Nurturing houseplants has always been a part of my life. My siblings and I grew up in a house full of healthy, lush plants due to the care my mother took with her collection. I remember our Easter baskets always had a small plant nestled in amongst the candy and chocolate!
Each time I left for college or university, my collection of plants where set carefully into wooden crates for the journey. Those crates became plant stands in each of the apartments I lived in. Those plants sure added life to stark student accommodations.
As with most things in our culture, the popularity of ‘things’ will ebb and flow. Right now growing house plants, in particular succulents and cacti, is once again trendy. For those of us that never let go of our collection despite them being out of fashion, it’s very nice to see this generation of young people taking the time to care for indoor plants.
As with most plants, your indoor ones go through a yearly cycle of growth and rest. It’s triggered by the changing light levels in your home. Plants tend to slow down their growth in late fall as the days shorten. During this time you will notice that they need less water and require less fertilizer too.
Another change that fall and winter brings is that humidity in your space drops as heaters go on. If you notice that your plants are adversely affected by dry winter air, you can mist them daily. Just be sure not to mist your succulents or cacti and any plant with a fuzzy leaf!
Another way to increase humidity around a plant is to set up a shallow, waterproof tray full of pebbles. Fill the tray with water and set the plant on the pebbles, ensuring that the water is low enough to keep the bottom of the pot dry. As the water evaporates, the plants will enjoy the moisture in the air around their leaves.
A few times throughout the winter I will collect up all my ferns, set them in the bathtub and give them a nice long shower with tepid water. As well as washing dust off the leaves, I find it really helps them get through the dry winter months.
As the winter starts to ebb and light levels increase, plants will naturally start to grow more actively. You will notice they are getting a little more thirsty and that is a signal that you should start fertilizing them again.
A few weeks ago I was able to give my houseplants some much needed attention. Since I don’t have a basement to work in, I hauled all the plants outside, set them in the shade of the house and set to work. I did a thorough maintenance session to repot all the plants that have outgrown their space. I started with my biggest plant and found the next size pot to step it up into. Then I worked my way down the line, re-using pots after I gave each one a thorough scrub.
Before a plant gets repotted, I make a point of inspecting all the leaves and roots. Damaged leaves and tangled roots get trimmed off. At the same time I check for any offshoots or ‘babies’ that may have developed. Repotting those separately gives you a chance to increase your collection or share a plant with someone else.
Fresh potting soil give plants nice space to stretch out new roots. The transplanting fertilizer I watered them in with gives those roots an extra boost too.
Once all the plants were taken care of, I did a bit of rearranging to accommodate new pots sizes and took a moment to admire the life those plants bring to my indoor space!