So you dirty lot, when it comes to getting ready for winter it means prepping for longer nights, less sunlight and potential for overwatering dormant plants. So here are some tips and tricks to help us all through the winter months;
Firstly, the best thing to do is stop most (if not all) of your expectations for growth, rooting and activity. A lot of our beloved houseplants will naturally go dormant in colder, darker conditions and it's important to work alongside them as they do! This means, pulling back on watering, being a lot more patient with our eager watering cans is among the hardest thing to unlearn after a very thirsty growing season but by far the most important! Overwatering is the very best way to get a beastly case of winter root rot!
Dormancy can also take a lot of forms, whether it's a plant in stasis, not growing nor doing much of anything but simply existing, it can take quite a dramatic form as well; in the cases of bulbous plants e.g. Alocasia, Caladiums, Oxalis, Amorphophallus, they can take quite the dramatic turn and lose all their foliage dying back to their corms and bulbs for the upcoming harsh conditions. Please remember this is totally natural and not to out right panic!
Now, there are some ways to offset the risks of winter and lessen the damage caused by accidental overwatering.
The best by far, is the addition of grow lights! These really boost the energy your plants have lost with the shorter days and can even lead to some healthy growth during this otherwise turbulent time. It can even prevent some bulb plants from going dormant and allow them to keep their beautiful foliage throughout the winter season (so long as it's not a necessary part of their life cycle e.g. Amorphophallus or Oxalis).
It's important to also remember light isn't everything! Without warm blankets, fire places and radiators or a damn sight more leads to the driest of air conditions. Humidity is a vital trigger for a lot of plants to keep growing, maintain larger foliage and a healthy root system, with that lacking, some plants may suffer a little during this time. A simple fix is to really group your plants together to promote a little more humidity for one another, but the best option by far is to invest in a humidifier for the winter months.
Cold nights for you are just as cold for your plants! Temperature is also a very important factor for maintaining healthy growth and even keeping a plant from going dormant. So pull those pots a little further away from cold windowsills and frosty glass!
With these all-round lack of energy usage and growth by our plants, winter is definitely the time NOT to fertilise, denying those extra nutrients and minerals is a very important part of keeping the less active root systems healthy, fertilising during this time in soil may lead to burns on the foliage and loss of roots.
Another rule of thumb is to avoid repotting if possible during these periods, this isn't exactly a hard and fast rule as many staple plants in our homes are very resilient and will take to a new pot and new soil at any time of the year, but when in doubt, do not repot until spring!
If you're preparing for your first winter with a house full of beautiful botanical babes, please do not threat! Just remember to listen to what your plants are saying and keep those fantastic plant parent skills you've been refining all year handy, trust your intuition and remember there is a whole, huge community of folks who have survived many a winter and are happy to impart advice.
So, summing up here; grow lights, humidifiers and temperature control are super helpful for offsetting plant stress and recognising the processes of natural dormancy and inactivity are very useful to keep yourself from stress and be sure to hold off on repotting if you're not confident in the plant's ability to settle its roots!