By: Scott Nishimura1
We’re not going to begin this column with a cliché line about winter coming, ’cause, you know what, it’s already here. The time to bring out those musty-smelling warm clothes and turn that heater on is upon us, and homeowners should also be paying particular attention to their houseplants — which can be as temperamental as us when it comes to the changing weather.
Along with those cold temperatures come shorter days, a drop in humidity and less sunlight. All things to consider when winterizing your plants. The good thing is, plants are used to the winter season, and they know just what to do. Most go dormant or slow their growth drastically, and because of this, they require less water. Wintertime is a time for your plants to rest, meaning less work for you.
Sunlight: The sun dips lower in the sky during the winter months. This means the sunlight in your home could be reduced by up to 50 percent. Plants are resilient beings, but one thing they cannot live without for too long is the sun. Observe how the light comes into your home; open up the blinds and curtains to let in the most light possible. Move your plants closer to the window for optimal sun exposure, a south- or west-facing window being the most ideal. If you do not have a lot of natural light, consider using a plant light — you can find these at your local hardware store. Also, be sure to rotate your plants to ensure all sides get ample light.
Cold Temps: Most homes are kept at a comfortable 65 to 75 degrees. Turns out, this is a comfy temperature for plants, too. Watch out for frosty windows that have drafts or single-pane windows and avoid letting the leaves of your plants touch the window itself. Anything below 50 degrees is too cold. If it’s chilly to you, it will be chilly to your plants.
Humidity: Most indoor plants are considered tropical plants, and dry winter air can be problematic for them. If you see brown tips on the leaves, it’s time to increase humidity. One trick is to group your plants together. Plants release moisture from their leaves, and putting them closer together will keep them happy. You can also place your houseplants in the kitchen or bathroom, where boiling water or hot showers can naturally increase humidity, or place them on a tray with pebbles and a little bit of water, making sure the plants are not sitting in or touching the water itself. The water will evaporate, so check it often.
Watering: Give your plants just enough water to survive during the winter months. Too much water can be stressful for plants when they are not growing. Not sure when to water? Check the surface soil of your plant. If the top one to two inches are dry, go ahead and water. You can also stick a skewer or chopstick in the soil and pull it out to check the moisture level, or you simply lift the pot and get familiar with how heavy it feels when it’s watered versus when it’s dry.
Clean the leaves of your plants; make sure there is no dust coming in between the little sun they get during these dark months. Do not repot them or fertilize them until spring when new growth appears.
Plants need just the essentials, from now through March — no fuss required. Curl up with that cup of hot cocoa next to your favorite sunny window this winter and keep yourself and your beloved house plants cozy.
By Suz Reyes and Frank Garcia
Founders and owners of Ephemera, home of the Make Your Own Terrarium, located in the Near Southside neighborhood.
The duo got their start at Brooklyn flea markets and relocated to Frank’s hometown of Fort Worth. They’ve been spreading plant love through education and a healthy dose of creativity since 2014. Ephemera’s open six days a week, no appointment necessary.
By: Scott Nishimura1