Thanks to chilly nights this week, tropical house plants that spent the summer outdoors have made their way indoors in the helpful hands of people who want to keep them going. Inside, they should prosper with reasonable care and reward you with a nice green scene all winter.
If you have not yet brought your house plants inside, do so now. Even on a covered porch, they are accustomed to a higher level of sunlight than you can provide in the dimmer, shorter days of winter. So give them the best spot in a window, preferably one facing south or west, where the light is stronger.
While wintering house plants do not require the same amount of watering as they do outside in the warmth of summer, they still require it. Some plants that grew vigorously in past months may have nearly filled their pot with roots. This leaves less room for the soil to hold water and release it slowly as the roots demand. The soil wont dry out as fast as in hot weather, but the plant still requires regular attention with a watering can.
In addition to watering, these plants benefit from misting with water in a spray bottle a couple of times a week to raise the humidity in a heated room. If you start to see yellow leaves, low humidity and inadequate watering are likely the cause. Drooping leaves also tell you the plant needs more water. The peace lily, for example, is quite prone to wilting when the soil dries out.
Because of this essential watering, it is mandatory that the plant sit on a saucer, plate or tray that will catch leaking water before it gets on the carpet, window sill or table. Round, clear plastic saucers are sold in many sizes, quite cheap and easy to use. However, you should not let the pot sit in standing water in its saucer. Check it for excess water a half hour or so after you water and pour it off. Once you do this a few times, it will help you judge how much water to put in the pot.
Since your plants will not grow as rapidly as they did in the long days, humid air and good light of summer, they do not require as much fertilizer. However, some is helpful. About once a month through the semi-dormant season, add house plant fertilizer to the watering can at half-strength. This should be enough to keep the foliage green.
If your indoor potted plants include chrysanthemums, pay extra careful attention to watering them. They have been encouraged to grow lots of roots in the pot, so the pot will dry out fast. Wilting and yellow leaves are sure signs you are not watering sufficiently. Kept in cool conditions, mums last a long time, but once the flowers fade, cut them off. Then you can set out the plant in your flower bed. That will make room for the Christmas poinsettia that will show up not long after Thanksgiving dinner is gone.
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