Although they’re not growing as vigorously as they do in spring and summer, your indoor plants still need a little TLC to look their best over winter. Check out our top tips for keeping them happy.
Indoor plants need light, some more than others. As the sun changes position in the winter, you might find that your plants are now getting too little sun and light, so move them to a better position if necessary. If you’ve got curtains or shutters closed against the cold, make sure you open them on sunny days. Your houseplants like to bask in the gentle winter sun as much as you do!
Most indoor plants tend to have originated in tropical or sub-tropical zones, so they like a bit of warmth. But if you have the heating on, it might be too warm! The answer is to avoid temperature extremes: keep your plants out of cold draughts in windows and doorways but, equally, don’t stand them on top of, or directly in front of, heaters. One exception to this rule is the cyclamen: it especially loves to be outside on a chilly night – so pop it out on the back verandah before you go to bed.
The humidity drops rapidly in winter, and this effect is exacerbated by home heating, which dries the air. Some plants – ferns, painted leaf begonias, prayer plants and zebra plants, for example – require high humidity to stay healthy. If dry air is a problem, group your plants together and spray a mist on them, or stand them on a bed of pebbles in a tray of water that will evaporate around them. You can also move the plants to areas of higher humidity, such as the kitchen or bathroom, or place a bowl of water near your heater to add moisture to the air.
The most common mistake with indoor plants in winter is over-watering. They do not need as much water as in the warmer months, but they do need some, especially if they are in a hot, dry room. If a pot seems dry on the surface, lift it up and feel its weight – a very dry plant will feel much lighter than a damp one. Push your finger into the soil to a depth of about 5cm – if it is completely dry, then water! Give them a good soaking (let African violets absorb water from the bottom), allow to drain thoroughly, then replace them on their saucers. Never allow them to stand in excess water – and leave them to dry out almost completely before watering again. Cacti and succulents might not need any watering at all through winter.
Pests and general care
Warm, dry air can encourage spider mite or scale insects, so keep an eye out for these and talk to your garden centre if they become a problem. Your indoor plants do not need fertiliser during winter, but those with smooth leaves will love a weekly wipe-over with a damp cloth to keep them looking clean and glossy.