Royal Horticultural Society on ‘hard to kill’ houseplants
The typical millennial now owns a total of 10 plants, and the generation above and below this group are fond of houseplants too. While houseplants are trendy, lift up your mood and make a property feel more homely, they can be difficult to keep alive. Houseplants in the UK commonly originate from tropical climates with high humidity, so you might struggle to look after them in the winter. Don’t worry, Express.co.uk chatted to John Dempsey at Housetastic.co.uk and Samantha Jones from MyJobQuote.co.uk to find out the four rules of taking care of houseplants during the colder months.
Most houseplants in the UK come from a tropical climate, and some of them prefer dryer, hotter and sunnier conditions than possible during the winter here.
Although houseplants in the UK adapt to their conditions to a degree, for the most part, plant parents must emulate the plants’ natural habitat, and this can be tricky to get right.
As a result, fear can mount amongst plant lovers transitioning into cooler weather as their beloved plants experience climates that are the opposite of their natural habitat, and some will wilt and perish.
Fear not, there are plenty of things you can do to match the required conditions for your plants to thrive.
Express.co.uk chatted to two experts to find out the four rules for looking after houseplants in the winter.
Houseplant rules for winter: Houseplants are more needy in winter in some ways
Houseplant rules for winter: Your plants don’t need to be fed or fertilised
Limit food and fertiliser
Humans typically eat more food in the winter but don’t apply this tendency to your plants.
In fact, over the colder months, you should be limiting your plants’ intake of foods and fertilizers.
John explained: “Many houseplants become dormant over the colder months and, even though they may look a little sorry for themselves, they are still alive and kicking!
“The dormant stage sees them suspend the growing process and a slower rate of photosynthesis, which is why food is not necessary.
“Fertiliser should be diluted in the winter months by half.“
Houseplant rules for winter: Don’t place houseplants above a radiator
Just the right amount of water
Even though the air is drier in winter, you don’t need to overdo it with the watering can.
However, don’t stop watering your plants altogether! Strike the perfect balance.
John explained: “Overwatering and underwatering are the most common reasons that plants perish.
“Many plant parents observe the top layer of soil, consider it dry and then water, when in fact the soil underneath the top layer is perfect.
“Of course, some neglect their plants altogether and forget to water them, leading them to die.”
To determine if a plant is in need of water, there’s a really easy trick.
John advised: “Plant your index finger into the soul, if it is damp then it’s fine, but if it is dry then it may need watering.
“Ensure that all water is drained from the pot to avoid root rot. Keep in mind, cacti and succulents prefer dryer conditions.”
Gardening expert Samantha from My Job Quote made the same point, explaining that overwatered plants will rot or produce soft, weak growth.
She suggested watering your plants once every fortnight unless you have poinsettias that need watering as and when the compost feels dry.
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Get the temperature right
Most house plants need a temperature of 12 to 18 degrees, according to Samantha.
She said: “Each plant can differ as they come in a wide variety of colours, sizes, and shapes.
“Ensure you know the ideal temperature for the plants you own and keep an eye on your thermostat.”
You need to position your plants in the right place, too.
Place your plants away from cold draughts or open windows and leave the curtains open if they’re sitting on the windowsill.
John explained: “A draft can be detrimental to a houseplant, so move your plants away from doors that let in a breeze.”
Even though you don’t want your plants to be cold, you should not place them above a radiator either.
John explained: “The intense heat that flows from radiators will put stress on even the hardiest of houseplants, especially those that prefer humid conditions
“A radiator that provides a lot of heat will rapidly rob a plant of moisture, especially its soil.”
If you spot any signs of stress such as the yellowing of leaves, wilting and stems turning brown, you know you’ve done something wrong!
Houseplant rules for winter: Humidity matters too
Don’t forget to think about humidity
Low humidity levels can be a big issue for houseplants, so that’s another thing you need to consider.
In heated homes, the humidity levels can drop to 10 to 20 percent in winter, plants thrive closer to 50 percent.
Samantha suggested using a humidifier and moving your plants to a spot where they will enjoy the benefits of it.
If you don’t have a humidifier, she advised: “Move your plants to bathrooms and kitchens as they accumulate the most moisture from showers and boiling water.
“You could also place your plants on or near a tray of water, never directly in it.
“Place the pebbles in a tray to raise the bottom of the pots above the water level and place the pots on the top.”
John added: “If you wish to replicate the humid conditions of a plant’s natural habitat, mist its leaves with water to keep its environment saturated.”
Did you know that grouping plants together will help to raise the humidity level around them?
Samantha said: “This will help them thrive in similar conditions and for some, can form their own mini biome.
“Either move the pots closer together or put similar plants in the same pot. This also makes it easier to tend to them.”
Houseplant rules for winter: Keep your plants clean
No matter what the weather, find the light
The colder months mean shorter days, as indoor plants experience limited sunlight.
It’s important to be mindful of this and reposition plants to places where they will receive the most natural light.
As you may know, a plant often signals if it’s in need of more light as it begins to lean towards it.
Samantha recommends leaving your plants on a “sunny porch” so they can benefit from the light in different directions.
She added: “If this isn’t an option, move your plants onto a south-facing windowsill and ensure your windows are regularly cleaned.”
You also need to make sure your plants themselves have been dusted, as this can impact how much light they receive too.
John said: “Ensure that plants are kept dust-free as a layer of dust on the leaves will create a barrier, preventing them from receiving sufficient light.”
Using a damp cloth, wipe off the dust every morning or stand the plant in a lukewarm shower for five minutes every week.
You also need to check your plants for pests such as thrips that tend to breed over the winter.
Samantha insisted: “You must inspect your plants each day by looking above and under the leaves.
“Do this thoroughly if you are bringing any plants inside after spending the summer outdoors.
“Maintaining the checks will reduce pests thriving on your plants.”