By Michael Jenkins
We’ve talked about moving plants indoors for the winter, and about using cuttings to propagate plants for the growing season to come. Keeping your garden alive inside as the weather gets chilly is not only a great way to get a head start on next year’s garden, but it can also help keep your indoor spaces lively and colorful. During the darker time of the year, happy and healthy indoor plants remind us that life and color will return soon and it’ll be springtime garden season before we know it. Our indoor plants can do a lot for us, so let’s take a moment and learn how we can best take care of them.
Fortunately, caring for indoor plants is often easier than tending to outdoor ones. Inside your home you have greater control over light, temperature, and humidity, which gives you a huge advantage in helping your plants thrive. Just as they do outdoors, indoor plants have their own needs based on species and varietal, so learning a bit about the plants inside your home is a must if you want to give them the best care that you can. In general, however, there are some good guidelines for indoor plant care, and we’ll outline those here:
- Water your indoor plants appropriately: by ensuring that your plants have enough water—not too much, not too little—you’ll help them thrive. Indoor plants are easy to over-water, so ensure that their containers have sufficient drainage and a drip tray to catch the excess. There’s no hard and fast rule, as different types of plants and different locations have their own needs, but most plants prefer damp but not soaked soil. You should make sure to use room temperature water—water that’s too hot or too cold can damage your plant!
- Humidity is a concern for indoor plants in a way that it isn’t for many outdoor plants. In the winter with heaters running, indoor spaces can dry out and that can stress indoor plants. There are many ways to add more humidity to your plants’ space: using humidifiers, a tray filled with water, or a damp towel can all work quite well. Too much humidity can effectively suffocate your plants, so do some research on what you’re growing indoors and plan accordingly.
- Getting enough sunlight is very often a challenge for indoor plants. There’s just not as much sun inside your home—that’s what roofs and walls are for—so ensuring that your indoor plants have enough sun takes a bit of planning. You may be lucky enough to have a window that gets good sun all day. Placing your plants might just be enough to get them the sunlight they need. If you don’t have such a window, artificial lights can provide the solution you need. A couple of grow bulbs (which offer full-spectrum light akin to sunlight) in a cheap desk lamp or two can offer a budget solution that will last for years.
- Feeding indoor plants is an often overlooked factor in their care. Container plants, indoor or outdoor, need regular fertilizer just as in-ground plants do. The best course of action is to know your plants’ needs, ensure that their containers have an appropriate soil mix at the start of the season, and then to add fertilizer as needed per your plants’ requirements and the directions on the fertilizer container. By fertilizing as needed, you’ll keep your plants well-fed and strong and ready to move outside when the weather warms up.
- Pruningis an important consideration in caring for indoor plants, and like feeding them it is often forgotten. Many plants go dormant during the cold months whether they’re inside or outside, so a bit or pruning can help them get the most of their resting time. Using a sharp pair of garden shears and following appropriate practices for your plant, remove excess growth as needed so that your plant can store up strength for the coming spring.
Again, these are just some general guidelines for indoor plant care, and you’ll need to consider what kind of plants you have in your home and what they need. Our final piece of advice is this: after you’re done caring for your indoor plants, take some time to enjoy them! Plants add beauty and personality to our homes, so take a moment and appreciate the outcome of your hard work in caring for your indoor plants.