How to look after houseplants in winter
Hints and tips for keeping your houseplants happy
Most of us know that our garden plants need some attention in winter but totally neglect our houseplants thinking that as their situation is more or less the same all year round they just need the same care summer and winter. This however is not the case as most houseplants do need a rest period when the weather is cooler. Even though they are in a centrally heated atmosphere they do not need as much water and in most cases no fertiliser.
- If your home is cool in winter just water once the compost has almost dried out and just give a little water, no houseplant likes to sit in cold, wet compost, they will only rot. If your houseplants are not flowering over this period stop feeding and resume again in late winter once the days start to lengthen again.
- Indoor bulbs which are flowering over winter, such as sweetly scented narcissus, hyacinth, amaryllis and muscari don’t need feeding until the flowers have gone over as this is when they make their buds for the following year. Place them in a light position, not near a direct heat source, and keep them just and so damp. Once they have stopped flowering remove the spent heads and water weekly with a weak solution of tomato fertiliser.
- It’s not too late to plant a bowl of scented hyacinths for spring. Plant just into the surface of some bulb compost, place in a warm light position and keep just and so damp. Plant bowls of small spring flowering bulbs to flower indoors in late winter. Try muscari (Grape Hyacinth) or sweetly scented narcissus such as Paperwhites.
- At this time of year when we often have short gloomy days it is important that your plants receive as much light as possible so you may have to move them into a south or west facing windowsill.
- Christmas cactus should be flowering now so keep feeding every week with a diluted solution on tomato fertiliser to encourage them to keep on flowering. Place in a light position and keep just evenly damp.
- Indoor azaleas are also flowering now; they need to be kept evenly damp, if they dry out the buds will drop. The cooler they are the longer they will keep on flowering so keep away from any heat sources. Feed them with a tomato fertiliser in late spring and summer as this is when they make their flowers for the following winter.
- Now is the time to bring in cymbidium orchids if you have had them outside for the summer; they need a few cold nights to prompt them into flowering. Once they come into the warmth they should start making flowering stems so give them a weak solution of tomato fertiliser once a week. Feed with a higher nitrogen fertiliser once they have finished flowering until it is time to take them outdoors again.
- If you have any houseplants still outside remember to bring them inside before the first frosts.
- Poinsettias are the epitome of the Christmas houseplant, but they do need certain conditions if they are to keep their lovely red bracts. They really don’t like draughts so if they are standing next to the open door at the garden centre or supermarket avoid buying them as there is a high chance they will drop their leaves as soon as you get them home. Make sure they are well wrapped, leaves and bracts as well as the pot, when you buy them. Just walking the distance from the supermarket to the car in the cold can cause them to drop their leaves. Once you get them home position in a light draught free spot away from a direct heat source, so not above a radiator or next to the fire. Keep just evenly damp.
- At the end of winter re-pot any houseplants which have filled their pot with roots. Remove the plant from the old pot, tease out the roots if they are going round and round, remove any of the old compost and re-pot into a new pot just one size up from the old pot. Use a dedicated houseplant compost.