HOUSEPLANTS Wintertime TLC
Too much water is just as bad as too little. And too much heat or cold will harm houseplants.
By REBECCA SLOAN
here's nothing like a sunny window of thriving houseplants to help ward off the winter blahs, but if your houseplants aren't looking so hot these days, maybe they need a little tender loving care.
"Winter weather can be tough even for plants that live indoors," said Philip Steiner, president of Mellinger's Nursery in North Lima. "Dry air is the most common reason houseplants die during winter."
Parched plants exhibit dry, crinkled, brown-edged leaves and excessive shedding of leaves.
To combat dry conditions, Steiner recommends misting foliage daily or placing a humidifier nearby.
"You can also place a glass of water near the plant or even a tabletop fountain," Steiner said.
Another option is to take a dish, fill it with pebbles, add water and sit the potted plant on top of the dish.
Just make sure the pot is sitting on top of the pebbles and not soaking in an inch or two of water since water-logging a plant is just as bad as parching it.
Too much water
"Overwatering is another common problem during winter," Steiner said. "Too much water can cause roots to rot."
Plants that are too wet will sometimes exhibit wilted, yellowed leaves.
"Sometimes wilted leaves can be a sign of too much water or too little water, so you have to know what you are looking for. It depends on the type of plant," Steiner explained.
If you're not sure what the trouble is, check the soil to see whether it's sopping wet or bone dry.
Keith Kaiser, assistant horticultural director at Mill Creek MetroParks at Fellows Riverside Gardens, said lower levels of window light also spell trouble for houseplants during winter.
Kaiser recommends buying a fluorescent grow light to supplement sunlight when the days grow shorter.
Let the light in
"If you can't find a grow light, use both a cool fluorescent light tube and a warm fluorescent light tube to get the same results," Kaiser said.
"Cool" fluorescent bulbs emit a bluish-tinted light, and "warm" bulbs give off a yellowish tint.
And don't assume that just because it's winter, plants want to be blasted with hot air 24 hours a day.
Kaiser said most plants will tolerate temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit and some even prefer to be cooler.
"If your plants sit in a windowsill, just make sure the foliage isn't touching the glass itself," Kaiser said.
Lower temperatures will even help some plants produce blooms.
"Cyclamens, Amaryllis and Easter cactuses need cooler temperatures to produce blooms," Kaiser said.
But don't put plants in places where they'll be subject to frequent drafts.
"It's a good idea to move plants away from doors during the winter as well as heating vents," Kaiser said. "There shouldn't be any extreme changes in temperature."
Of course some plants will tolerate almost anything.
"Succulents and plants with waxy leaves stand up to dry conditions better than other types of plants," Kaiser said. "And of course cactuses are very hardy."