Last updated on October 24th, 2023 at 07:06 pm
Brown or infested leaves: What is the reason for houseplants ailing in winter? Tips for optimal care – from proper watering to pest prevention.
In the winter months, houseplants need special care, because they get little daylight and are usually in heated rooms, which makes them more susceptible to pests. In addition, the humidity is often not optimal and the plants are watered incorrectly.
Caring for houseplants in winter requires some adjustments compared to the warmer months. The reduced light and lower humidity levels can affect plant health. Here are some tips for properly caring for houseplants during the winter:
1. Adjust Watering:
- Reduce the frequency of watering. In the winter, houseplants typically need less water because they’re not actively growing. Check the soil moisture before watering. Stick your finger about an inch into the soil; if it feels dry, it’s time to water. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
2. Choose the Right Watering Time:
- Water your plants in the morning to allow excess moisture to evaporate during the day. This helps prevent fungal issues.
- Indoor heating during the winter can make the air dry, which can be challenging for many houseplants. Increase humidity around your plants by:
- Using a room humidifier.
- Grouping plants together to create a microclimate with higher humidity.
- Placing a tray filled with water and pebbles near your plants. As the water evaporates, it adds moisture to the air.
- Misting your plants occasionally with room-temperature water.
- Most houseplants prefer stable temperatures. Avoid placing plants near drafts or heating vents, as temperature fluctuations can stress them. Keep your houseplants away from cold windows at night.
- With reduced daylight hours in the winter, your plants may not receive as much light as they need. Consider these options:
- Move plants closer to windows for maximum light exposure.
- Rotate your plants regularly to ensure even growth.
- Use artificial grow lights to supplement natural light if necessary, especially for plants with high light requirements.
- Trim and prune your plants as needed. This can help them maintain a more compact shape and stimulate new growth. Remove any dead or yellowing leaves and spent flowers.
- Houseplants generally require less fertilizer during the winter. Reduce the frequency of fertilization to half or one-quarter of the normal dosage. Use a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
8. Pests and Diseases:
- Keep an eye out for common indoor pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. Inspect your plants regularly, and if you notice any issues, address them promptly. Isolate affected plants if necessary to prevent the spread of pests.
- Avoid repotting during the winter unless it’s absolutely necessary. Transplanting can stress the plant, and it’s better to wait until the growing season in spring.
10. Rest Period for Some Plants:
- Some plants, like certain succulents, benefit from a rest period during the winter. Reduce watering and avoid fertilizing to simulate their natural dormancy.
- Pay close attention to your plants’ individual needs. Different species have specific requirements, so familiarize yourself with your plants’ preferences and adapt your care accordingly.
Properly caring for houseplants in the winter involves monitoring and adjusting their conditions to accommodate the seasonal changes. By following these guidelines, you can help your indoor plants thrive throughout the colder months.
Provide sufficient light
Most houseplants suffer from a lack of light in winter. Not only flowering plants such as azalea or cyclamen need a bright location, but also species that otherwise tolerate less bright locations. These include ferns, lucky feather and dragon tree, for example. During the winter months, they should be located near a window. Ferns, dragon tree, ficus and elephant foot also prefer a slightly cooler location.
Important: While houseplants need a bright location near a window, they should not be placed directly over a heater or exposed to winter drafts if possible. Before airing, it is therefore advisable to remove the pots from the windowsill or draught.
Remove dust from the leaves
Dust that settles on the leaves of plants makes it even more difficult for them to absorb light. It should therefore be removed regularly – preferably with warm, lime-free water such as rainwater or boiled water.
Provide sufficient humidity
Due to heating, the air in the room is usually very dry in winter. To provide the plants with sufficient humidity, it makes sense to spray them regularly with water. The water droplets form a fine mist on the leaves and thus provide moisture. Spraying also helps to prevent brown leaf tips, which are also often the result of dry heating air. In addition, you can increase the humidity by using room humidifiers or an indoor fountain.
Proper watering: once a week is enough
In winter, most plants need less water. It is usually sufficient to water them once a week. For elephant foot and cacti, a rhythm of two to three weeks is sufficient. Orchids should also not be over-watered. If you are not sure whether a plant needs water, you can use the substrate as a guide – it should be well dried. Constantly moist soil tends to grow mold and is also a good environment for pathogens. Fertilizing should be avoided in winter.
Preventing pest infestation
Pests are more common in houseplants in winter, as dry air and high room temperatures favor their reproduction. Relatively common are scale insects, mealybugs, fungus gnats and spider mites. To prevent infestation, increase humidity, for example by spraying, and regularly check the plants for pests.
What to do against spider mites?
If a plant is infested, quick action is required. Fine, silvery light spots scattered over the leaf, webs and dried leaves indicate an infestation of spider mites. First isolate the affected plant from the others. Then shower well and then put a transparent plastic bag over the plant. The use of oil-based preparations such as neem and rapeseed oil, as well as beneficial insects such as gall midges, also helps to get rid of spider mites ecologically.
Help with fungus gnats and aphids
Fungus gnats can be effectively controlled with so-called yellow boards, to which the pests stick. As a preventive measure, the substrate should be kept dry on the surface or sprinkled with sand. Then the fungus gnats do not lay their eggs so easily.
Scale, mealybugs and mealybugs can be recognized by their sticky excretions on the leaves. They, too, can be controlled well with oil-based preparations or by applying beneficial insects such as lacewings and ladybugs, which are available on the Internet. If whole parts of the plant are heavily infested, it is sometimes useful to cut them off.