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I’m Maria, the "Plant Killer Turned Plant Lady" with a mission to help you care for plants successfully, grow your indoor jungles, and cultivate more joy in your life. I've got tons of content for you here on the blog, on the Bloom and Grow Radio Podcast, and Bloom and Grow Youtube Show to help you keep blooming and keep growing.
How do you prep your houseplants for winter? Winter is coming, and for some of you plant friends, it’s already here! Plant parents tend to fear winter, but as long as you understand the changes your plants are experiencing, it doesn’t need to be nerve-wracking. After living through multiple winters with my plant babies, specifically in small apartments and large homes, I’ve definitely learned a lot through trial and error. In this episode, we will go through as many tips and insights as possible to help set you and your plants up for success through the winter. So, plant friends, let’s dive in and learn how winter impacts our plants and some actionable steps to take to ensure their health and happiness!
Growing Joy: The Plant Lover’s Guide to Cultivating Happiness (and Plants) by Maria Failla, Illustrated by Samantha Leung
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When our plants are happy, we’re less stressed, right? We’ve all been there when something goes wrong with a plant, and then we are left to mourn its loss or figure out how to fix it for two weeks. The cold season is not the best time for most plants since most of our houseplants are tropical houseplants. They like high humidity and long days that are filled with sun. They naturally do not thrive in indoor environments that we’ve created for them. On top of that, the winter environment is even harder for them to sometimes survive.
So just understand that it’s not us; it’s them. However, it is still our responsibility to figure out how to help them stay as happy as possible in winter as they are probably at the peak of their discomfort.
Plants use light to make their food through photosynthesis. So it makes sense that with more light, they are making more food. Reduce the light, reduce the food. That is a great rule to live by, especially because you don’t want to starve your plants.
In the winter, the sun is actually lower in the sky as it moves from east to west. You and your plants are getting less light due to the amount of time that the sun is out and the actual arc that the sun is traveling in the sky. The days are shorter and there’s less light volume available to your plants.
If they can’t make enough food to sustain the entire plant, they’ll drop some leaves in order to protect their energy reserves, and then they’ll grow more leaves. So know that leaf drop isn’t necessarily bad. However, take this with a grain of salt because each plant species reacts differently.
As we move into the winter, most of us will probably not have to water as much, however, we should always understand each plant has different needs. Instead of a watering routine, what you should be considering is having a plant care routine. Start checking in with your plants on a daily or weekly basis. Don’t water your plants on the same day every week because season by season, your plants are going to need different amounts of water potentially.
Winter can be a beautiful time to double down on your plant care routine, checking in with your plants, being really mindful, and using plant care as a self-care and mindfulness activity.
The majority of our plants are tropical plants. They enjoy humidity between 40% and 60% but thrive at 60% to 80%. If you’re on your humidifier game, maybe this isn’t a problem for you, but it could be a problem some of us.
Understand that plants really prefer more humidity. They’re conditioned to tolerate the air as they go from the greenhouse, to the plant shop, and finally to your house. Hygrometers are a great way to measure the humidity level of your house! Radiators are also good to blow off dry heat. More dust is also often blown around in the winter, so make sure you wipe your plants down if they get dusty.
Another thing to consider is drafty windows because they can shock your plants. If your windows are drafty, you can seal them up using tape to make sure that cold air doesn’t come through. Another way is to move your plants away from the windows. Take your plants out of the windows and move them elsewhere so they’re not getting 20-degree shocks.
As we go into winter, many of our plants are making less energy due to less light. They experience quiescence, which is simply a state of inactivity or dormancy. Our plants get a little quiet and that’s okay. That’s just nature. Some houseplants experience slow down while some plants don’t. That’s nothing to worry about.
Here’s what you can do: preemptive pruning. Many diseases and insects that can potentially infest pruning cuts are dormant during the winter. Therefore, pruning your plants during the cold weather prevents them from becoming infected. By pruning, you also encourage new growth in the plant by preventing it from putting so much energy into dying leaves.
Next, you can supplement the limited amount of light with grow lights. These are fancy lights that have a photosynthetic spectrum that mimics the sun. This way, your plants are actually getting the same amount of light on a regular day. Look for white light. You don’t wanna go purple or red because that’s not mimicking the sun to the best of its ability… and it may not blend into your home design very well.
Playing with the concept of quiescence— not only for your plants but also for yourself— can be transformative. Having so many external influences in our lives, we are conditioned to go and be in this season of extreme growth all the time. There is such beauty in allowing yourself quiescence, in allowing yourself some dormancy.
As the days get shorter, as our plans start to slow down, maybe we can slow down too. What would that look like for you if you were able to slow down somehow?
If slowing down means traveling less, or minimizing your screen time, you’re giving yourself some quiet time alone with your plants and with yourself without distractions.
Take this concept of dormancy and quiescence and apply it not only to your plants but to yourself. Invite some quiescence from yourself— take note from your plants.
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