When it's time to gear up for winter, it means preparing for longer nights, reduced sunlight, and the possibility of overwatering dormant plants. Here are some tips and tricks to help us navigate through the winter months:
First and foremost, it's important to adjust our expectations for growth, rooting, and activity. Many of our beloved houseplants naturally go dormant in colder, darker conditions, and it's crucial to respect their natural rhythms. This means scaling back on watering, which can be a challenge after a season of frequent watering. Overwatering is the quickest way to invite winter root rot!
Dormancy can take various forms. Some plants may enter a state of stasis, where they simply exist without much growth or activity. For bulbous plants like Alocasia, Caladiums, Oxalis, and Amorphophallus, dormancy can be more dramatic, with foliage dying back to their corms and bulbs in preparation for the harsh conditions. Remember, this is a natural process and there's no need to panic!
To mitigate the risks of winter and minimise accidental overwatering damage, one of the best solutions is to use grow lights. These lights replenish the lost energy from shorter days and can even promote healthy growth during this otherwise challenging period. They can also prevent certain bulbous plants from going dormant, allowing them to maintain their beautiful foliage throughout winter (unless it's a necessary part of their life cycle, such as Amorphophallus or Oxalis).
It's important to keep in mind that light isn't the only factor. Without warm blankets, fireplaces, radiators, or additional moisture sources, the air can become extremely dry. Adequate humidity is crucial for many plants to continue growing, maintain large foliage, and support healthy root systems. One simple solution is to group your plants together to create a more humid microclimate. However, investing in a humidifier for the winter months is the best option.
Just as cold nights affect us, they also impact our plants. Temperature is a vital factor for sustaining healthy growth and preventing dormancy. Therefore, it's advisable to move pots away from cold windowsills and frosty glass to protect them from chilly temperatures.
During this period of reduced energy usage and growth, it's best to avoid fertilising. Denying the plants extra nutrients and minerals is essential for maintaining the health of less active root systems. Fertilising during winter in soil may lead to leaf burns and root loss.
Another general guideline is to refrain from repotting if possible during this time. While many of our resilient indoor plants can handle repotting at any time of the year, it's best to err on the side of caution and wait until spring if you're unsure.
If you're experiencing your first winter with a house full of beautiful botanical babes, don't worry! Just remember to listen to your plants and rely on the plant care skills you've honed throughout the year. Trust your intuition, and remember that there's a large community of experienced plant enthusiasts who have weathered many winters and are happy to offer advice.
In summary, grow lights, humidifiers, and temperature control are incredibly helpful for mitigating plant stress. Understanding and respecting the processes of natural dormancy and reduced activity will alleviate your worries. If you're unsure about repotting, it's best to hold off until spring and allow your plants to settle their roots in peace!