Now is a good time to give your houseplants a hydration cocktail, rain bath, and root massage. What do I mean? Well, if you are like me, even as a plant lover, you may ignore your houseplants during the winter months when light levels are lower and temperatures are cooler in our homes. But as winter gradually moves away and spring approaches, your plants take notice. They can sense the warmer temperatures increasing and the brighter light shining through your windows as the sun climbs higher into the sky each day. Some plants may even begin to lean towards the light in response.
This is a good time to increase the amount of water given to succulents and cacti. These plants stay inside in the winter and get moved back outside in the summer as soon as the temperatures are warm enough. Reducing the watering during the winter to almost nil is fine for these desert dwellers. They can handle some drought and dry periods because they are naturally adapted to storing moisture. So once in a while, like every four or even five weeks, they got a little shot of water from me. And I mean, literally, one or two shot glasses. That’s it. But now, as they tend to wake up more, I begin to give bigger gulps to help hydrate their leaves to become plump again. I say gulp, over a tall glass, because again, if you overwater succulents, they can rot. Especially if you don’t have the bright light and warm spot most succulents prefers inside a home, or the proper drainage. Almost every time someone tells me they lost their succulent plant (i.e., it died) – It was due to “over watering,” not under.
Second routine is giving other houseplants a rain bath. House plants with glossy, thick or waxy cuticle type of leaves, which are not adversely affected by water, go to the shower. No matter how heavy the pot, I will get it inside the tub and turn on the shower head to provide mildly warm water to rain down upon them. This process will clean dust particles from the leaves and soak the soil at the same time. Allow the pot to sit in the tub to drain well for at least an hour. Once you move it back to its place in the home, take a nice soft cloth to gently wipe away excess droplets on the leaves. Just imagine those little stomata located on the underside of the leaves. Those little mouths will be breathing air better after their annual rain bath treatment while the upper sides of the leaves will sparkle in delight. The plants will feel renewed and whole again. Take a look a day later. I guarantee your houseplant will look revived. So will the pot because it gets a little spring cleaning at the same time.
This one is probably the most important. Especially for those of you who managed to totally ignore your houseplants yet they are still surviving, albeit barely. Typically you should repot your houseplants every two to three years, but so many plants, especially those poor office plants, get neglected on this routine for decades. If the water you apply to your houseplant runs rapidly out of the container like Niagara Falls, or the soil is crusty and hard, it is time. The old soil can no longer retain moisture. Give your houseplant a new environment to be healthy at the toe level. Imagine wearing the same pair of boots for that long? Not only would your feet ache – and possibly stink, you couldn’t walk appropriately, ending up looking tattered and tired. Same gig with houseplants. They need good healthy soil for the roots to grow freely, take up water, and breathe. Go to your local nursery to pick up a bag of soilless mix for containers upon your first seasonal visit. While you are there, check out other houseplants available in their store. Sometimes this is the only green you see in the greenhouse before April. When you return home, give your old houseplant a spa repotting day. It is just like giving your plants a root massage. It feels good and it will show. Place the new buddy you brought home there with it for company.
So as your houseplants awaken from their slumber, perform these routines above, and your houseplants will be fully prepared for their ultimate retreat in early summer — getting vacation to the great outdoors. They will get their much needed solar powered light directly from the sun so missed during the winter. Absorbed through their leaves, increasing their growth activity, and making them thrive. Just remember the rule, transition the plant into low light levels first when moving outdoors – into the shade, to harden off, or transition before moving them to their preferred exposure of full sun or shade. Otherwise, you risk sunburn to the leaves. This is also the time where you may want to consider giving a feeding to your houseplants. Check the label first because some are fed in mid-winter. There are several options for fertilizer types, such as liquid feeds for a quick energy boost, and pellets or sticks inserted into the soil, and my favorite, the slow-release types that function as the temperature increases. Slow-release is active when your plants are too. Look at the label to determine the best and right time to apply for your specific houseplant. Don’t delay, now is the time to give your plants a houseplant revival. When spring is here, you will be too busy doing outdoor gardening.
Two Low-Level Light Lovers
Aglaonema, known as the Chinese evergreen, with large leaves of green (and some cultivars with silver streaks), is a wonderful houseplant because it can take low light areas, and is often used in office buildings for that reason – plus it is very undemanding. Same with the Fatsia shrub; it loves shade outdoors and adds a wonderful texture to the garden with leaf blades up to eight inches wide. In the home, it handles low light areas where temperatures are cool. See the links below for both.
Three Favorite Bright-Light Lovers
Most houseplants prefer bright, indirect sunlight so I try to get the most of that by windows in the house – especially for sun lovers. My favorites right now in my home, an Agave (Centry Plant), cultivar ‘Kissho Kan’. Obtained two years ago, it is now sprouting babies out of the side, time for a repotting spa day. It is Zone 9-10 and grows to 15″ tall with variegated foliage of blue-grey on the edges. Works well in containers all summer long too.
Echeveria setosa (Mexican Fire Cracker) is Zones 9-11. I’ve enjoyed the habit and growth of these fuzzy light green rosettes that grow up to 3-6″ side. I have 3 in self-watering pots, and they get that shot I referred to above, because these pots especially don’t drain. Each plant has grown slightly different, one is tall, the other is short, and one is just right – the little red riding hood candidates.
And I love Kalanchoes! I have one in a container garden designed for a garden show last year, with a ornamental grass (now dormant in the pot) and an Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’ (large purple aeonium or black tree aoenium), Zones 8-11. Beautiful! The Kalanchoe has grown quite large and I can’t wait to move this container back outdoors this summer. I noticed dust and cat fur wisps on the leaves the day the sun was casting bright light onto the pot the other day, which prompted this blog posting. And someone from out of state contacted me recently, to ask if they could use the photo of my Kalanchoe from my blog on a non-profit site for kids. Of course! That made me feel even better about planting up this plant.
Fact sheets for two plants mentioned above:
Some other tips:
Keep houseplants away from drafty spots in the home for obvious reason. Keep them out of direct sun, rays can intensify through glass. Some plants, like my fern, prefer humidity – put those in the bathroom where the mist from your shower will dance around them. Table lamps can help provide warmth to your houseplants, consider putting them near those. Water carefully until you get to know your houseplant better, sometimes a little less is more. Drowning them is not a good idea. And for the rain bath, make sure it is not a plant that detests wet foliage, read the label. Water plants in self-watering plants alot less frequently because the moisture stays in the bottom and can’t drain out freely. I don’t mind self-watering pots for indoors because this prevents spills on your furniture. Select a pot or container that suits your home’s decor, colors and styles, the list is endless. Remove any dead or yellow leaves, a good thing to do after a rain bath or a repotting spa day, with a good pair of clean sharp scissors or pruners. Consider houseplants as part of your selection when you put together a combination planter or container garden for the outdoors. And more tips, just ask! Thanks for visiting, Cathy T.