If you’re anything like me, your houseplants have taken on a new role - upping your Zoom meeting backdrop game. Unsatisfied with a computer-generated gif of a tropical beach, I’ve aimed for something squarely in between a cool ‘oh these?... they’re nothing’ and ‘yup, I’m a full-on crazed plantophile’.
But with winter around the corner, let’s talk about keeping your houseplants (and your backdrops) happy and healthy between now and spring!
Imagine the habitat to which your houseplant is native and aim to replicate that as closely as possible.
My first piece of advice seems obvious, but often gets forgotten. Houseplants are generally houseplants because they come from climates very different to Ireland.
So imagine the habitat to which your houseplant is native and aim to replicate that as closely as possible. Hold on to the care guide that comes with each Clay plant, otherwise a quick google will give you all the insider info you need.
Houseplants have different demands when it comes to light, temperature, water, and humidity. What they do share is a general dislike of the dark, dry, draughty indoors life they have to endure in winter. But they’ve got you. And you can nail this.
Nobody likes being stuck indoors for too long, but for your houseplants, your home is their world. You might think that your home is bright and airy, but even moving a few feet away from a window results in a rapid drop-off in light levels.
This isn’t a big issue during the brighter months of the year, but simply moving your plants closer to a sunny window really makes a difference and your plants will thank you for it.
Yes, during spring and summer, there’s some risk of strong sunlight scorching delicate plants, but let’s face it, during an Irish winter the risk of this is understandably low! If you have limited options when it comes to light, there are some plants you can opt for that don't mind slightly darker spots, once such plant is the very robust Zamioculcas zamiifolia or ZZ for short.
Simply moving your plants closer to a sunny window really makes a difference and your plants will thank you for it.
This brings me neatly on to my next point; temperature. Actually, when I say temperature, I mean temperature fluctuations, because your home in winter is an environment of temperature extremes; warm when heated, chilly when left for a few hours.
As much as gaining extra light is beneficial, there’s a reason why we close blinds and
curtains at night. Avoid the temptation to close curtains around plants sitting on windowsills. Trapped between a curtain and chilled glass, a houseplant can really suffer or even die.
Most houseplants won’t thank you for being hit with cold draughts either, whether they’re from windows or doors, so always keep that in mind. Finally, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, be careful to keep your precious plants comfortably away from the intense heat and drying of radiators, heaters and fires.
Humidity levels of 30-40% in our homes during winter do not match the 50-60% that our houseplants want. So we need to get some extra moisture in the air. The top-end solution is to buy a humidifier that can be placed near your plants.
If you don’t want to blow your budget on a humidifier and save it for buying more plants (I don’t blame you!) there are a few low-cost ways of upping humidity levels.
Regular misting of plants with water is the quickest and easiest way of doing this. Alternatively, fill a shallow container with pebbles, top up with water and stand your plant pot on top. The water evaporating from the container will keep the air around your plants that little bit more humid.
Different plants need different quantities of water during the winter but in general, less is more. Reduce watering to about once a fortnight for the majority of houseplants, and even less for succulents.
A lot of indoor plants enter a slightly dormant period in the Winter, in which their growth slows down massively. This means they don't need as much water as they would in the brighter growing seasons ( Spring-Summer) therefore over watering may just overwhelm your plant instead of encourage it, so best leave the watering can down an extra few days.
A lot of indoor plants enter a slightly dormant period in the Winter, in which their growth slows down massively.
With less watering comes less feeding also, well no feeding really! Don't worry, your plant really doesn't need to be fertilised right now, since they’re not actively growing, or trying to flower, there’s no need to feed them. Your winter watering schedule will be plenty.
My last tip is to simply clean the leaves of your plants. Just like your windows, a build-up of dirt and dust on your plant’s leaves reduces the amount of light it receives. A soft cotton cloth or kitchen paper and some water is all you need. Your plants will benefit and so will you.
They’ll be able to work more efficiently, your plant collection will look better than ever, and you can enjoy a few mindful minutes in the process! I’ve even been known to put some of my houseplants in the shower (obviously not hot!) when I’m short on time.
Looking after your precious plant collection during the winter is super easy. For me, I keep three things in mind; maximise light, minimise extremes, and hold back from being an over-eager plant waterer during the winter. Before you know it, you’ll be emerging into spring with a happy home full of healthy houseplants.
Words - Niall McCauley
When not writing for the Clay Journal, Niall fronts the young, dynamic, Irish YouTube channel, ‘Niall Gardens’. Unashamedly garden obsessed, Niall shares his passion for plants and gardening from his stunning one acre garden in the Irish countryside. Check him out at www.youtube.com/niallgardens
Images: Clay Plants, Alexis Chloe & Annie Spratt