Nine houseplant jobs to keep them ‘alive and well’ during winter

Houseplants: RHS advises on watering techniques

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Spring and summer are the growing months for a houseplant, meaning autumn can be a tough time in terms of knowing how much to water and feed a plant. According to experts, as the weather gets colder, it is important to check on your indoor plants to make sure they are still thriving.

1. Check on your plants

Morag Hill, co-founder of The Little Botanical, explained: “Sudden temperature drops can cause leaves to discolour and drop. Make sure you check for signs of damage to give yourself enough time to reverse it and keep your botanicals alive and well throughout the chillier months.

“Generally, plants need time to rest so let them do just that over autumn and winter.”

2. Provide one final feed

According to the expert, an “important” step in your care routine should be giving houseplants one last feed. 

Due to the plants entering their dormant period, it isn’t recommended to feed them throughout the winter months.

Morag added: “This basically means they won’t benefit from further feeding. They also need this time to rest, and encouraging them to grow will put your plants under too much strain, causing weak growth when they reawaken in the spring.”

3. Clear debris and check for mugs

Houseplants owners should check for any bugs and pests which may have found home on your plant during the summer months.

The expert said: “Warm, cosy homes attract common household pests, leaving your plants at risk of irreversible damage. 

“Remove and treat any pests where possible. Dare we say it, compost the plant if it doesn’t improve. It’s not worth risking your other plants to attempt to save one that won’t make it.” The most common pests include whitefly, spider mites and scale insects.

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4. Healthy houseplants thrive in brighter positions

As the UK enters the winter, days are inevitably going to get shorter, meaning plants will be getting less light. The plant expert recommended moving them closer to a light source to ensure they keep healthy.

You should also trim off any damaged leaves to give them a refresh. This will encourage your plant to direct nutrients to the healthy leaves instead of wasting its energies on the dead ones. She said: “Pop your botanicals closer to a sunny windowsill – just make sure you aren’t drawing a curtain or blind in front of them and inadvertently leaving them out in the cold.

“Drought-loving plants, like cacti and succulents, need lots of warmth and light, so they’re definitely ones to keep an eye on in autumn and winter.”

5. Reduce watering

Perhaps one of the most important tips, houseplants do not need to be watered as near as much as they require during the summer months.

In fact, overwatering them can be extremely harmful. The expert said: “In general, your green beauties will need less watering during autumn and winter. As a result, reduce how much you give your botanicals to drink. Dormant plants don’t need much water. In fact, too much will cause it to accumulate at the bottom of the pot and destroy the roots, causing weak growth.

“As a rule of thumb, only water your plants once a fortnight at most throughout the colder seasons. Succulents only really need a drink every four to six weeks, while cacti can go without until spring rolls around.  

“Be mindful of your watering routine for plants in warmer heated rooms, as they might still be drying out quickly.”

6. Be mindful of heating

When the heating is on in the midst of the winter, it is important to check plants aren’t drying out quicker, particularly those standing on the floor and near radiators.

To check they aren’t too dry, push a finger or thumb into the soil and rehydrate if needed. Morag added: “Plants in warm, heated rooms can dry out quickly. 

“However, with much less sunlight throughout the colder seasons, they are likely to need less watering overall. Keeping your houseplants healthy while changing their living conditions can be tricky, so be mindful when it’s time to turn the heating on.”

7. Rotate plants

The expert explained: “As there’s much less light in the autumn and winter months, it is a good idea to rotate your plants as they will grow towards the light. 

“For a nice, even shape, rotate your plants once a week during autumn and winter and watch your green beauties thrive, even on chilly days.”

8. Do a spot of pruning

Any debris and dead leaves which have accumulated on the top of the soil should be removed and any yellow leaves should be trimmed.

Morag said this will help your plant to keep it “looking its best”. The expert added: “You should also trim off any damaged leaves to give them a refresh. 

“This will encourage your plant to direct nutrients to the healthy leaves instead of wasting its energies on the dead ones.”

9. Dust your houseplants

Dusting houseplants will mean their leaves are able to absorb as much light as possible.

Most houseplants build-up a layer of dust on their leaves quite quickly, which reduces the amount of light they can then use to make food through photosynthesis. 

The expert said: “To keep your houseplants healthy, wipe the leaves with a damp cloth or spritz them with a bit of water.”

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