How to prep your indoor plants for winter
Gardening has a pendulum element. Canadians do not suddenly garden outdoors, then indoors overnight. You might be raking leaves one day and repottiing your hoya indoors the next, then planting a tree the following day.
Your indoor tropical plants are going through many changes, much like outdoor plants are.
The gradual reduction in day length is part of the system that creates a host of change for indoor plants. Sunlight is less intense each day, as our Earth tilts further from the sun. Your home’s heat comes on to keep things cosy for humans, drying the air and creating havoc for some tropical plants. Certain insects come alive.
What to do? Our advice:
1. Cut back on watering. Almost all tropical plants require less water from now through March since they are growing slowly — if at all.
Test the need for water by pushing your finger into the soil up to your second knuckle. If the soil is cool, it is damp enough for most plants. When it is dry two to three centimetres deep, it is time for a drink.
Let the water move through the soil, into a saucer or your sink, then drain the excess away. No tropical likes to sit in water for long; it’s an invitation for root rot.
2. Fertilizer. When a plant performs poorly, we often are tempted to reach for a fertilizer to fix it. Resist that impulse.
The plant is speaking to you, and it is not saying that it is hungry. It is more than likely telling you that it needs more sunlight, or it has an insect infestation. Or, perhaps, you overwatered it, in which case re-read #1.
3. Insect infestations. The three main enemies of tropical plants at this time of year are mealy bugs, fungus gnats and spider mites. Here is what we recommend for treatment:
4. This is a tip for all indoor gardeners. Our Canadian winter is long so, remember, indoor plants are tropical. They are used to the rain forest or desert, depending on their native home. They did not originate inside of our homes. Be patient with them and expect some dropped and yellowing leaves, as they acclimatize to their indoor winter environment, especially if they lived out of doors for the summer.
Most tropical plants do not thrive in our winter conditions — they exist. As indoor gardeners, we can only make this existence more comfortable for them.