seeing problems on your houseplants. Why would you notice insects, leaf drop and other problems in mid-winter? It’s common for these things to come to a head now because indoor conditions are stressful for plants at this time of year. The days have been short for several months now, so the plants have had less light. The air in our centrally-heated homes is dry and since windows are seldom opened there is little air circulation. And finally, since there are no natural predators in the house the insect populations aren’t kept in check as they would be outdoors.
Here are some tips for keeping your houseplants happy as we move through the rest of the winter and into the spring.
- Misting and trays of rocks do little to increase indoor humidity, but placing a group of plants together in a room can help. So one way to increase the amount of moisture in the air is to have more plants! Humidifiers can help people as well as plants, of course, and you might find that a small unit might improve how your skin feels as well as how the plants grow.
- Keep plants clean. If your houseplants are light enough to easily move, place them in the shower and run room-temperature water over the leaves for a few minutes. If the plants are too heavy to easily put in the shower, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. This not only removes dust but can keep pests such as spider mites under control. It will also give you a closeup view of each plant’s leaves, so that you’re more likely to spot signs of scale, mites and mealybug before they get out of hand.
- If you do see insects or feel sticky leaves, wipe the plant well and spray with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap. Separate infested plants from the others in your home.
- Remove dead or yellowing leaves. Keeping plants clean will improve their looks tremendously.Plants frequently drop leaves at this time because the days have been so short for so long that there isn’t enough work to keep all that foliage “employed.”
- If a plant has grown lanky and tall, or weak and spindly, many can be trimmed or pinched back to stimulate bushy growth. If you’re uncertain if this is appropriate for your plant, take a photo and bring it into the garden center so that we can more accurately advise you.
- This is the time of year when it’s good to begin fertilizing indoor plants that were given a “rest period” through January. An application of earth worm castings on top of the soil can help as well.
- If a plant has been in the same pot for more than two years it might need repotting. Come in and talk to our Greenhouse Green Team if you’re hesitant to do the repotting yourself.
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