Houseplant Jobs for Winter

In winter, most garden plants rest, either as leafless stems and branches or as bulbs or roots and buds underground. Luckily, many house plants are evergreen, so you can still enjoy them in winter, but their need for rest is just as great. Your job is to create the most comfortable conditions for them, so they can start into growth in spring, fully refreshed. Winter is a quiet time, when most house plants are resting. You mustn’t forget about them completely, though, and a few house plants will need special care at this time of year.

corms

Water sparingly

Over-watering is the most likely ‘trouble spot’ in winter house plant care. Cut down on watering, but if leaves of evergreen house plants start to turn yellow and fall, then cut down even more. House plants which lose their leaves naturally in winter, such as Paper Flower and Italian Bellflower, need just enough water to keep the potting mixture barely moist. Be careful not to splash water around, as this encourages fungal diseases to set in.

If you are storing Begonia or Gloxinia corms or tubers, check them from time to time. Moisten the peat slightly if the corms or tubers start to shrivel, to keep them plump and healthy.

Exceptions

House plants in bud or flower need a steady supply of water.

Umbrella Plant, (Cyperus alternifolius), is a waterside plant, and needs plenty of water all year round to keep it in good condition.

Get temperatures and light right

Many house plants come from places with low winter temperatures. Central heating makes life pleasant for you and your family but it can be hard for these plants, especially when combined with reduced light levels. Most plants are fine in a temperature of 10°-13°C (50°-55°F), but if you have a cool, well-lit spare room, use it to overwinter plants such as Pelargonium, Bay, Ivy, Fatsia, Mind-your-Own-Business and Piggyback Plant. Most house plants like a modest drop in o temperature at night, but cacti and succulents ikquite low night temperatures.

Exceptions

Tropical plants, such as Acalypha, Croton, African Violet, Goosefoot Plant and Dizygothica need a constant minimum temperature of 15°C (60°F).

Move those that prefer bright light – Pelargoniums, cacti, Jade Plant and Bottle Brush, for example – closer to a source of natural light, such as a south- or west-facing window. Be careful of draughts, though, and on frosty nights, move them well away from the windowsill – and keep your windows clean as every bit of light helps.

Humidity and ventilation

The cooler the temperature, the less humidity is needed, but in central heating, plants such as Flame Nettle and Cyclamen appreciate an occasional misting. A few thin-leaved and tropical house plants, such as Ferns and Crotons, need regular misting all year round.

Fresh air is as good for plants as it is for people; open the windows a little whenever the weather is fine. Chilly draughts, however, can quickly kill house plants, so move them if necessary.

Plants to feed

Food needs are usually related to the light and heat supplies: the warmer and lighter it is, the more likely a plant is to be growing, so the more food and water it needs.

The main exceptions to this rule areWith the reduced daylight plants such as Kalanchoe will need as much light as possible. Wipe leaves to remove any dust (top).

Permanent house plants that flower in winter. Feed these as long as they are in bud and bloom; short-term house plants, such as Chrysanthemum and Cineraria don’t really need feeding.

Plant Care

Wipe the leaves with lukewarm water to keep them dust-free, so they can make the most of available light. Some house plants are naturally short-lived, while others are very hard to keep alive over the winter months. If a plant is at the end of its natural life or beyond saving, throw it out, but if your Flame Nettles or Busy Lizzies start to look drawn out, cut them back, and put the cuttings in a jar of water to make roots.

Forced bulbs

If you prepared bulbs for forcing in autumn, they should now be growing strongly. When you move them from their cool dark spot to a lighter one, remember that the cooler it is, the longer the flowers will last.

Forced Hyacinth stems continue to grow as they flower. When the stems start to look floppy, you can cut them off at the base and put the flowers in a vase.

Christmas plant care

Certain house plants are lino favourites tor Christmas gifts. Here is a quick guide to keeping them healthy and attractive: Cyclamen Keep cool, provide bright indirect light and water regularly from below. Mist occasionally.

Azalea Keep cool, provide bright indirect light, water by soaking in a bucker of soft water and never let the potting mixture dry out. Mist occasionally.

Poinsettia Keep warm, provide bright light, mist frequently and water generously but allow potting mixture to dry out between waterings.

Winter care of outdoor plants

  • Patio gardens often benefit from extra warmth and shelter as they are so near the house.
  • Window-box and balcony gardens can suffer from exposure to freezing winds, especially if they are high up.
  • Lag plants firmly to protect them from frost, but remember to remove the lagging in sunny weather.
  • Check that any frost lagging is firmly in place, but remember to remove it in bright sunny spells.
  • Check newly planted plants after a cold spell, to see if any were lifted out of the ground by frost. If necessary, replant them.
  • Shake snow off evergreen plants, to prevent the weight breaking branches.
  • Don’t let plants, especially evergreens and those in flower, dry out. Window-boxes and tubs protected from rain by overhanging eaves are especially dry. Water as necessary.
  • Plant deciduous shrubs and trees during mild spells.
  • Start to prune deciduous shrubs and climbers, such as Butterfly Bush, in late winter.
  • Lift, divide and replant any crowded clumps of Snowdrops, as soon as flowering is finished.

House plants that flower in winter

Planning for spring and summer

It’s not too late to look at catalogues for bulbs and seeds, and think about what you want to grow in your window boxes, pots and tubs. Any containers that are empty, or have old, worn-out potting mixture, can be filled with fresh mixture, so they’re ready for spring planting. Remember to put a layer of drainage material in the bottom of the pot or container.

In midwinter, you can start sowing seeds of Pelargoniums and Wax, or Fairy, Begonias, for summer flowering out of doors. In late winter, start to sow seeds of bedding plants, such as Lobelia, Petunia, Antirrhinum and Salvia, or Scarlet Sage.

Sow Sweet Peas – plastic cups are ideal for their king root systems, or use peat pots, so that you can plant them Out directly.

If you intend to take cuttings from Dahlias, begin lightly watering the tubers in late winter, to start them into fresh growth. Keep the tubers just moist to avoid rotting.

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