Houseplants provide beauty and interest both inside and out. Most of them are of tropical origin and will perish when temperatures drop below freezing. Bringing them inside for the winter will keep them safe from freezing, but other challenges can be problematic because of lower temperatures, humidity, and light levels.
These issues can be kept to a minimum by taking several steps to keep them healthy while enhancing your home’s aesthetics.
Houseplants can suffer when the temperatures fall below 50 degrees, such as African violet, Persian violet, philodendron, prayer plant, weeping fig (Benjamin fig), and most palms. However, some houseplants can tolerate colder temperatures indoors, such as Sansevieria (snake plant), grape ivy, Hoya (wax plant), strawberry begonia, and most of the ferns. Christmas cactus and cyclamen are two hardy blooming plants.
One of the most critical components for the health of indoor plants is adequate amounts of light. Inside, the light at a given location is variable due to shadows from trees and roof overhangs, window curtains, time of the day and year, and day length. Placing plants at or near windows on the eastern or southern sides of your home for the best results.
If they are not receiving the proper levels of light, the plants will develop symptoms such as lack of growth, internodes where leaves attach to the stems) will increase in length, the new leaves are smaller with a lighter green color, and the older ones are dying. If you observe these issues, move the plants to where they receive more light.
Artificial plant-grow lights work but are usually not bright enough by themselves. Use them only to supplement sunlight and put them as close to plants as possible to get the most benefit.
Since the temperatures are cooler and they are receiving less- light, the plants require less fertilizer. Reduce the rate of fertilizer by one-half and use only small amounts of it as the plant grows. Sometimes the plant’s appearance can indicate the amount they need. If it develops a light green color, then apply fertilizer every other week. If the leaves are dark green but larger and the internodes longer, reduce fertilizer application.
Proper watering is essential for houseplants. Though they need less water in winter, apply water when the soil dries to a depth of one inch or more. In the winter, many problems of house plants are due to low humidity, such as brown leaf tips and leaf edge. Plants susceptible to low humidity include Norfolk Island pine, most ferns, and any plant receiving too much light. The heating systems in houses and offices can cause low moisture and cause the soil will lose water quicker. Keep them away from vents blowing the heated air.
Group plants together to raise the humidity in the area. Place a pan of water by them, and the evaporation will moderate the humidity. Using a water misting bottle to mist the foliage periodically will help reduce water loss. Another technique is to place the plants in a saucer or similar container with some pebbles. Fill it up with water and periodically refresh it. Never let the water level be so high that the water touches the bottom of the pot. Humidifiers are also helpful.
When watering plants, use warm water. Applying cold water can cause the plants to suffer, and some are particularly sensitive such as African violets.
Mealybugs and aphids are the most common insect pests that trouble indoor plants. For control, use insecticidal soaps, like dishwashing detergents but have a special formulation that controls these pests. You can also wipe off the insects with a wet rag. Avoid too much fertilizer since they favor lush new growth.
Yes, you can bring the beauty of nature indoors, even in the dead of winter. By maintaining your plants, they will thrive inside.