Foliage plants in winter.
One of the easiest ways to get through the dark days of winter and brighten up the room in your home is with foliage plants. Foliage plants in winter can do very well with minimal care and should be at the top of your list for a great decorating solution.
If you are redecorating with foliage plants, remember that there is much less light during these months so you can put them in sunnier spots. With the heat on in your home, the air is much drier than before, so you will have to water the plants more often. Watering plants is the most important care activity and should be taken seriously. Over watering is just as detrimental as under watering and maybe more so. The best universal guide for watering is to water the plant well and allow to soil to feel dry to the touch before watering again. This may mean watering everyday or once a week. The size of the plant and size of the pot are the principle factors. A large plant in a small pot has lots of roots that pull the moisture from the soil to support all the foliage. Conversely, a small plant in a large pot is not drawing nearly as much so the soil will stay wet longer. One must be very careful that the soil doesn’t stay wet, for the fine fibrous roots of the plant will rot and since there will be no way for the plant to get water it will wilt and look the same as if the soil was dry. It really is better to err on the side of dryness and even let the plant wilt a little before re-watering. Keep in mind that the main stimulus for growth is the roots reaching out for moisture. If the soil is always wet, the roots will not grow and neither will the plant.
Since the foliage plants in winter are not as actively growing as during the rest of the year, they will not need as much plant food. Generally, half the dosage is sufficient. All purpose plant food will usually be fine for all plants.
This is also a good time to trim out all of the old straggly parts of the plant or just cut away stems that are growing in the wrong direction. If there are a few brown edges you can cut the brown parts off with a pair of scissors. There is no need to take off the whole leaf. In a couple of months as the days get longer, new growth will sprout and the plant will be very robust. It would be a good idea to also check the soil. If it is hard or discolored, break away some of the old soil ball surrounding the plant and put it into a pot with new potting soil. Don’t just use dirt from your yard. The plant needs to be in a soil mixture that contains materials like peat moss and something to keep the soil loose, like vermiculite. If the root ball is a solid mass of roots when you take it out of the pot, you should move it up to a larger pot. Select a new one that is not too much larger than the original pot. If the new pot is too big, the soil will hold too much moisture and the plant will rot. Hold the plant at the same level as in the old pot and fill with soil. Water the soil well, at least a couple of times, to be sure it settles.
When you are going out to buy a new plant, there really are no hidden secrets with foliage plants. If you buy one that looks healthy it will continue to grow for you. Select a plant with firm foliage, good color, and no signs of stress. If the leaves are wilted, the plant may have root damage or if it was too dry for too long, the tips of the leaves will turn brown. Most importantly, buy the plant from someone you know and trust.
Here at our store, in our two story greenhouse, we have lots of foliage plants to choose from!
Contributed by Charles F. Kremp, 3rd