As we move into the darkest and coolest time of the year, many of our indoor plants begin to go backwards and start to deteriorate. There are, however, a number of important things we can do to keep our plants in shape.
One of the most important, yet often overlooked, ways of helping our plants is to change the air inside our homes. Open those doors and windows, even for a short while, to get some fresh air inside.
A fresh supply of air is essential for plants, especially at this time of year. Even on the coldest days of winter, we always open the air vents of our greenhouses during the warmest part of the day to allow an exchange of air.
The movement of air is also critical to prevent mildew and other fungal diseases. Many folks simply switch on the summer fan in their furnace, but a small circulatory fan can do the job nicely.
With both fresh air and air movement, you will find the atmosphere in your home feels better, too.
It is also time to give your plants a good shower. Any dust that has collected on them creates an ideal breeding ground for pests. Washing it off with a soft, warm shower is one of the best things you can do to promote their health.
Do not get the soil saturated, just wash the foliage. (This only applies to smooth leafed plants, not to violets and other flowering plants.)
Your plants will be clean and fresh, and the moisture will discourage spider mites. It might also be a good idea, once the plants are all in the shower, to spray them with a safe, organic pesticide. Safer's soap products, `Origins' and other organics will do the job nicely if you keep at it.
Preventative organic programs, when used on a regular basis, will prevent most pest problems. They should, however, be applied with a pressure sprayer as the spray must completely cover all parts of the plant, especially the undersides of the leaves, if it is to be effective. Use only warm water when you spray to avoid shocking your plants.
When you put your plants back in their traditional location, be sure to rotate them regularly so all sides of the plant receive light. At this time of year, it might be wise to keep them close to east or north windows, or at least open the curtains wide to brighten your rooms. Extra lighting for 16 hours a day from Power Smart fixtures will also promote more vegetative growth on many plants.
Proper watering is the most critical factor for the survival of all your plants. The only true way of telling if a plant needs water is by lifting the pot and feeling its weight. If the pot feels light, the plant needs water; if it feels heavy, do not water. At this time 'of year, you may only need to water two or three times per month, but when you do, really soak your plants thoroughly with warm water, then let them dry out. I would strongly recommend using Oxygen Plus fertilizer every time you water to add extra oxygen to the root system and to prevent excess water from damaging the roots of your plants. This only applies to rootbound plants. If your plants are not rootbound, downsize.
Plants that are under severe stress should be covered loosely with a clear, lightweight poly bag to create a mini greenhouse environment. Placing three or four bamboo stakes in the pot will help keep the poly off the leaves. Mist the plant frequently to increase humidity. You will be surprised to see how this treatment will improve the condition of your plants.
Please give your houseplants the attention they need now to get them through fall and winter so that come spring, all your plants will bounce back with full lush growth.