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How to Prepare your Plants for Winter

How to Prepare your Plants for Winter

For those of us hanging out in the Southern Hemisphere, things are starting to feel a little chilly. 

The days are getting shorter and it's waaaay harder to get out of bed in the morning. Home is darker too, as the sun sits lower in the sky and hangs around a lot less than peak summer. Bring on the soup recipes, lounging by the fire/heater and general cosy vibes. But while there is alot to love about winter (yeah i said it - as a pale ginger man winter is when i really thrive), you need to make sure you set your plant fam up so they can get through the cold and dark with you. 

As the temperature drops and the sun gets lower (and hangs around a lot less), your plants are probably going to slow down a bit.

With less sunlight, they won't be growing as much, which means they won't be as thirsty or hungry as they were over spring and summer.

The following are our tips for keeping your indoor plants cheering over the colder months. 

1. Start to reduce your watering

This is a big one! If you've gotten into a routine over Spring and Summer, snap out of it. This is the time of the year when root rot and other diseases can set in, simply because your watering routine has gone on a little longer than it probably should have.

Pay attention to your plants' potting media. You'll notice it stays damp longer and you should cut back the frequency of your waterings or risk root rot. Go back to the old habit of sticking your finger in the potting media (down to the second knuckle is a good rule of thumb) so you can get an idea of how dry the mix is and how much (if any) water is needed. I can't stress how beneficial this is, vene if you're only doing it on a seasonal basis, its a great way to understand your plant and its watering requirements. 

If you don't want to get your fingers dirty, try a moisture meter. As long as you have something to help you understand your plants water uptake so you can adjust as necessary. 

2. Think about temperatures

As the temperature drops and heaters go on, take a look around your space and make sure you haven't got any plants sitting too close to a heat source. Think about ducted heating, reverse-cycle aircon, heaters, fireplaces. That ducted heating that wasn't touched over Summer may have built up a number of plant buddies over the last few months, and they are not going to take the sudden blasts of hot air kindly. 

By the same token, you might want to shuffle plants away from doors and windows that are used a lot. Cold drafts can shock plants and result in things like leaf drop. 

Most of what we refer to as 'indoor plants' are often tropical climate plants, so they can freak out if left in temperatures below 15C for too long. If you have any of these guys outdoors think about bringing them inside for the winter. 

I like to move a lot of my more fragile plants into terrariums over winter as these are a great way to control the temperature and provide your plants with an environment more suited to their temperament. Terrariums can be as elaborate or a simple as you like - erecting a few bamboo skewers around the base of the plant then placing a clear plastic bag over the top can suffice just fine (although it's definitelynot the most attractive option!). 

3. Where is the sun?

Not only is there less light throughout the day during winter, but the light that is there is sitting lower on the horizon. Pay attention to how the sun has shifted and adjust your plants accordingly. That sunny summer room might be a whole heap darker all of a sudden...either do a little plant shuffle or think about using a grow light

Grow lights are an absolute GODSEND if you live in a darker home (like me) or if you just want to have the option of placing your plants anywhere you please around the home, without that pesky sun dictating the terms. We've discussed them in depth here, and nowadays there are so many options in terms of looks and connections you should easily be able to find something that suits your style and your budget. 

4. Cut back the fertilising 

Plants need to be fertilised when they are actively growing. If you know your plants have gone into dormancy - that is, they're not growing at all - hold off the feeding until Spring. This is not a bad thing and is totally ok to do. Your plants will be fine if you don't fertilise just because they have slowed their growth. As long as when Spring comes around you being your routine again, they'll be happy. If your plants are still growing, but slowly, just feed them at a diluted rate, maybe 1/4 strength. It's always better to under fertilise than over fertilise, and if you're not sure, then just hold off completely. 

If you're using grow lights (or you're just lucky and live in an incredibly bright, warm home) and your plants are still throwing out new growth, you can keep fertilising as usual. 

5. Stay humid

Humidity in our homes can drop like crazy over winter. The heaters and aircon go on, which can dry the air out. Many of our indoor plants are from tropical regions, and need a humid environment to really thrive. There are a number of solutions for this, but do not think that moving to the bathroom is the way to go (if you're keen to find out why, check out our Indoor Plant Mythbusting post here)

One trick is to cluster plants together to create their own biospheres and take advantage of the plants' perspiration. All plants perspire, and by grouping them together will mean the humidity levels will rise from all that excess moisture in the air. A terrarium is a great option here too - that perspiration can't escape creating a longer lasting, concentratedhumid environment.

Another option is putting your plants on trays of pebbles with water under them so the plants can take advantage of the evaporating water. Just make sure the pebbles are higher than the water level and that the plants are not sitting in water - this can cause root rot. 

Or if you want to take your plant game to the next level, get a humidifier. Your plants, especially Aroids and Maranataceae, will thank you for it.