“Many plants that live happy lives indoors hail from the tropics, where bright light, consistently warm temps and humidity are in abundance – and thus winter can come as quite the shock to their system,” say Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan, owners of Sydney plant-delivery company Leaf Supply and co-authors of two plant-care books. “You may notice they’re starting to look a little worse for wear, but panic not as there are some easy ways to help them through.”
Here are their tips on getting your plants through the colder months – and hopefully soothing your soul in the process.
Counteract the big dry
The hot, dry air from heaters will suck every last bit of moisture from your space, leaving our leafy counterparts desperate for some of that sweet, sweet humidity. Be sure to keep plants out of the direct line of fire, and consider using a humidifier (they’re good for us too) to counteract the drying effect. Spritzing your plants’ leaves every couple of days, grouping them together to create a little microclimate, and placing saucers filled with rocks and water underneath the pots will also help.
Let there be light
The plant placement shuffle to avoid heaters goes for light too. With all this extra time at home lately, you might have noticed the sun hits differently during the winter months. Plants that previously enjoyed gentle morning rays may now be missing out, while afternoon sun is generally a little gentler and may actually benefit your more shade-loving pals. So reshuffle as you see fit, placing plants closer to windows or propping them up on plant stands and shelving.
As the weather cools and our plants are exposed to slightly less light, potting mix generally dries out slower. You’ll probably find you need to water your plants less regularly, so it’s important to adjust your watering schedule. As usual, the best method is to get your fingers in the soil to check that the first few inches of potting mix has dried out before watering again.
Hold the fertiliser
Indoor plants benefit from indoor-specific liquid plant fertiliser during the growing seasons, but it’s best to hold off giving them extra food in winter, when they’ve entered a period of dormancy or slower growth. Over-fertilising at this time can cause a mineral build up in their soil, which may burn their delicate roots.
Just like us, plants that are less than healthy are susceptible to disease, and when they deteriorate pests can quickly take hold. Be sure to keep a regular eye on them by inspecting under leaves and in nooks and crannies for nasties so you can deal with any issues before they have a chance to do too much damage. Clean foliage with a damp cloth or soft-haired brush and keep it glossy with a spray of white oil, which has the added benefit of suffocating any pesky pests. Remove any dead foliage from the base of the stem and send infected plants into iso so the blight won’t spread to their neighbours.
The ultimate sacrifice
Sometimes plants die (it happens to the best of us), but the sooner you accept it and remove any dead or dying plants before they get a chance to spread pests to the rest of your collection, the better. It’s worth the sacrifice to maintain the health of your other babies.
Top five easy-care indoor plants
Commonly known as the Swiss-cheese plant, this fast-growing, easygoing beauty is tolerant of a lot of conditions, but ideally loves loads of bright, indirect light and a moderate watering schedule. As it grows, be sure to stake the main stem, as in the wild monstera is accustomed to snaking its way up bigger trees.
With glorious heart-shaped leaves (which provide its common name, “heartleaf philodendron”), this trailing beauty is one of the easiest plants going around. If your philo gets a bit leggy, simply prune the longer stems back to encourage bushier growth – and be sure to pop these cuttings into water to propagate.
While its Latin name might be a bit hard to pronounce – it’s also known as the “creeping philodendron”– this plant is very easy to care for. Let it trail downwards, or stake it for more upward growth. It enjoys bright, indirect light and will tolerate some lower-light conditions too. A great plant for beginners.
Commonly known as the wax plant, this guy is low-maintenance, with glossy, semi-succulent leaves and stunning firework-like flowers that will tumble attractively over shelves or bookcases. Keep the vines on the drier side in winter and you may just be rewarded with some special blooms come spring.
Also known as arrowhead plants, due to the shape of their foliage, these come in a variety of beautiful colours and patterns. One of our favourites is the Syngonium podophyllum, or “dwarf princess”, which has stunning pink and green variegated foliage that’s easy on the eye – and, in the care stakes, works great in tight spots.
Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan run plant delivery business Leaf Supply and have co-authored two books, Plantopia and Indoor Jungle. They’ve also released a house-plant puzzle with illustrations by Edith Rewa.