Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. You guys know what that means! It’s time to start readying all of your green children for winter survival. Depending on where you live, it can get pretty dark through the winter months. So it can be a challenge to keep our plants happy through the winter. But there are several things you can do to help them to make it to spring.
First things first! If you had your plants outside for the growing season, you will need to transition them before moving them inside. It is recommended to adjust your plants to lower light levels gradually before bringing them in. Just move them into deeper shade over the course of a couple weeks before finally bringing them in. But if you’re like me and totally space bringing your plants until the nights start getting too cold, don’t worry, you can just drag them straight inside with out too much trouble. Some of the fussier plants may drop a few leaves, but that’s the worst of it.
Second thing, DO NOT bring your plants inside with out first checking them over for bugs. I suggest first spraying them off with a hose to get any large critters off. Then spray them down with a mix of 2tsp Neem Oil, 1tsp Dawn, and a gallon of water. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of bringing any pests in. The most common pests that may come in on your plants are Aphids, Spider Mites, Scale, and Mealy Bugs. Aphids are easy enough to get rid of, just spray them off with a hose. The others are more difficult to deal with. For Mealy Bugs and Scale you will need scrape off as many as you can, then wipe the plant down with a q-tip and rubbing alcohol. You can also use a systemic pesticide if you need to, but I prefer to avoid using the harsher things unless I absolutely have to. Spider Mites can be the hardest to get rid of, I use a mix of water, dawn, and rubbing alcohol to get rid of them, check out this Video to see my spider mite process! Just a note, systemics do not work on spider mites unfortunately.
Now onto winter care, There are a few key things that will make winters with house plants go well and decrease the chances of losing any plants.
Move all of your plants closer too, or into the windows. The light is greatly reduced in the winter time, so you will need to try and give them as much light as possible. For most houseplants just being in or near the windows will be enough. But for some you will need supplemental lighting. High-light or Full-sun plants will need to be in a South window at the minimum, or ideally have a grow light. I use grow-lights to keep my citrus trees and succulents happy until they can go back out in the spring. Just a heads up, if you have really drafty windows you will not want to place you plants in them without sealing up the drafts. If that’s not possible then I would invest in some quality grow lights.
Over-watering is the main reason houseplants die in the winter. Most house plants go semi-dormant in the winter, so they require a lot less water. I let all of my plants dry out quite a bit before watering. Most plants will let you know when they need water, usually by drooping their leaves. A good rule of thumb is not to water until the soil has dried out 1-3″ depending on the pot size. A good option to avoid over-watering is to pick up a moisture meter, most garden centers carry them for about $10.
Do NOT fertilize your plants in the winter! Plants only use fertilizer when they have enough light to do so. In the winter they are semi dormant, and cannot use the fertilizer. If you feed your plants, it will just burn their roots and cause damage. There are a few exceptions to this, like citrus trees. They need to be fed all year, but less in the winter time.
The air in your house during the winter can be quite dry. Keep your plants away from the heater vents so their leaves don’t dry out. It is a good idea to group your plants together to increase the humidity in the immediate area. Another option is to add a pebble tray or humidifier. If you have Calatheas a humidifier is almost a requirement, otherwise they get brown crunchy leaves. Also keep your plants out of cold drafts to avoid your plants losing leaves or even dying.
Just remember check for bugs before bringing your plants inside and treat them just to be safe. Also reduce the frequency of watering, move your plants as close to the window as you can, and stop fertilizing until spring. Follow this and your green babies will make it out of winter, and will see another spring.