Indoor heat is very drying for all parts of the houseplant. Tips on what to do.
Winter time in the garden is special. Minus the leaves and flowers the bare architecture of the landscape is visible. When a cold weather front comes through everything is covered with frost or ice or snow. Each frozen form of water creates a different scene with the natural structures!
When temperatures outside drop, heating systems inside turn on. Indoor air gets dry and so do people, pets and plants. For plants in particular, this means struggling to thrive or even stay alive. Time for action!
Signs of distress:
- Stricken look of the whole plant. It’s not full and green. It looks stiff.
- Plant begins to droop.
- Stems wither or shrink. They have ridges where they should be filled out and smooth.
- Leaf edges are brown and crunchy.
- Before they open buds dry up and fall off. New flowers that survive the bud stage, dry up.
- Insects like spider mites take over because they thrive in hot dry conditions.
Keep up with watering needs of houseplants. Check water level in plant pots regularly. Since winter heat causes rapid loss of plant moisture, it may be necessary to water houseplants more often than in summer when the air conditioner is on.
Don’t forget dry heat in winter may cause succulents and cacti to dry out more quickly too. Their stems and leaves shrivel. While they need less water overall, drier conditions in the house can accelerate the need for more.
Five More Solutions:
Houseplants benefit from extra humidity in the air during winter. Following are some common ways to increase humidity around your plants.
Non-energy user ways to humidify
1. Pebble tray
Use waterproof items like:
-A plastic tray with at least one half inch rim on all sides for several plants.
-Plastic saucer for one potted plant, again with at least one half inch rim all around.
-A ceramic or plastic pot with no holes in the bottom to serve as a sleeve to set your potted plant in.
-Get creative with the “tray” and use deep plates, old pie dishes, aluminum pans – whatever you find attractive.
Whichever you choose, the tray should be waterproof to protect the surface it sits on. Add a layer of pebbles, small smooth rocks, aquarium gravel or even small broken pottery to bottom of plastic tray or saucer or sleeve pot – the plant should stand on a level surface.
Add enough water to the pebbles so the plant sits on a dry surface. A water level just below the tops of the pebbles works well. Don’t allow plants to stand in water as that will cause root rot.
Set potted plant on top of the wet pebbles. As the water evaporates humidity increases around the plant.
Check the level every day or so until you figure out how often you need to replenish the water. Don’t let it go bone dry.
It’s tempting to water the plant in the tray allowing the runoff to serve as a humidity maker. What often happens is the runoff level goes above the rock layer and the plant winds up sitting in water.
To conserve water: water your plants over a bowl and use the runoff for the pebble trays.
2. Group like plants together
Whether using pebble trays or individual saucers or nothing at all, group like plants together based on their watering needs. Tropical plants for instance have the highest need for extra humidity. After all they are natives to balmy humid climates.
Grouping creates a sauna for them. As they transpire water from their leaves and soil, the humidity level increases for all.
Succulents and cacti need less watering. Group them together away from other plants to provide them the slightly drier environment they need.
3. Bowls of water
Placing bowls of water in different spots near plants will increase the humidity. Make sure the surface area of the bowl is wide to allow the most evaporation.
All you have to do is check the water level every few days and figure out when to add more without letting the water level get too low or go dry.
4. Cloches and Terrariums
Sort of upside down or right side up keepers of humidity depending on how you look at them. These could be temporary solutions to winter dry air or a year round way to grow plants that require humidity.
Cloche: a glass bell shaped jar that’s open at the bottom. It’s placed on top of a plant to provide extra moisture for plants like ferns that thrive in high humidity. Not only does it provide higher humidity, watering is reduced.
Use of a glass cloche does require regular checking as air ventilation is limited. Keeping water in might work too well as the plant could have too much and rot. Propping open the bottom of the glass occasionally would provide some fresh air.
There are plastic cloches sold for outdoor plants that have a simple ventilation device at the top to regulate heat and moisture. A possible winter solution for creating moisture for indoor plants?
Terrarium: any shape glass jar that’s open at the top. Plants grow in soil inside the jar. Ventilation of course comes from the top. Regularly check for water needs as humidity escapes more easily.
Another idea is to find glass jars even aquariums large enough to place a potted plant inside on a bed of pebbles. The enclosure provides extra humidity for a plant that needs it. Since watering might be a little tricky – remember no plant standing in runoff water, remove the plant to water.
Energy user way to humidify
Although an energy user, a room humidifier will improve the moisture in the air. Follow manufacturer’s directions.
Keeping houseplants happy with the right level of warmth and humidity makes the house an indoor garden during winter. It also means they’ll be ready for growing season once spring arrives.
Copyright 2019 Juli Seyfried