Thu February 16, 2012
Garden Report

Indoor Plants Need Love in Winter, Too

Keeping houseplants healthy and thriving through the winter doesn’t have to be an unpleasant chore. KUNC Gardener Tom Throgmorton has a few simple steps to help indoor plants stay happy as the days grow longer.

This time of year our houseplants are looking rough.  They will be much happier when warm weather is here and they can go outside. 

It’s hard to keep the dust off of the leaves.  The dust clogs the plant light processors.  A nice spring rain cleans off all the dust.  To simulate a rain, lightly rinse the plants off in the shower.  Or, on a warm day, take houseplants out on the deck or patio.  Rinse them off with a gentle sprinkle.  Let them drip dry.  Bring them back into their favorite spot before it gets too cool outside.

A rinse off in the shower also gets rid of some plant pests.  Use cool water and a medium spray.  Aphids and spider mites can be rinsed off.  Spray the insects away from the plant and containers.  Be sure to spray the underside of the leaves.  A spray won’t kill all of the bugs but it will limit the infestation.

With the days getting longer houseplants start to grow.  Their roots grow when their top grows.  Give these new roots space.  Transplant houseplants into a larger container.  Don’t jump container sizes too fast.  If the plant is in a ten inch diameter pot then transplant it into a twelve inch diameter pot. 

The choice of houseplant containers is overwhelming.  The container can become more interesting and more of a statement than the plant.  There are heavy ceramic pots, lightweight plastic pots that look ceramic.  Pick a pot that complements the growth habit of the plant and fits your décor. 

The selection of potting soils is almost as vast as the container selection.  Use a potting soil that fits your watering method.  We water sparingly.  We need a soil that holds water.  If you water regularly and often, find a soil that dries out quickly.  Some plants like cacti need special soil. 

It’s the time to thin some houseplants.  Tuberous plants like bromeliads can be divided just like you would iris in your garden.  Separate the strongest tubers and re-pot them.  Divide fibrous rooted plants like ferns by cutting the root ball.  Use a sharp knife to cut through the roots and soil from top to bottom.  Re-pot the two plants. 

Regular, light doses of fertilizer keep houseplants vibrant.  A general, balanced fertilizer with some micro-nutrients is best.  Some houseplants may have specific nutrient needs and may need a special plant food.  Follow the fertilizer directions -- and more isn’t better. 




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