As we settle into the winter months with its bare trees and grey skies, the green of an indoor plant can really brighten up your home and add that pop of colour we’re missing from spring and summer. But with furnaces and fireplaces on all season long, how can we keep houseplants healthy – and alive? We’ve got a few tricks of the trade, and a whole lot of suggestions for choosing the hardiest of the bunch.
Image Credit: Gardenista
Let’s just start by saying not all of us are green thumbs. There are some of us out there (ahem) who choose to go the artificial route to avoid the inevitable loss of plant life. But the benefits of real indoor plants are plenty, and it doesn’t have to take a degree in horticulture to keep them thriving.
For instance, plants not only clean the air we breathe, they also do fantastic things for our mood, stress levels, and our general sense of well-being. Scientific research tells us that when leafy green plants like ficus trees and ferns are nearby, we get along better with others, we feel better mentally and physically and we’re more focused and productive. They even help us be more creative and rational – who would have thought!
Here’s the thing: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is real, and if adding a few plants to your work area or home can help brighten your day in any way, why not? The great news is, realistic-looking artificial plants can also have the same effect on our psyche. But back to our original story…
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According to Real Simple, the winter months turn our homes into downright inhospitable environments for plants. Some rooms are cold, some are drafty and others are over-heated. Add to that fewer hours of natural sunlight and you can see why choosing the hardiest ones makes sense.
Here are just a few of the easiest plants to keep alive (and thriving) this winter:
In low light:
• ZZ plant – can survive in dark or light. Keep it very dry, only watering once the soil has dried out considerably.
• Maidenhair Fern – enjoys humidity and likes to be watered and misted frequently. They can be a bit finicky.
• Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) – low maintenance and even enjoy being near a lamp as a light source!
In a drafty room:
• Clivia – cooler, darker rooms allow their blooms to emerge and they don’t require a lot of watering.
• Moss terrarium – the glass terrarium holds humidity and protects the plants from cold and drafts.
• Jade plant – water every three weeks and don’t fret about temperature changes in your home. This one can survive just about anything.
• Christmas Cactus – these add a pop of colour to your home and thrive on neglect. We love this one!
In a dry room:
• Philodendrons – easy to care for and only need to be watered every two weeks.
• Succulents – keep these on a windowsill in a dry room.
• Fiddle leaf fig tree – only needs water about once a month in winter.
• Snake plant – super easy to care for and can survive in low light.
• Aloe – looks cool and is incredibly hardy, storing its own water so it can go long stretches without watering.
GoodHousekeeping also has some great suggestions for the 25 indoor plants you can’t kill and includes things like how tall and fast the plant will grow, which ones filter toxins from the air and which ones even like fluorescent office lighting (hint: it’s the peperomia).
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Now that you’ve chosen the best plants for the right spaces in your home, there are lots of things you can do to help them make it through the winter.
Start by taking Gardenista’s advice, and your houseplants will be happy all season long:
• Sunshine. Find the sunniest spot you have and place your plants there. And preferably an east-facing window where it has the best chance of getting sun from 7 am to 11 am.
• Less water. Plants go dormant in the winter so they need less watering – about once a week.
• Misting. When plants are outdoors, they enjoy fog, rain and mist. Indoors the air is dry. Give them a little mist to keep them from drying out.
• Humidity. Make a little tray that adds moisture to the air by placing a layer of pebbles in a shallow tray, then adding water to the height of the pebbles. Set plant pots on the pebbles and put the tray in a warm sunny spot or on a heat vent or radiator.
• Tonics. If you start to see yellow or brown spots on leaves, your plant is suffering and may need a tonic spray. Dissolve 4 teaspoons of baking soda in a gallon of water and add a few drops of Murphy’s oil to make a suspension. Spritz on leaves.
• Dusting. When plants are dusty, they can’t breathe and it can’t absorb the effects of sunlight and humidity. Try to keep them clean.
• Bathing. For smaller plants, pop them in the sink and use a sprayer to clean off the leaves. Larger plants can go in the shower and can be dried off with a sponge.
• No fertilizer. Because plants are dormant in the winter, they don’t really benefit from fertilizer. Once spring rolls around, feed them superfood such as sea kelp and get them back out into the warm sunshine.
• Crank the heat. This one seems opposite to what we’ve been saying, but if you turn the heat up during the day and way down at night, it mimics the outdoor conditions they’re used to.
• Play music. We’re not sure if this one is true, but it is worth giving a shot.
You may also want to check out Gardenista’s complete guide to caring for houseplants. They’ll show you exactly how to replicate their natural environment of specific plants, no matter the season.
The days may be short and dark and the air inside and out may be less than ideal, but there’s nothing stopping you from surrounding yourself with all the goodness houseplants can bring to your home. Give them the right amount of love when and where they need it and they’ll give it right back to you. And remember, spring is just a few short months away.