Winter Houseplant Care Advice

1. During the winter months the days are shorter and there is less light. Be sure your plants are getting enough light where they are or move them to a brighter location.

2. HousePlants do not grow as quickly during the winter, be careful not to over water and cut back on your plant food. Brown leaf tips are often an indication of too much fertilizerPlants need fertilizer only when they are actively growing. Slow growing plants in low light require very little plant food. Too much fertilizer is worse than not enough. Most plants prefer a water soluble plant food at 1/2 the recommended strength. Plants that are in bloom or dormant should not be fertilized. Houseplant food contains nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A fertilizer containing these elements in equal proportion is considered a balanced plant food. Nitrogen helps in photosynthesis and encourages the growth of leaves and stems. Potassium and phosphorus also help in photosynthesis and aid in root and flower development. Most fertilizers have trace elements of other minerals that are lacking in the soil but are necessary for good plant growth. Fertilizers have a high salt content. If a plant is not producing new leaves and doesn’t absorb the fertilizer, salts build up in the soil. These salts can burn the roots, discolor the leaves, and cause new growth to be small..

3. The air is dry so keep a look out for spider mitesSpider Mites, members of the Acari family, are small insects about 1mm in size. The most common indoor plant mite is the red spider mite (also called the two-spotted spider mite.). These pests lay their eggs on the under surface of leaves and produce fine webbing especially where the leaves are attached to the stem. Spider mites are hard to see with the naked eye, and may appear only as small red dots. They are more often recognized by the gritty feel of the leaf when you run your finger down it’s length, or by the appearance of discolored leaves due to the sucking action of the mites. The best way to prevent spider mites is to keep your plants clean and dust free. Treat spider mites by spraying every ten days for a month with a product such as Safer Insecticidal Soap., especially on your ivies and scheffleras. Good preventive care is to spray your leather leafed indoor plants with a mixture of ½ soapy water and ½ alcohol every 3-4 weeks.

4. Keep plants away from cold drafts and heating vents. No ficus trees near the front door or ferns being blasted by hot air!

5. Pets and small children spend more time indoors during the winter. Be sure any Poisonous HouseplantsIn her new book, Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat!, plant care professional Judy Feldstein shares information about twenty-five common houseplants, each with various levels of toxicity, and the possible consequences if your pet or child snacks on them. are well out of reach. Better yet, consider replacing them with non- poisonousPlants are a great addition to homes and offices, but it’s important to know whether your plants are dangerous to children, pets, or even adults. Some plants contain chemicals such as oxalates, solanine, glycosides, or alkaloid lycorine that may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, swelling and redness of the mouth, throat, and lips, and trouble breathing. Touching parts of certain plants, especially the sap, may cause various skin irritations. The weight and age of the human or pet involved, and the part and amount of plant eaten determine how severe the reaction to the toxins will be. Although plants may be listed as non-toxic, they can still cause individual allergic reactions. If there is any question after a houseplant has been ingested or touched immediately call the Poison Control Center 1-800-222-1222 The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants [Paperback]is an excellent reference to keep around if you have young children and pets. plants just to be safe.