“Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible.” (Anne Wareham)
DR.RAIZ AHMAD LONE
The most common reasons for dying of houseplants during winter are lack of light, too much water, lack of humidity, and insect infestations. During winter potted plants will not need as much water since the growth rate of most plants slows down considerably during this period. Overwatering can lead to root rot, especially in the winter. However, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore them completely.
Monitor the moisture of your plant regularly by checking the soil by using your finger, push down into the soil to see if it’s moist. Often, the top of the soil will dry out, but the bottom of the pot—where the roots are—is still moist. Before watering, stick your finger 1 to 2 inches into the soil to test how dry it really is. Another way to determine if a plant needs water is to lift the pot to see how heavy it is. Wait to water until it feels lighter than usual.Your plants will appreciate increased humidity during the winter months. Our homes are usually very dry in the winter due to heaters and fireplaces, and many houseplants are sensitive to dry air. Grouping indoor plants together is an easy way to create more humidity because it creates a microclimate by trapping the humid air created as plants naturally transpire, or release water vapor, from their leaves.You can also set up a humidifier near your plants, or place your plants near a tray of water, or even on top of stones in a tray filled with water (also known as a pebble tray). Misting can also help, but the effects are short-lived and you should be consistant and mist often.
Be conscious of where your plants are located in your space. You may need to move them away from drafty areas or frosty window panes in order to protect them from the cold temperatures outside. It’s also equally important to be aware of heat sources such as room heaters, radiators, and fireplaces. If the light source is coming from 1 side, then houseplants need to be rotated even in winter.
We need not to fertilize during the winter as we live in a colder environment with shorter periods of daylight during the winter as our plants may not be actively growing throughout the winter. During this time, plant food can do more harm than good because plants will not fully utilize the nutrients and it can upset the natural growth cycle of the plant. Don’t feed a plant that is ill or resting. Overfeeding is the second highest cause of death after overwatering! We are killing our plants with kindness rather than by neglect! However, if plants are actively growing during the winter, it is okay to fertilize them as normal.
Be sure to keep your plants clean and dust-free.The leaves of your plants need to breathe and a build-up of dust can prevent this and insects love to hide out in dust on the leaves, which makes it harder for you to find them. Your plant may be more vulnerable in the winter if it has gone into a state of dormancy, which makes it unable to outgrow pest damage.
Also, since the humidity is much lower, your plant can become the perfect breeding ground for spider mites and other insects who love to hide in the dirt on plant leaves. Wipe leaves regularly with microfiber dusting gloves and remember to remove any dead or yellowing leaves with a pair of clean, sharp scissors.
Plants add so much life and beauty to our homes and can survive winter just fine if properly cared for.
Author is Scientist-Floriculture and Landscape Architecture, KVK, Srinagar, SKUAST-K, and can be reached at email@example.com