A chill in the air is just the nudge gardeners need to look over their house plants that have spent the warm months outdoors and bring them inside for the winter.
Most of the popular house plants are of tropical origin, which means they will not tolerate freezing cold. And despite the heat in the Piedmont for the past six months, we can count on it freezing, sooner or later.
So now is the time to bring in your plants and give them the best and brightest spot in your house or apartment. Even if you kept them on a covered porch, they are accustomed to a higher level of light than they will get indoors. But a window facing west or south should be good enough, even in the shorter, dimmer days of winter.
While they required steady watering during hot weather, the ritual of watering should slow down now because plants will not be growing as rapidly as they did in summer. However, you must still keep watch. Plants that have been in a pot for some time may have filled it with roots, leaving less room for soil to hold water. That means you will still have to pay attention to watering, just not in the daily way you did all summer.
And some plants, especially the weeping fig, are famous for dropping leaves when they move to a different amount of light.
Do your best to prevent wilting, which leads to yellow leaves. Another cause of yellow leaves is low humidity, which is to be expected in a house with the furnace running. Avoid this by setting your plants on a saucer or plate with pebbles and water, so that a little mist rises as the water evaporates. Be sure to use a saucer or plate that water will not seep through and possibly damage the floor or furniture. Clear plastic saucers are sold widely, are inexpensive and will do the job.
Don’t let the bottom of the plant sit in water, however. Keep the water level just below the bottom of the pot.
Slower growth also means less fertilizer. But some will be helpful. About once a month, through this semi-dormant season of autumn to late winter, add house plant fertilizer to the watering can at half strength. That should keep the foliage green.
Many of you are also enjoying potted chrysanthemums, purchased in full bloom this month. These are very prone to wilting because the pots are full of roots. Wilting followed by yellow leaves are sure signs of inadequate watering. But given regular water and kept cool, mum flowers will last a long time. Once the flowers fade, cut them off, set the plant out in your flower garden and await the arrival of poinsettias, which will come on the scene about late November.
Q. How can I protect my tulips from squirrels that like to dig up the bulbs after I plant them?
A. First, take up all the bits of the brown paperlike material that covers the bulbs. It is easy to knock this off when handling them during planting. The scent will draw squirrels. Second, while the soil remains loose in the days and weeks after planting, cover the area with a large plastic plant tray that annuals are sold in. Anchor it with a brick or large rock. This also works to protect potted tulips, which seem even more vulnerable than ones in the ground. Place the tray upside down so that it covers completely one or two pots. You must anchor it securely with a brick