Caring for your houseplants this winter
Houseplants require a bit of special care, especially during the winter months. Cold weather can adversely affect the health and vigor of your indoor plants. This means you need to give them a bit of tender-loving care to keep them looking their best. Whether you have a wide variety of indoor plants or you just bring outdoor plants inside during the winter, these tips should help keep your indoor plants healthy and strong until spring. Your houseplants will grow best in daytime temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees. At night, your plants will suffer if temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Cold air will cause your plants to wilt, so be sure to keep them away from drafty areas and never let the foliage touch a cold window. Hot air can be just as damaging as cold air, so keep your plants clear of heaters and indoor space heaters. Indoor humidity is typically low during the cold, winter months. This can be a problem for your plants. Most houseplants require an indoor humidity level of 50 percent and tropical plants need humidity levels to stay closer to 70 percent. When heaters are running and indoor temperatures rise above 67 degrees, humidity levels are usually low.There are ways to raise the humidity levels inside your home and keep your plants looking healthier. Avoid running central heaters if you can. By sacrificing a few degrees in warmth, you might just save your indoor plants. You can also increase humidity by running a humidifier or placing your plants on a tray filled with moist pebbles. Misting your houseplants with cool water several times a week will also keep them moist. When the days become shorter and there is less light, your plants may become dormant as if they were outdoors. If this occurs, you must reduce the amount of water they are receiving. Only water your plants when the soil is dry an inch or two below the surface. Grow lights can trick your plants into thinking it's time to bloom. These lights are fluorescent and are beneficial for many types of plants. It may be necessary to run artificial lights for as much as 12 hours a day, if there is no other source of light. Fertilizers are typically applied to houseplants during active growing months in the spring and summer. In Florida, you should avoid applying fertilizers during the winter months when plants are dormant. Once a week or so, you should wipe your plants with a moist cloth to remove any grease or dust which can inhibit plant growth. This is also a good time to inspect your plants for signs of insect infestations. Spider mites and aphids are common houseplant pests. Look for paper thin webs on the leaves of your plants or signs of feeding damage. If you find yourself dealing with insects, you can spray your plants once or twice a week with a hard stream of water from the garden hose or place them in the shower and rinse them. This knocks insects from the leaves and keeps them under control. Only use chemical treatments when infestations are heavy or plants are sustaining serious damage. These tips should help you nurture your indoor plants this winter. If you have any questions about the health of your plants or need help choosing plants best suited for indoor growing, contact a local plant nursery for advice.