Care of indoor plants in winter
Winter is a difficult season for most indoor plants: dry air, lack of light, cold draughts. Whether you have a green thumb or not, whether you are a beginner or an enlightened amateur, you will have to take into account four elements.
Four key elements
We too often forget that a plant is a living being. As such, it contributes to the balance of the universe… and our lives! And to develop, each plant needs 4 vital elements:
- The air through which she breathes by absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide
- The water, its growth food par excellence, dissolves the nutrients in the soil and carries them from the roots to the leaves
- The earth and its mineral elements on which the roots feed
- The light or energy generator by which photosynthesis begins
In all seasons, and even more so in winter, these four elements should be monitored and measured for the well-being of your plants. While most plants need to rest in winter, in our homes, living conditions are not always compatible with the natural life cycle.
Here are some tips to help your vegetal friends get through the year and continue their growth in the spring.
Water: reduce… or not
In winter, the warm and dry atmosphere of our interiors is not suitable for green plants. Knowing when and how to water is therefore critical. Especially since it also depends on the type of plant. Some examples:
- Cactus and succulents: respect their rest period and water every 15 days.
- Azaleas: it is better to soak them once a week, immersing the pot and clod completely, then let them drain before reinstalling them in their planter.
- Orchids: as soon as the roots turn grey, water but do not let the water stagnate in the saucer or at the bottom of the planter.
- Papyrus: like all aquatic plants, it must always have its feet in the water and therefore wet roots. Mist more often in winter.
In general, the higher the room temperature, the more water the plant loses through evaporation, so it will be necessary to water more often.
To find the right watering rhythm, observe your plants. They know how to make their voices heard!
When and how to water
- Water regularly but without over watering, depending on the temperature of the room.
In a room at 16°c, watering every 15 days is sufficient. At temperatures above 20°C, increase the watering rate to twice a week.
- Increase watering when the plant is in bloom or has buds or if it is in a small pot (the root ball will dry out much faster).
- Water gently on the surface so that the water seeps into the soil and roots, then flows into the saucer. Evacuate the overflow.
- Check that the water does not stagnate. This can cause the roots of the most fragile plants to rot and asphyxiate.
- Water preferably in the morning with water at room temperature not too hard (rainwater ideally)
- Embrace assisted watering. There are many solutions: from fun little accessories to plant in your pots and planters (Bördy, Froggy in several sizes) to water storage containers. You can then “forget” your plants and leave with peace of mind for several days.
Light: the right exposure
A plant that lacks light “starves to death” even if it is watered.
There is no doubt that light is essential for healthy plants. Even if not all plants need the same light intensity. Thus, a plant with light or variegated foliage needs more light than a plant with dark foliage. Note that at 2m from a window, the plant already receives 4 times less light.
The orientation of rooms and windows is also important. A southern plant, such as hibiscus or oleander, should preferably be placed in a room facing south. On the other hand, dwarf palms, crassules or begonias can be accommodated by a window facing north.
In winter, the days are short and less bright. Many plants have naturally adapted to periods of reduced light: they no longer grow or grow very slowly. It’s their rest period.
But other plants suffer from this lack of light: the distance between the leaves increases, the variegated foliage loses its pretty colours and the new leaves are less vigorous.
It is of course possible to supplement poor natural lighting with an appropriate artificial light source. For example, a “daylight” type rail lighting system, placed 30 cm from the plants.
- Group your plants in the brightest rooms
- Place your plants near a window or a white reflective wall to make the most of the daylight.
- Clean the leaves regularly to capture as much light as possible.
Did you know that most plants need 12 hours of light per day?
Air: humidify and regulate the temperature
Ambient air quality affects plant well-being. However, during the winter, heating creates an atmosphere that is far too dry. The tips and edges of the leaves dry out and turn brown, growth stagnates and there is an increased risk of pests.
The higher the temperature of a room, the higher the humidity required by plants. The radiator shelves where many plants are concentrated dry out the plants, as does the proximity of a stove or chimney. You should take this into account and water or bask frequently.
If you have the opportunity, arrange your plants according to their needs:
- fresh rooms for azaleas, cyclamen, primroses and hyacinths… (they will flower longer)
- warmer for tropical plants, poinsettias, bromeliads and cacti.
- Regularly mist the foliage of your plants, or even shower them from time to time
- Place your pots on a bed of clay beads, on a saucer that you fill with water. The roots do not touch the water but a beneficial moist atmosphere is created around the plant.
- Group several plants together to create a microclimate.
- Keep your plants away from draughts and doors to the outside. Beware of poorly insulated window sills.
Soil: drain and let rest
The earth is the lifeblood of every plant. In nature, natural biological cycles constantly renew the soil’s microbial life. The roots find water and food there. In a pot, the soil quickly loses its original nutritional qualities. It settles and becomes compact as it is watered and there is a real risk of asphyxiation of the roots.
This is why it is important to aerate the substrate as much as possible, either on the surface, or by adding elements allowing better aeration (sphagnum moss, perlite, clay beads), or by using aerated pots (mesh, porous).
Many nurserymen advise to stop fertilization completely between October and February to respect the rest period of the plants.
Grooming: breathe beautifully
Finally, often neglected, the washing of plants does them a lot of good. Dust and dirt accumulate over time, clogging the pores of the leaves and preventing the plant from breathing. In nature, rain cleans the leaves, but indoors, it’s up to you to do it!
A plant should regularly be dusted with a damp cloth or paintbrush to remove dust from fluffy leaves that are afraid of water.
Showering is also a good solution for small leaf plants.
Take the opportunity to remove wilted flowers, yellowed leaves and chisel off the dried end of the leaves. This will give your house plants a boost.