It seems almost everyone I know hopes for a short, mild winter. Regardless of how un-winter-like a season it’s been, come February, people are longing for it to end so they can dump the parka and regain that summer-time glow. While I share the desire for winter to come to a close, my motivations are somewhat different. I can’t help but yearn for the summer sun (and that horrible Toronto humidity); not for my sake, but for the sake of my plants.
Winter in my house means minimum sun, radiator heating, intense dryness as a result of said heating, and cold drafty windows. NOT an ideal environment for growing plants. Here are some photos of the limited winter sun that flows through my North & South facing windows.
As you can see, my apartment never fills with bright light [insert tear emoji], so windows are prime real-estate. And it’s most unfortunate that every window has a radiator directly underneath it, as majority of my plants don’t enjoy being placed on top.
If you live in a part of the world that experiences something similar to winters in Canada, and your (1) plant-babies are currently struggling, OR (2) you’re considering buying some plants, then the following information is for you…
Did you know that plants hibernate?!
It’s true. In the winter-time, plants go into a dormant period. This might explain why there hasn’t been any new growth on your plant, and this might also explain why a few of your plants have died. In this state of hibernation, a plant slows its growth and needs less water than it would during other seasons.
So, what can you do to help your plants survive these short, cold and dark winter days?
Pay attention to your plants!
This doesn’t come naturally to everyone. And I don’t mean that as an insult. A plant isn’t like a dog, who might bark when it’s hungry. Plants are silent, and they need you to listen (with your eyes)! By checking your plants every few days, you’ll become familiar with how they look, and it will be easier to identify when something has gone amiss. Maybe the leaves are wilting, or a few have fallen off? Maybe a bunch have changed color? Don’t be alarmed or panicked if this is happening. But know that this could be a sign that something has changed for the plant and you should investigate further.
[Coming Soon: future blog posts on how to determine what might be ailing your plant]
A great tip that I offered in my blog post First Things First: take photos! Document your plant the minute you bring it home and put it in a pot. And take a new photo every once in a while too. That way, you can have a visual reference to help you determine if & when something has changed.
Stop watering on a schedule
Typically, in the warmer months, I tend to water my plants like clockwork. It’s one of my favorite Sunday evening activities. And because the plants are getting lots of sun all day long, they need that H2O. But in the winter-time, this doesn’t work as well. Some of my plants only need water every 2 weeks! Overwatering can lead to root-rot and could eventually kill your plant. So, if you’re serious about keeping your plants alive and healthy, the best approach is to check the soil every few days. Stick your finger about an inch deep into the soil to determine how dry it is, and water accordingly.
Note: Every plant is different, and it’s important for you to know what type of soil conditions your plant requires. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great resources for learning more about the specific needs of your plant. And if you don’t know what kind of plant you have, take a photo of it and bring it into your local plant shop. They will almost always be able to help you with plant identification, and can even offer some helpful insights.
Here’s a watering tip: I often measure out my water to make sure that I’m not giving too much or too little. It takes a bit longer to water plants by using a measuring cup, but it’s good to be aware of how much water you are feeding your plant. I have sent MANY plants to their grave because of overwatering. Once you add water, it’s pretty hard to remove it. So water your plants slowly or do like me, and measure.
Make your plants feel at home
This sounds super cheesy, but it’s true. Imagine if you traveled to a foreign place and you weren’t given the basic necessities to live comfortably. Many common house-plants have adjusted to indoor living (such as the spider plant or the pothos), and are for the most part hearty and resilient. But as soon as you get into the more ‘trendy’ tropical foliage, you should remember that these plants have traveled from far and wide and don’t necessarily appreciate being placed in a dry, cold, and potentially dark corner.
Again, it’s important to know what kind of plant you have so that you can determine exactly what it needs to feel at home. Most of my plants require higher humidity, so a few times a week I spritz them with water using a spray bottle (the dollar store sells these). You could also be fancy and get a humidifier. It’s on my wish list!
Last but not least, help your plants stay clean
If you notice dead foliage (often yellow or brown colored leaves or stems), you can remove these. Some may fall off on their own, but others may need a bit of help. To do this you can use a clean pair of scissors or a knife.
Giving your plants a shower is also encouraged. After all, you wouldn’t want to be dirty for months on end, would you? If your pots have drainage holes and they are small enough to move, you can transport your plants to the washroom, place them in the bath/shower, and gently spray them with warm water. If this seems less appealing (or your plant is too big), you can also use a damp cloth and gently wipe off the tops and bottoms of the leaves. Doing this will help to remove dirt and will make it easier for the leaves to soak up that sun!
Note: It is not recommended that you shower any plants that are not in a pot with a drainage hole. This could lead to drowning your plants. Literally.
Here’s counting down the days till summer!