The cold has set in and it’s time for new gardening project. But forget the outdoors. In the cooler months, plucking a piece of nature from beneath the drizzle and bringing it indoors can detoxify stale air and resurrect a space.
Even the archetypal plants of the great indoors require a little more love during winter, but cultivating and caring for an unusual house plant (and there are many) during the chill is far from an impossible contest. Dylan Hewlett from Fitzroy Nursery knows his shades of green. Nurturing his very own miniature kingdom of both indoor and outdoor botanicals through the challenging tides of many a Melbourne winter, Hewlett maintains that homes are still climate-stable environments during winter and that it’s only a matter of assimilation and mutual understanding. “There are just a couple more precautions for indoor plants during winter,” he explains. “The most fundamental points would be to not overwater your pots, you don’t want them wet all the time. You also don’t want any leaves touching the cold glass, especially tropical plants.
“Light is also essential. During summer you would move houseplants back from the windows, whereas during winter you need to move them forward towards the windows, so they can receive more light.”
Hewlett explains that it’s just as easy to keep tropical plants happy indoors during winter as it is succulents, foliage and flowering specimens.
“Tropical variations such as miniature palms and peace lilies are very forgiving during winter; they’ll let you know when you’ve neglected them by wilting, but as soon as they are watered they’ll pep right back up again.”
When it comes to selecting a suitable vessel, Hewlett recommends keeping a plant nicely insulated in a plastic pot, which can then be placed into a heavier ceramic or terracotta pot, without getting too cold or becoming a burden to move in future.
“It’s also important to pot up in increments,” he says. “Some tropical or foliage-based plants will still thrive indoors during winter and they require plenty of room to spread their roots.”
With the help of Hewlett and the rest of his botanically inclined clan at Fitzroy Nursery, we have selected a handful of indoor plants that embody the majestic, exotic and the elegant. And with a little patience and upkeep, they’ll cheerfully see you through winter and right into spring.
Ficus Lyrata / Fiddle Leaf Fig
With its colossal, wavy-edged, waxy, violin-shaped leaves and stately aesthetic, there’s something very retro and dignified about the Fiddle Leaf Fig. Native to West Africa, this majestic creature requires warmth and bright indirect light and must be rotated slightly every week to ensure all sides are exposed evenly. Keep its naturally glossy leaves clean and bright by wiping them often with a damp cloth. During winter, make sure the plant stays well away from any cold drafts, vents or heaters, as extremities in temperature will stress the plant and cause it to shed its leaves. These beautiful leaves can actually grow up to a vast 45 centimetres long, however controlling the plants height is easy to do. Prune off the top of young plants to promote branching and control growth, or alternatively keep the plant in a small pot to control root growth, but be wary of the plant becoming top-heavy. Avoid overwatering your Fiddle Leaf Fig and always leave the soil dry for a few days between one watering and another. Although a little fussy to begin with, an indoor Fiddle Leaf Fig is the perfect structural accent to any modern home or studio – especially those with high ceilings.
Sedum Morganianum / Donkeys Tail
Sometimes referred to as a Burro’s Tail, this curious Mexican succulent boasts plump, blue-green, rope-like stems that can grow up to 90 centimetres long. This succulent looks and behaves its best when planted in a hanging pot or basket, allowing its long overlapping tentacles to droop downwards like a shaggy mop of hair. Be careful as the Donkey’s Tail is very fragile and its thick leaves can fall off if handled without care. Ensure this cheeky evergreen has plenty of bright natural light during winter. Hanging it in front of a sunny kitchen or bathroom window is ideal, but this plant can sunburn easily if it is fully exposed to harsh direct sunlight for too long. During winter, water the Donkey’s Tail very infrequently (about once a month). Its leaves will appear shrivelled if it needs an extra drink. The Donkey’s Tail can tolerate dry indoor air during winter, but avoid contact with drafts and heaters. One of the great characteristics of this succulent is that it is very easy to propagate from cuttings.
Phalaenopsis / Moth Orchid
Often dubbed the ‘Beginner’s Orchid’, this exotic specimen is the perfect winter challenge for any botanical enthusiast with minimal experience. With thousands of new hybrid variations available, orchids can be found in pink, purple, white, red or yellow, sometimes with spots and often with contrasting lips and veins. Originating in tropical Asia, the Moth Orchid requires bright light without direct sunlight. If you are unable to provide enough light near a window during winter, you can put the orchid under fluorescent lights during the day. Limp or drooping stems is a sign that your orchid is not receiving enough light. Orchids must remain moist, however watering should be reduced during winter and you should ensure the surface of the soil is dry between drinks. High humidity is essential for these plants, so mist leaves occasionally during winter and you can also place your pot on a tray of wet pebbles. House orchids cannot tolerate hot and stuffy indoor conditions, so good ventilation (but not from cold draughts) is also required during winter. Turn your orchid pot occasionally and move away from windows on frosty winter nights. A fully developed orchid can be an expensive purchase initially, but they are one of the most iconic specimens in the botanical world, with great longevity and extensive flowering, even during winter.