Keeping house plants healthy

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Though plants in pots are often termed house plants it is not the kind of environment many are perfectly happy with, but there are ways of helping them cope.

Plants don’t like the dry atmosphere of a house and this is especially acute over the winter months when the heating is at its highest. Being near radiators and gas fires is not an ideal place to have them.

No plant likes to be left on a windowsill at night between closed curtains and the glass; they are best lifted in. However, where radiators are sited below a window and curtains only come down to the sill, moving them may be necessary as not all the heat will be into the room.

To help combat this dry air, sit the plant on a layer of pebbles and add water to these to give off humidity, but do not have the level of water so high that the bottom of the pot sits in it.

Give them a fine mist spray of tepid water on occasion which will also provide humidity but not begonias; just mist around these, not on the foliage.

With the exception of those plants that are in flower now, water sparingly all the others. If a plant has been overwatered during winter it will show the spring as leaves drop off.

Plants require a rest or dormant period and for most this is the winter months. As natural light is much reduced, house plants are not growing as actively so they require less water and no feeding. Come the spring there will be signs of new growth at the end of its rest period - this is when to slowly increase watering and start feeding.

Winter is never a time to repot house plants. If this is necessary, such as if roots are showing out the bottom of the pot, do this in spring using fresh compost.

Good light is a major problem in winter. Poor light causes weak, drawn, leggy plant growth. Having a plant at a window might seem to have ample light but it doesn’t – there is only light from one side, there is none from the room side or above.

Cacti and succulents are not the most popular of house plants but some people love their many forms. Over the winter give them very little water, in the coolest room and don’t spray them. How to treat Christmas cacti was given last week.