Houseplants and Winter
Like you, I find more time to enjoy my houseplants in the “off season.” The full spectrum of sunlight really made the outdoor visitors grow. Before bringing these plants indoors, I washed, sometimes re-potted, divided, and gave these outdoor visitors special attention.
The shortening day length and cooler nights made plants such as Schlumbergia (Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter cactus), poinsettias, and kalanchoe, some of my orchids, rhizomatous begonias (the ones with a thick and fuzzy structure that grows on top of the soil) form flower buds. These are “short day” plants that originally came from areas north or south of the equator. Schlumbergia came from Brazil and kalanchoe came from Madagascar, both south of the equator. Poinsettias originated in Mexico, which, of course, is north of the equator. Most houseplants don’t really respond to day length as a trigger to forming flowers—a shame, because what an incredible autumn and winter would occur!
Winter is a good time to increase the kinds of houseplants you grow. Houseplants don’t have to be exotic, so I am encouraging you to grow some of the easier ones. I never call plants “fool proof,” because some people seem to kill them no matter what! (I still remember Colston Burrell, the famous garden designer and garden writer saying, “I don’t feel I’ve really gotten to know a plant until I’ve killed it.” ) Now, dear readers, please don’t take this as a challenge. You plant killers know who you are.
I would suggest the peace lily (unless you have cats or young children who eat plants). They need constant moisture and dappled sunlight. You know your plant is happy when it grows the white spathes containing flowers and has leaves without brown edges.
English ivy is grown for its leaves, can be trained into a topiary, grown with other plants, and tolerates light in almost any window except south. Water when dry.
Spider plants will grow almost anywhere. Hanging baskets make a lovely addition to any room. Don’t over water over the winter. Pot up the babies (called plantlets) to give to your friends.
You can’t kill a snake plant! Plant them in a succulent potting mix and place in the brightest window you have. I love the different types: Mother-in-laws-tongue, twist, and robusta.
And then there is the cast iron plant, well named because it is one tough leathery plant with very dark green leaves. Its genus name Aspidistra comes from a Greek word meaning “shield.” A relative of lilies, cast iron plant leaves grow directly from the soil as do the flowers. If you get the plant to produce flowers please let me know, as I have had no success getting mine to bloom. Maybe that’s OK; in the wild, the flowers are pollinated by snails and slugs.
Of course, we can’t forget philodendrons. They quickly let us know if they are unhappy where we place them which is helpful. You can grow philodendrons in a container (I like glass) with only water if you prefer. If it is potted in soil, let the top inch of soil dry out before watering again. Droopy leaves? Too much or too little water. Stick your finger in the soil to find out.