Tropical Plant Care in the Winter

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By Christie Pollack

I would like to welcome Christie Pollack as a guest blogger to Gardening with Sharon!  Christie is a kindred soul and has written a lovely blog on Tropical Plant Care in the Winter that she has agreed to share.  Enjoy!

Christie Pollack is a horticulturist, blogger, project lover, award winner (Top 10 Under 40 Greenhouse Canada (2016), AGGA Ornamental Grower of the Year (2016)), and dream chaser. She spends her days running her seasonal greenhouse, Christie’s Gardens and Greenhouses Ltd. in High Prairie, Alberta, growing plants and writing advice for gardeners for her blog learnplantgrow.com. She’s educated in horticulture (Diploma in Production Horticulture) and has practical hands on experiences on what it takes to grow a really good plant. You can find her most days with dirt under her fingernails, typing away at her laptop in the greenhouse.

This a conversation we have with our customers all the time in our greenhouse. How to best care for tropical plants in winter in our homes with light levels and humidity dropping. And the answer might surprise you: Less light = less water.

Let’s talk about light and watering.

Plants naturally slow down their growth when they get into lower light situations. Our natural sunlight drastically changes between summer and winter (especially the more north you live). With less natural sunlight getting into our homes, plants slow down and require less water because they’re not using it.

This is often counterintuitive to what we think our plants need when the dry winter air hits and furnaces start running. We’ve often heard our customers talk about how they’ve given their plants more water because of how dry the winter is, but that is almost always the reason why their tropical plant died. Too much water which caused their plant roots to rot.

If you’re struggling to keep your tropical plant healthy, we recommend buying a grow light and giving it supplemental lighting. The thing to remember about grow lights is that they’re different from the lights in your house. Plants use a different spectrum of light and grow lights will give them the type of light they need to thrive – a real grow light is worth the investment.

Fertilizer.

Is it worth it to fertilize your plants in the winter? Again, with less light your plant will be growing less which means using less water and fertilizer. We often recommend cutting back on fertilizer too. If you’re going to use a fertilizer, use it sparingly in the winter months.

Our recommendation is to fertilize once a month for indoor plants during the growing season (March to September) and little to no fertilizer in the winter months (unless you’re using a grow light). If your plants are getting dull, a great tip is to mix fertilizer at a very diluted rate in a spray bottle and spray the leaves of your plants. Your plants will absorb the fertilizer through its leaves. Again, use sparingly in the winter months.

Transplanting.

Hold off on transplanting your tropical plants until the growing season if possible (March to September). Plants need light to root, and it’s best to transplant when more natural sunlight is available so that their roots are encouraged to fill up the extra space you just provided for them. Holding off on transplanting also helps to avoid overwatering your trop.

Where to place your plants in the winter.

A large bright window is great for your topicals in the winter as long as it isn’t too drafty. Keep your plant babies protected from cold and hot drafts and if possible, run a humidifier. 

A really great tip is to clean the leaves of your plants regularly through the winter to keep the dust away. Using a damp cloth (with just water) gently wash your plant leaves to keep them healthy and able to photosynthesize more efficiently.

Interested to learn more?