Plant parents all over the world dread winter. Just a few months ago your plants were pushing out new growth and now they are droopy, losing leaves, or have stunted growth. There are however some ways in which you can help your plants weather the storm and even do well. Let’s look at the circumstances they’ll find themselves in and how to adjust our expectations and care for them.
Most indoor plants are aroids or plants that originate from the tropics. They naturally prefer warmer weather and so you can expect their growth to significantly slow down in winter when it’s colder. Often the cooler temperatures in your house will also potentially lead to cosmetic damage to the foliage. Foliage that has experienced a cold snap could change colour, curl inwards or drop. Bear in mind, that this article was written with South Africa in mind and the majority of South Africans don’t have central heating in their homes.
How to increase the warmth: Move your plants away from windows at night, close curtains or blinds between the windows and plants, wrap bubble wrap around pots for insulation (particularly clay pots that get very cold), put your clay pots into plastic pots, move your plants to the warmest place in your house (usually the bedroom). If you want to heat up an area for your plants, the best types of heaters to use are fan heaters so that warm spots are not too isolated.
Depending on where you live in South Africa you will see an increase or decrease in humidity. In the Cape, we experience our rainy season in Winter. This means that our overall humidity sees a large increase. Often the daily humidity is above 60% and one does not need a humidifier. You might want to work on increasing the humidity for your plants when you live in a very dry area or when you have your plants in an area with a heater that dries the air out.
How to increase the humidity: You can buy a humidifier (for more information on specs to look out for, you can read more here). If you have a fan heater, consider putting a tray of water in front of it – the idea is that the heater will pull water from the dish and into the air, thereby increasing the humidity. You can also place your plants in a bathroom that gets a lot of steam or you can place them near the kettle. Other ways you can increase your humidity is by placing your plants close together or putting pebble trays in the vicinity of pr under your plants.
Light is one of the most important elements for plants because it’s where they get their energy from. Usually, indoor plants already battle for what little light they can find. In winter, this becomes more of a struggle and growth will slow down or it can lead the plant to become stunted.
How to increase the amount of light your plant gets: If you don’t have a lot of natural light in your house and you want to keep your plants growing to their maximum capacity, you might want to consider using grow lights. Often people feel daunted when they enter the world of grow lights – I tried to make it as simple as possible. You can watch a video explanation here or read a blog post here. In terms of natural light, keep in mind that the way it enters your home is not consistent throughout the seasons. So a window area that might have been too bright or hot for a plant in summer, might now be the perfect place for your plants.
Put down that watering can. RIGHT NOW. Your plant has different watering needs in winter. If your plant does not have the same light or temperature that it usually has, you will notice that it will take a lot longer for the water to evaporate or to be used up by the plant. This will often lead to soggy soil, rotting roots, an increase in fungus gnats, or a falling and yellowing of leaves.
How to adjust your watering: Start monitoring how long it takes for your plant’s soil to become dry before you need to water it and then try and work that into a routine. You can also use a self-watering device like blu-mat clay cones that will self-regulate the amount of water a plant needs.
If your plant is not growing, it won’t be using the extra nutrients that fertiliser provides because it won’t need them. If you continue to fertilise your plants it can lead to problems such as burnt roots or discoloured leaves.
How to fertilise: If your plant is putting out new growth, fertilise as per usual. You can however give a lower dosage of fertiliser to your plant because it is unlikely to be at the same rate of growth that your plant was experiencing in summer. If your plant is not putting out new growth, hold off on fertilising it.
Read more about fertilising your plants here.
I hope this has helped you in some way with your plants and keeping them in good condition over winter. If you have any tips or tricks or things that you do differently. Please let me know in the comments. I’ll look out for questions too!