Winter Indoor Plants

In winter, I bring in a few of my potted tropical plants that I typically keep outdoors to protect them from freezing weather. This includes my Ficus benjamina tree and my variegated spider plant a.k.a.Chlorophytum comosum. I also have a few little succulents that live in my office during the winter.

For larger plants, I recommend getting a plant caddy to keep your plant elevated off of your floor and to make moving the plant easier. Be sure that your potted plant is relatively free of bugs- especially fire ants- before you move it indoors. 

Plants do not move by themselves in nature, so moving them from outdoors to indoors is a really weird and upsetting experience for them.

Make sure you put your plants near a sunny window. Even though a room might appear brightly lit to us humans, the intensity and amount of light that the plant can use indoors is far lower than most outdoor locations. 

Our homes have different humidity levels than the outdoors in general, so your pots may dry out faster indoors or they may stay wet longer than they did outdoors. Be sure to monitor the plants more often and adjust your watering as needed.

I think that the number 1 killer of houseplants is over watering. It is important to use your finger to check the moistness of the soil each day. Try to stick your finger into the soil at least an inch in depth to see if it feels wet. Only water it if it feels completely dry. Sometimes when a plant is getting over watered the roots will begin to rot and you will see the leaves of the plant wilt. Many people think that a plant with wilted leaves must be dry so it needs more water, which just makes things worse. Rotten roots are not able to take up water, so the plant will look thirsty on top. So just use your finger to check before you water. This is much harder than it sounds and takes some trial and error to find the right plant sometimes. Don’t get discouraged. It might help you to know that my husband waters our houseplants about once each week. Big plants get a big cup of water. The little plants get a few splashes. 

Another key to not over watering your indoor potted plants is to make sure you use a pot that has a hole in the bottom for drainage. Use a saucer or a tray to catch extra water that comes out after you water. When you water the plant, water slowly and stop watering when you see water coming out of the bottom of the pot.

Many houseplants will start to look really weak and tired after a year or two in the pot. They need to be repotted, and repotting is fun and easy. Winter is a great time for repotting. Spread out a tarp or some newspapers. Just tip the pot over and dump the root ball out gently. You may need to use a knife to separate the roots from the side of the pot. Then shake off some of the old potting soil and loosen up the roots on all sides. You can remove about 1/3 of the root ball to make room in the pot. Then add some new potting soil to your pot and put the root ball back in. Fill in around the edges with more potting soil. Water the pot all the way around the edges until you see lots of water coming out of the bottom. Old potting soil is a great addition to your compost pile.

Remember that indoor plants do not get rained on to clean off their leaves. They need to have their leaves wiped off or dusted once a month or so. Dust can build up on the leaves and inhibit their ability to breathe and take in light. Cleaning off the leaves can also remove insects that often infest indoor plants like red spider mites and scale. Some gardeners wash their plants in the shower.

If you feel really chipper, your houseplants also appreciate some fertilizer. Since they are constricted to a pot, their roots can’t grow out to find nutrients. Plus, most potting soil does not have nutrients in it. Some potting soils have fertilizer built in but it wears off after a few months. Use an organic liquid fertilizer like Medina Hasta Gro when you water your indoor plants and you will definitely see a difference in their health. They can also benefit from a bit of compost or worm castings around the top of the pot or from liquid compost tea.

Sometimes indoor plants can become dear to people in a similar way to a pet. With just a little knowledge on how to care for an indoor plant, you can have a life-long little green friend! My mom has a few Christmas Cacti and asparagus ferns that are older than me! Awww! I know I cherish the plants that were given to me by friends who had to move cross-country or overseas and couldn’t take the plants with them. Happy indoor gardening! What plants do you love growing indoors?

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