As the weather gets colder, your home’s heating system is more frequently in use, and indoor humidity drops. Low humidity and hot air blowing from air ducts are hard on plants.
Anything you can do to increase humidity will be beneficial to your indoor plants. Using humidifiers, misting plant foliage frequently, placing oversized gravel pans with two inches of gravel and one inch of water beneath plants, and grouping plants together are all methods of increasing humidity.
African violets, and other gesneriads, like warmth and should be kept out of cold drafts. Flowering houseplants should be moved to areas that receive as much sunlight as possible. The light intensity in January is low. On a winter day, the maximum amount of sunlight indoor plants receive is 2,500 foot candles; during summer, indoor plants can receive up to 10,000 foot candles.
Insects thrive in a hot, dry environment, so keep an eagle eye out for red spider mites, scales, and mealy bugs. Treat these pests with an organic pest control product as soon as you see any indication of their presence. Plants positioned close to a window may form condensation on their leaves, and could be prone to disease problems such as mildew or botrytis. Treat these problems as soon as any symptoms develop.
When you water your houseplants, water them well. One never over-waters by watering too much at one time; one over-waters by watering too frequently.
Foliage plants are not only aesthetically pleasing; they create a healthy environment. Foliage plants help purify indoor air, removing many of the toxins that are so prevalent in today’s modern houses. Flowering plants can also give you a psychological lift during a time of the year when many people experience midwinter blues.
Featured Plant: Cyclamen
Cyclamens are probably my favorite type of indoor flowering houseplant. In the old days, these required a very cool environment; but the new hybrids are very adaptable to ordinary room temperatures. Cyclamens need a sunny location and should be cleaned once a week: remove any spent flowers or yellow leaves.
This year we are feeding ours with Daniel’s, an amazing organic fertilizer, on a weekly basis. The results are incredible. New flower buds have already initiated in the crowns of our plants. These buds keep the plants blooming all winter—and in many cases, throughout the spring and into the summer. The trick is to keep the plant crown clean of any dead material that may cause rot and lead to botrytis. When removing spent flower buds or leaves, pull to the right or left—not straight out—and make sure the full petiole is removed completely from the crown. Proper watering is one of the most critical requirements for growing a good cyclamen. They need a lot of oxygen in the soil and should not be waterlogged. Clay pots are preferable to plastic, because they allow a greater exchange of oxygen in and out of the soil. The best method for watering a cyclamen is to give it a good, deep drink, filling the pot up to the rim with water, then allowing it to dry out before watering again. One of my customers told me that after all these years he finally learned the secret to watering a cyclamen. He waits until the plant starts to wilt (telling him, “I need a drink”); then he waters it thoroughly. By the next morning, it is perky and rigid. He has his cyclamens in flower until the full heat of summer hits.
Miniature cyclamens are f-1 hybrids, and are gaining in popularity—adding another dimension to the cyclamen world. They are grown in four-inch pots, have smaller flowers, are more prolific, and often can bloom throughout the year. They lend themselves to planting in window boxes, during the same time of the year when pansies can also be planted out. They withstand light frosts and provide a dramatic display of color. They are also a great windowsill plant and add a lot of color to any home.
Most Asked Question (with Slight Variations):
Why is my ficus tree dropping leaves? Why are the edges of leaves turning brown? Why are the lower leaves of my foliage plants turning yellow? As the heating in our homes is turned up more frequently, indoor humidity becomes lower, and plants suffer. Increasing humidity will improve this situation. Plants often need more water as indoor heat goes on; the lower light intensity of winter will cause additional leaf drop.
Photo courtesy of Artur i Karol S