Indoor plants
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Indoor plant care in winter

From Sarah’s garden to yours

During the cooler months of winter, we don’t want to do as much and are more inclined to snuggle up in a warm spot and wait for the warmer weather to return. Our house plants are the same. They are at their busiest and most active during spring and summer, and that is when they do most of their growing. As the conditions change, they tend to slow down.

Inside the house, things are a little different to what their outdoor cousins will be experiencing out in the wild at this time of year. The biggest thing to consider when caring for our indoor plant is that the environment we have them in is unnatural. We have lighting that may not be what they would prefer with LED bulbs in yellow tones to feel warm and cosy or brighter blue tones to suit our mood. Lighting has come a long way since the standard 100-watt bayonet bulbs one size fits all approach to seeing in the dark.

The other thing we tend to do in the cooler weather is crank the heat up indoors so we are comfortable enough to continue to wander around in our favourite tee-shirt.  So as summer slips away and the cold begins to set in, we can carry on comfortably without missing a beat with constant and steady conditions indoors. Keeping a close eye on your indoor plants during these changing conditions will ensure they get what they need.


Get to know your plants:

What keeps us happy during the colder months, may or may not suit our plants depending on their different needs. Some of them like to go dormant in the cooler months and appreciate the cooler, darker conditions. Others don’t mind that you’ve kept things warm as they are of tropical origins, but may prefer more humidity in the air than we would prefer. Others just need to be somewhere else to see out the winter. Different plants have different requirements and getting to know them and looking into their needs, especially during the different seasons, will help you to have happy and healthy plants right through the winter.

Watch the light:

The sun isn’t as strong as in the summer and it is lower in the sky and even shifts its position. It is always moving ever so slightly and may not be noticeable until you see a plant that was once bathed in warm sunlight, looking unwell in a low light spot. Take the time to notice where the sun is and move your plants if necessary.

Avoid dramatic temperature changes:

On one of those wonderful blue sky days, the temperatures behind glass can almost remind us of summer, but those days in particular are often followed by the coldest nights. Windows aren’t all that great at insulation and plants on windowsills can suffer enormous swings in temperature that can cause problems to their health and wellbeing. You may need to move plants to a more consistent spot.

Heaters can be too hot:

While it is nice for us to sit by the fire and feel warm, heaters, fires and heat pumps aren’t such a welcome treat for our plants and they can quickly dry out and get crispy leaves, and dry soil. These plants may therefore need a new spot for the cool season. If the air is too dry, you can mist the plants often or sit them on a pebble and water filled tray.


Cool season plants don’t need a lot of water:

As creatures of habit, we can set up weekly routines to keep ourselves organised and in the summer months, watering the plants often will keep them happy. However, their thirst over the cool season decreases and they don’t need as much water to be at their best. In these changing conditions, it is good to let the plant tell you what it needs. Instead of arbitrarily pouring water into the pot, check the condition of the soil first. Avoid allowing the plant to yo-yo between too wet and too dry, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings so it is still barely moist. It will take longer in the cool season to reach this stage.

Plants don’t get as hungry:

Plants in containers rely on you for everything. They can’t just stretch out their roots to find the nutrients they need and so when the supplies in the container run out there is nothing there. When the plants are actively growing in the summer, they need a lot of food to support that growth, but as things slow down the need isn’t as great. Over fertilising can be just as harmful to plants as under fertilising so resist the temptation to continue the summer feeding schedule. If a plant is looking a little peaky, then try a diluted feed to restore health.

Tidy up:

As with all plants there is a cycle of life and death, and old leaves are often shed to make way for new growth and if left unchecked, a plant pot can become choked at the base with old dead or dying leaves. With sharp secateurs you can do a bit of a tidy up, and trim back wayward and leggy growth, but now is not the time for a complete repot – save that for the spring.

Be vigilant:

Pests and diseases can appreciate the warmth in our cosy cool season homes and can quickly flourish in the nooks and crannies of our houseplants. The best remedy is early intervention, so check your plants often for signs of problems so you can treat anything untoward as soon as you see it.

With an understanding of what your plants need, observing the changing conditions and making some minor adjustments will ensure your green housemates thrive over the cool season months and bring you a fresh outlook to brighten dull days.