Ever struggled with plant care over the colder months? Lost plants to rot due to overwatering? Or noticed some plants decline and you don't know why?
Let's talk about plants and their needs once the weather starts to cool down for winter.
Winter can be a dangerous time for over-waterers like myself. I have definitely learnt from my mistakes over time and now have a motto that less is more in winter!
As plants growth slows right down, and in some cases can even stop completely, their need for water decreases.
Let the soil dry out almost completely before watering them thoroughly, this applies to plants such as pothos, philodendrons and Hoyas. Plants like sansevieria & ZZ can even go over a month without water in winter.
A well draining soil mix, that doesn't hold onto too much moisture is extremely beneficial. Potting mixes that stay soggy when its cold can be detrimental to plants and often leads to root rot.
Light: As we all know, winter means less daylight hours and the weather here in NZ can often be grey and dreary. Along with this, the suns direction in the sky also changes. Plants that received no direct sun in summer may now be getting some full sun depending on your windows direction. The sun may not be as intense as it is in summer months but plants leaves can still burn if they are not used to direct sun so be aware of this and take note of where the sun comes in through your windows in different seasons. You may need to do a reshuffle of plants as the seasons change.
Grow-lights are great for supplementing light on those cloudy days but aren't necessary if you have enough natural light coming through windows.
I use 2 grow lights in my home for plants that get next to no natural light.
The picture on the left is my plant display which is about 4m away from any natural light source, so I use a @sunbulbnz
grow-light as the plants main source of light. The other light I have is inside a glass greenhouse cabinet.
I highly rate their lights (#notsponsered) and have been using them for well over 2 years now.
Heating: Depending on where you are in the country will determine whether you may need to use heating or not. If your home is well insulated, your plants should do absolutely fine over the colder months with no extra heating required other then what you use to keep yourself warm. A good rule of thumb is If you are comfortable in your home, chances are your plants are too!
Just remember to keep plants away from any direct heat coming from the heating source. For example, keep plants out of the direct flow from a heat pump or at least 2m away from a fire place.
Things like heat mats are only usually useful if you plan to propagate over winter, established plants are robust enough to not need extra warmth at the roots.
Also be sure to keep plants away from any cold draughts coming through windows and doors as this could "shock" your plant, as well as any sudden fluctuations in temperature.
TIP: If a plants leaves suddenly start turn yellow, this can be a sign of shock, usually from a sudden drop in temperature. Monstera adansonii are well known for this!
Feeding: Along with watering less often, plants also don't need excess nutrients over the colder months. I would suggest cutting right back on fertilising your plants if they are not actively growing. For the plants that do still push out growth in winter, a diluted feed may still be beneficial, try a quarter strength dose once a month.
Something gentle like Groconut or worm tea is an excellent choice to use as it is a natural, organic feed.
Repotting: Now look, winter is not the most ideal time to be repotting plants because they aren't actively growing but it can be done. I would only suggest repotting if you are a confident grower and know the risks involved. I myself have never been one to follow the rules and I do repot plants in winter but I follow a few simple steps.
Before I repot the plant, I give it a thorough water a few days prior. This ensures the plant is well hydrated and less prone to shock. I then try to not disturb the roots system too much when repotting if I can help it (obviously if your plant is EXTREMELY root bound you can do a little teasing). Once the plant is all potted up I don't water it. I wait a few days/a week until the plant has used up the residual water from its watering prior to repotting. I have found this to greatly reduce the chances of getting root rot from excess moisture in the soil.
Okay, I think I have covered everything.. obviously winter in Northland is different to winter in the South Island so take what you can from this blog and adjust it to suit your environment but the best take away advice is less is more :) HAPPY GROWING!
Please be sure to let me know if you found this useful or if there is anything else you would suggest and thank you for reading!