Califonia Bountiful

Tips for winterizing houseplants

Jan./Feb. 2015 California Bountiful magazine

Everybody needs a little downtime—and houseplants are no exception, says David Brenner, founder of San Francisco-based Habitat Horticulture.

Most of our popular houseplant varieties are native to tropical locations, he explained, and when it gets chilly, houseplant growth slows down. So whether frost coats the car's windshield or it's pouring rain on the patio, winter is a time when houseplants need to "bundle up" and get some rest.

"Days are shorter, indoor air is often dry and nighttimes are sometimes uncomfortably cool," Brenner said. "But with a little care, most houseplants make it through the winter just fine."

Here are some tips to help ensure your houseplants burst with vitality in the spring:

  • Watering – With slower winter growth, houseplants need less water. Check soil moisture once a week. If potting soil feels dry 2 inches below the surface, water thoroughly, allow plant to drain and dump excess from the saucer.
  • Feeding – Just like people, winter is a good time to cut back on heavy meals. Houseplants don't start growing vigorously until it warms up and days get longer in the spring. Use plant food sparingly, if at all, diluting by as much as 50 percent of product recommendations.
  • Cleaning – Winter is a great time to spruce up plants for spring. Remove leaf debris in pots and give leaves a wash with a light solution of dishwashing soap to remove accumulated dust and unwanted pests. Rinse with clear, tepid water. Place larger plants in the shower, wipe leaves, rinse with soft spray and allow them to drain.
  • Hot or cold – Most houseplants are semi-tropical and like temperatures in a steady range between 60 degrees and 75 degrees. They don't do well in cold drafts or too close to heat sources. Watch that leaves and branches don't touch cold windows and metal.
  • Keep it moving – The amount of light available through windows changes with the seasons. Move houseplants to maximize exposure to sunlight during winter, yet without overexposing.

Read California Bountiful magazine's feature story on Habitat Horticulture.

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