BLOG - 30/11/18

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Although your indoor plants are protected from the harshest of the weather that winter brings, they’ll still appreciate a few small adjustment to their usual routine.

From now until Spring, plant growth slows or even stops completely (dormancy), so your little green friends need less water than during the rest of the year, and barely any fertiliser at all.

Remember that most houseplants are killed by overwatering. Aim to keep their compost moist, but wait until it has almost dried out before re-watering. Check moisture levels by pushing a finger into the compost. If it feels damp to the touch, no fresh water is needed. The only time of year when a little more water is needed is - for most indoor plants - during January and February, when they’re com­ing into their growth sea­son (getting ready to start waking back up to active growth again).

When you do water, water thoroughly - until water runs from the bottom of the pot. Always allow any surplus to drain away and never leave them standing in water for long. Most hate having their ‘feet’ wet!

If a plant’s compost has dried out completely, to the extent that water runs off the top, or straight through it without soaking in, immerse the pot in a bowl or sink of water for about half an hour, then drain it well before returning it to its usual spot.

Most people have central, underfloor or some other type of heating on around now. As a result, the air in your home gets a lot drier as well as warmer. If you can, group your plants together. (Nerd fact alert: plants breathe through their Stomata (little openings or pores) that allow ‘transpiration’ to take place. Transpiration is where plants take in water through their roots and release water vapour, along with carbon dioxide. This vapour evaporates into the air as part of the process of photosynthesis. The Stomata usually open when light hits the leaves in the morning and close during the night - or when it’s dark. Nerd fact alert over). This transpiration process means that the air around a group of plants will be more humid, which will help stop them from drying out.

Alternatively, move them into the bathroom for a few days. They’ll really appreciate the moisture and humidity of showers and baths being run.

Ferns, Orchids, Calathea and other tropical plants love a daily mist with a hand-held water spray.

In terms of light, of course the nights are longer in winter and the Sun’s lower in the sky. If you live in a basement or north-facing flat, for example, you might want to think about installing some LED bulbs or lights specifically designed for cultivation. Some can be exclusively red and blue combinations, which might make you think you’re living in a nineties rave, so if you do order online, be aware of that!

This year IKEA has been gradually rolling out an ever-increasing range of indoor cultivation products (a sign that the days of more people having a ‘grow shelf’ for lettuce etc. rather than keeping shop-bought in the fridge are drawing ever-nearer (we think it’s about time!)). For example, they sell a screw fitting bulb that gives off what, to the human eye, appears to be perfectly ‘normal’ light. It costs a tenner which, for the sake of keeping your plants happy, might not be a bad investment.

Pot varieties of Cyclamen are derived from Cyclamen ‘Persicum', a fragrant Middle-Eastern species that flourishes in rocky conditions - where the summer sun bakes the ground but the winters and nights are chilly. To keep them happy, position them in as cool a spot as possible, making sure they’re always frost-free and in direct sunlight by a window, if at all possible.

Remember to move plants away from radiators and other sources of heat. Direct heat can harm them (as well as drying them out quickly), so move them to sunnier, draft-free spots.

Dust can quickly build up on leaves at any time of year. This prevents plants from transpiring fully, so give them a clean with a piece of cotton wool dipped in water. They’ll thank you for it.

In terms of pruning, most indoor plants require very little work. Just snip off any dying or struggling flowers and remove any damaged or yellowing leaves with a pair of sharp scissors. This will allow the plant to focus its energy on new healthy growth, instead of fighting unwinnable battles.

If you’re going away for the festive period, most houseplants can survive being left for a couple of weeks with some preparation. Just make sure you water them all thoroughly before you leave.

Any in smaller pots and those that like some humidity will do better in a bath, lined with an old towel or two soaked in water.

You can, of course, buy Lechuza self-watering pots that have a built-in reservoir and clever little water supply system.

Houseplant Pests

If your plant is lacking vigour, check for tufts of white fluff. This is either mealy bug or woolly aphid. These little critters suck the sap from indoor plants. You can get rid of them quite simply using an organic soft soap spray. That said, we’ve heard of people having great success using a dilute solution of water and washing up liquid!).

If you see any tiny limpet-like bugs on stems or leaves, you may well have Scale Insects - another sap-sucker. Just rub them off with a piece of cotton wool, making sure you collect them as they come away. Dispose of them direct to the bin outside, to ensure they don’t come back.

Unusual yellow speckles on leaves is a symptom of the tiny Red Spider Mites. They thrive in the warm, dry atmosphere generated by heating in the winter months, so cut off any parts of the affected plant (even if you need to take quite a bit off). Thereafter, remember to mist around the plant regularly with water. They don’t like humidity, so this should prevent another outbreak.

Finally if, having followed all of the above, you still manage to kill your beloved indoor plants, we suggest you try again, this time with something like San­sev­ie­ria, aka the ‘Snake Plant’ or ‘Mother-In Law’s Tongue’ (don’t ask). They’re pretty much bullet proof.

If you manage to kill those…seriously….maybe think about buying a sculpture instead?

If you have any questions or think there may be something we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Lancasters Team.