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5 tips for taking care of your houseplants and patio plants during the winter

Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By ALEX GROVES | agroves@scng.com | The Press-Enterprise
PUBLISHED: November 30, 2020 at 8:43 a.m. | UPDATED: November 30, 2020 at 8:53 a.m.
Source: OCR Register
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Toa-Heftiba

Houseplant parenthood has been a trend accelerated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, but to quote Ned Stark from “Game of Thrones”: “Winter is Coming.”

Even in Southern California, where “winter” is a relative term, plant experts say there are a list of considerations to think about in a time period when there’s less light, drier air and chillier temperatures to contend with, even with indoor plants.

Here are their tips for what to do with your plants when the days are short:

1. Know when to move plants

Danae Horst, owner of Folia Collective in Eagle Rock and author of the book “Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home with Happy Plants,” said that lots of houseplants such as monsteras, cactus and succulents require a lot of bright filtered light in order to thrive and as winter time approaches the shorter days mean that there’s less of that bright light indoors.

For a lot of houseplants that means that their growth might slow down and they might even lose some of their leaves because they’re not getting enough light to feed themselves through photosynthesis. Cactuses may take on unusual growth pattern where they stretch themselves out looking for light and might even get to a point where they can’t support themselves.

Horst said that sometimes determining where the best source of light in your home is and moving the plants there, is a good solution.

“For instance, if you have one south or southwestern facing window, that’s going to be a good place for plants no matter what time of year and you may end up needing to put a bunch more of your northern or eastern facing plants in a different window just for the few months where the days are much shorter,” she said.

While some houseplants are more finicky and may need to be moved, others are a little more carefree, Horst said, including the low-light tolerant sansevierias (snake plants) and Zamioculcas zamiifolias(ZZ plants).

Spider plants, pothos and Chinese evergreen are other plants that are hardy in the darker conditions, according to Nehemias de Leon-Martin, a manager at Planta Nursery in Highland Park.

2. Be prepared to water less

Mackenna Rowley, owner of Riverside plant store Piep, said that how much water plants use is based on the amount of light that they are receiving. Less light means less water is needed.

Rowley said that a common issue she sees with her customers is that they might be watering their houseplants on a schedule and the plant will do well for a while and then suddenly in the fall — when light hours are decreasing — its leaves start turning yellow.

“It’s because they’re giving it more water than it needs for the amount of light that it’s getting,” she said.

Rowley said it’s generally a better idea to not water on set schedule but rather to keep tabs on how dry the plant’s soil is and water according to that.

3. Maintain humidity  

Colder air is generally drier and that could have an impact on plants, but so can turning on your gas or electric heater — that can really dry out the air, too, according to Horst.

Rowley recommends seeing where your plants are in relation to heat sources.

“As you start turning on your heat, do a quick check throughout your whole house, then notice where the vents are and make sure the plants aren’t directly under them or within two or three feet.” Rowley said.

For plants that need elevated humidity even during the non-winter months — such as calatheas, ferns and marantas — humidity is going to be particularly important. Horst recommends using a humidifier to keep the air less dry but does not recommend other methods such as misting the plants. She says the amount of humidity that adds is fairly limited and the lingering moisture on leaves can lead to things like fungal infections and leaf spot disorders.

de Leon-Martin said one of his tricks is to group plants together and in doing so that locks the humidity into one place as the plants share humid air among themselves.

“If you group them, they kind of help each other,” he said.

4. Know when to bring plants indoors

Whether you bring plants inside or not generally depends on the type of plant and how established it is.

Rowley said there are some plants that can live outdoors in Southern California all year long, especially once they’ve become big and established. These include plants such as birds of paradise and succulents.

“But generally under about 40 degrees and they’re not going to love it,” she said. “It’s only if you have a large, hearty plant, that they’re going to be able to thrive.”

Gary Jones, Armstrong Garden Centers’ chief horticulturist & training manager, said that smaller tropical plants should be brought inside if there’s the potential for frost.

If a plant is too big to bring in, “just simply covering tropical plants or a house plant with any kind of a lightweight cloth makes a huge difference,” he said.

But there are some things to think about before bringing plants indoors.

Horst said that there’s always the possibility that the plants might have picked up some pests from being outside, such as spider mites, mealybugs and thrips. She said it’s important to examine plants to see if they have these bugs and appropriately quarantine them so the bugs don’t spread to other plants.

It’s also important to make sure that you’re giving the plants as much light as possible since they were likely receiving a lot of light, Horst said.

5. What to do if your patio plants get damage 

If your patio plants receive frost damage on their leaves, your first instinct may be to cut the plant way back, but Jones says it’s better to wait.

“Most people cut off good growth,” he said. “It looks bad but it actually is just fine, so they’re cutting back way more than they need to. The plant will recover.”

Jones said to wait a couple weeks until you see new growth and then you can cut the plant to that point.

Where will you put your plants when you bring them indoors? Are they near a natural light source? Do you have grow lights?

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Tips for Bringing Outdoor Plants Indoors

Written by Marie Iannotti
Reviewed by Debra LaGattuta, Updated 11/25/20
Source: The Spruce

outdoor container plant arrangement
Source: The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Good news, plant lovers: The end of the outdoor gardening season does not have to mean the end of your container plants. Although most will not survive the winter in freezing climates, they can be brought indoors as houseplants to help them make it through the colder months. Once nighttime temperatures become cooler, it’s time to think about bringing your more delicate or temperamental plants indoors (that includes any vacationing houseplants that you brought outdoors in the spring). With a bit of strategy and a little TLC, your outdoor beauties can make it through winter unscathed and ready to enjoy another season in the sunlight come spring.

Choose the Right Plants

Successfully overwintering plants indoors starts with choosing the right type of plants. Contrary to popular belief, not all plants can survive indoor growing conditions (or at the very least, not all plants can thrive indoors), especially if your home has limited light, warmth, or humidity. There’s a good chance that there are fewer sunny spots inside your house than in your yard, so you’ll have to make some tough choices about which plants are worth keeping for the season and if you can give them the care they need indoors.

Although it’s tempting to want to move every plant you’ve been growing outdoors inside for the winter, it’s also impractical. Before you get to rearranging your greenery, run through the below checklist and hang onto the plants that meet the following criteria:

  • Keep only healthy plants. If something has been struggling all summer under the best of conditions, it’s probably not going to improve indoors. Time to face reality and send it to its final resting place in the plant graveyard (aka the compost).
  • Never bring a plant indoors that has pests or diseases. Problems spread more quickly among indoor plants than in the garden, and even if you take great care to quarantine the troubled plant until it’s been coaxed back to health, there’s no guarantee that you won’t spread the issue to your other plants. Plus, there are no natural insect predators in the house, making the conditions ideal for spreading disease. Check all plants thoroughly for any signs of problems before you bring them indoors. 
  • Give priority to your favorite plants. When deciding which to bring indoors for the season (assuming you have limited space), give preference to any varietals that you’ve already invested a lot of time and energy into, like the ferns you’ve been coddling for years, anything you’ve trained into a standard, and sentimental favorites. Of course, expensive splurges are worth the effort too, if you have the room.
  • If the plant would look good as a houseplant, bring it indoors. Many homes have enough light to successfully grow several flowering varietals like winter geraniumsfuchsiabegonias, and even passion flower, all of which can bloom beautifully indoors. Sure, they might not look as lush or vibrant as they would outdoors, but it’s still nice to have something flowering in winter and the plants will be ready to start blooming again outdoors early in the spring.
  • Consider giving priority to certain vegetables, like small pepper or tomato plants. They’re actually tropical perennials and, when given enough light, will continue to produce fruits all through winter. However, some may need an especially large pot, so you’ll have more success growing compact, patio varieties—cherry tomatoes and small-fruited peppers like chilies or cherry varieties will fruit easiest and produce a higher yield. Keep in mind, there are no insects or gentle breezes indoors to pollinate your plants, so you will have to pollinate them manually.

Alternatives to Bringing Plants Indoors

It’s important not to overlook that some of your plants, like tender perennials, may actually benefit from a period of dormancy in the winter months. Plan to overwinter varietals like potted lavender and rosemary in your garage or basement—as long as the temperature doesn’t dip below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, they won’t freeze but will stay dormant. Take care not to let the pots dry out or stay overly wet—water them only when the soil becomes dry a couple of inches below the surface and allow any excess to drain out.

When dividing your winter plan of attack for your plants, be realistic about your available space and winter light. Remember, even if you choose not to bring a plant indoors in its entirety, you can always start cuttings from the mother plant. They’ll take up far less space and may even do better than established plants throughout the winter because they won’t suffer the shock of having to adapt to new growing conditions. The young plants will have time to develop their root systems during winter and will be ready to be moved out into the garden and start growing early in the spring.

Once you’ve decided which plants to move indoors, give them time to acclimate to being houseplants. Bring them inside while the windows are still open and the temperature indoors is about the same as outdoors. That way, they’ll be able to adjust to the change in temperature and humidity more easily, rather than waiting until a frost is expected and then bringing them into a dry, heated home.

If the temperature outside is already different from inside, what do you do? Ask! by leaving a comment below.

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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What your Plants need from Soil

How to Fertilize Indoor Plants | A Beginner's Guide

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
Fertilizing Plants
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Soil is the life line of your plant. Your plants get nutrients from the soil. The soil is where your plants draw some of its ‘food’ from. So, whether it is a house plant or a garden plant, one must make sure that it is properly fertilized. House plants must have fertilizer because it depletes its soil and is not outside. Plants in outside soil may or may not be properly replenished by being outside, so it is still important to make sure that your plants get the appropriate fertilizer aka ‘food’ aka nutrients it needs from the soil. In fact when one waters one should water the soil rather than the plant. How has this article helped you? Ever wondered why your house plans seem to die slowly? But you watered it, right! What is the importance of fertilizing plants particularly plants in containers? Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.

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For the Love of Lavender

Lavender Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

We started most of our seedling early in the season inside our mini greenhouse, which is actually a garage with several windows. Lavender was one of the plants we started in our mini greenhouse. We started our seedlings in February just before the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. Since the pandemic many people have begun their own gardens for a host of reasons. Since our growing season for the seeds we planted did not began until March we planted inside in February and then transplanted them into the outside garden when the season began. There are several benefits to growing in greenhouses. Many gardeners and farmers use greenhouses or some type of greenhouse system to lengthen the growing season. Indeed I have seen some gardeners and farmers growing in snow season. Our homes are a sort of greenhouse for the plants we keep indoors. The plants needs are not the same when they are inside or in some type of greenhouse structure. Richard Bray gives an excellent brake down of the greenhouse in their many forms in “Greenhouse Gardening” . What was most helpful about “Greenhouse Gardening” was understanding how to create an environment in which plants can grow indoors. Bray reminds us that plants have different needs than we do when indoors and that their needs change when they are indoors as oppose to outdoors. Read our review of “Greenhouse Gardening” to learn more. “Greenhouse Gardening” can be found here.

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greenhouse shidonna raven garden and cook
Mini Greenhouse
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Lavender was one of those plants we struggled with until we had a better understanding of how to care for our plants inside our mini greenhouse. She grew from a simple shoot into a shoot with several leaves. We re-potted her and brought her outdoors once the growing season began here in Norfolk, VA, USA. We were not certain if she would make it. But, these plants will surprise you. Just when you think they will not make it they come back in big and powerful ways. As you can see lavender has gown into a host of shoots with leaves and what we believe will grow into stems of lavender blossoms. We know a few people who like lavender so we kept sowing her until she grew into the large plant picture above. For gardeners and farmers alike the growing process can be one of trail and error even for the masters. Many have great difficulty growing lavender, so we were pleasantly surprise to see her flourishing. One thing to remember about lavender is to keep her well drained and sparsely watered. She does not like much water and her seeds must be properly prepared.

Did you know that besides smelling amazing lavender is an edible flower? Which edible flowers do you like? Many of us enjoy these flowers for their medicinal purposes (such as echinacea). Which edible flowers are your favorite? How do you eat them? We also know several tea drinkers. Share your comments with the community below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

If these articles have been helpful to you and yours, give a donation to Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook Ezine today.