Growing a Friend in Winter!
Winter brings about a white, snowy wonderland. It can prompt the arrival of a verdant Christmas tree in a living room, or cookies next to a cup of milk on a kitchen countertop. It means so many different things depending on who you ask; a skiing vacation, a family dinner, a snowball fight, the list is neverending! But that’s only what comes to mind first. If you ask me, winter is cold, winter means the decay of much of nature and it means shorter days and longer nights.
You may be thinking, “Hey, you made winter seem… not so great.” And perhaps it can even come as a surprise to you that plenty of people suffer from something called Seasonal Depression, but it’s not uncommon at all. Even people not diagnosed with this can still feel a dip in mood because of the season. A small but meaningful way that has helped me combat these feelings is trying to reconnect with nature! But that may sound impossible, since, as aforementioned, winter is associated with the lack of flora... Well, fear not, because in fact, growing and maintaining a plant-friend goes beyond seasons. With enough love and care, you can grow a small, silent (but devoted and warm-hearted) friend who will be by your side at all times, no matter the season!
Tools to take care of your buddy
Honestly, other than a plant and a pot, you don’t need anything else specific during the winter, but there are certain pieces of equipment that will help you grow a happy and healthy friend! Just remember, if you don’t have the money or time to buy these things, don’t panic, all is not lost, you can DIY some of these things, and if that is not an option either, it’s alright, you can grow plenty of plants with only the plant, pot, and water. (We’ll talk in more detail about fertilizer in a second!)
Because we’re talking about taking care of plants during winter, a humidifier is a good piece of equipment to own. It’s an easy and efficient way to control the humidity in a room, since air conditioning can often mess with moisture and cause it to fluctuate. Plants that thrive in wetter environments may need a humidifier more desperately than other plants.
Grow lights in winter can be a lifesaver. Seeing as the days get shorter, plants are going to get less sunlight. In order to make up for that deficiency, it is possible to install grow lights in the area you’re planning to put your plants in!
Fertiliser in Winter
Because this article is about taking care of plants in winter, it’s important to underline that plants don’t require much fertiliser if any during this season; they’re not growing at the same rates as during spring or summer. A little bit of fertiliser can benefit, especially if your plants are still growing, but too much is unnecessary. Instead, cut back on fertiliser and use worm castings on top of the soil! Once again, remember to check with your plant; if it grows during winter, fertilise it in moderate amounts, if not, don’t.
Picking a friend
Try to take your goals in consideration: do you want a plant that’ll bloom quickly? Do you want a plant whose blooming journey is long and sophisticated? Do you want a plant that blooms at all? Think also about how much time you have to tend to the plant; some plants need lots and lots of attention, others, not quite as much. There are endless options, so take a bit of time to find the flower that suits you best!
If you want winter blooms, there are a few plants that are great contenders:
Recognised as one of the easiest plants to get to bloom, the African Violet will reward you with multiple blooms several times a year if it receives enough sunlight. It likes warmer spots, and prefers its soil evenly moist.
The Calamondin Orange is one of my favourites! Not quite mandarin orange, not quite kumquat, this stunning hybrid blossoms in late winter early spring. Its angelic fragrance, aesthetic and delicious fruit (that can even be used to make marmalade) make the journey of growing a Calamondin Orange so, so satisfying!
Finally, the Gloxinia! It is also known to typically bloom in late winter to early spring, and its cute, bell-shaped flowers add a splash of color to any living room. In return for their beauty, they ask only for averagely bright light and moist soil (unless they’re dormant). What a great trade!!
Finding the perfect spot for your friend during winter
Winter chills are a plant’s worst nightmare, so although placing your plant on a window sill may be your first instinct, try to avoid doing so, especially if you have curtains and are planning to draw them (more on that later). But… It's also crucial that your plant gets enough sunlight. Therefore, if you have a table that’s close to a window but not pressed up against it, that could be a good choice. Depending on how much light your plant requires, the perfect position can differ. If you absolutely cannot think of a place that is warm enough, humid enough and gets plenty of sunlight, consider investing in the equipment listed above (ex., humidifier if the spot is too dry, grow lights if the spot is too dark, etc.). As long as you’re ready to make adjustments, you can grow a plant almost anywhere!
How to water a house plant
Naturally, it depends from plant to plant, so in order to double check you can research the watering preferences of your specific species of plant, but most of the time watering when the soil has dried is sufficient. During winter, though, you can water your plants less frequently. While watering, try to switch between “top” and “bottom watering”. What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, top watering is the traditional pouring of water around the plant until it leaks out through the bottom of the container (meaning you’ve dampened your soil enough), while bottom watering includes placing your pot and plant into a bowl of water, allowing the plant to absorb the water. The last criteria of the watering is what type of water to use: especially if you want the plant to bloom, room-temperature rain water is best to use, but most plants also will be satisfied with filtered/distilled tap water!
Light will play a crucial part in keeping your friend alive, therefore it’s very important to provide your plant with enough light. For winter, low light plants exist, so if you know you won’t be able to provide the appropriate amount or intensity of light, maybe try looking into some of these more dark-friendly flora, however, as mentioned above, grow lights are a lifesaver (literally, for your plants!!) and they’ll enable you to grow whatever you want whenever you want, even in winter, when light is a bit more scarce.
This one can be a real stumper, but having the right humidity in your environment is as important as giving your plants light and water! Air conditioning can make keeping consistent moisture in the environment a real issue, so getting a hygrometer to measure humidity is a good idea (It’s not the life-or-death type of necessary, but it can help you figure out where you’re standing with moisture levels). If your home has been affected by the tyrannous AC and has succumbed to a dryness resembling that of a desert, you might want to consider getting a humidifier. (A little tip, if your room is small enough, try air-drying your clothes near the plants to increase the humidity a tiny bit!)
During winter, many may be tempted to rest their plants on a windowsill, but this is a big mistake, especially if you have curtains and are planning to draw them. The cold will get trapped in between the curtain and the window, creating a chilly environment for the plant. Shivering plants are sad plants, so try to move them a bit further away from windows (while not compromising the amount of sunlight they receive every day, unless you have grow lights)! House plants will feel most comfortable in temperatures around 15°C, but it naturally depends from plant to plant; doing a bit of extra research can go a long way when it comes to taking care of your little friend, and if their preferred temperature is on the higher end, remember to not compromise moisture!
Communication is the path to success
Finally, just like in a human relationship, communication is key. Although it might not be easy at first, seeing as you do not speak the same language, your plant is constantly trying to communicate happiness and discomfort. Growing a plant is all about adapting, there is no perfect formula for success, you are bound to make small mistakes along the way, but as long as you’re willing to constantly check up on your plant, it’ll grow and bear the fruit of your labour. Although it isn’t necessarily hard, it also definitely isn’t easy. The journey, though, is irreplaceable and mystifying, and the destination (a beautiful, blooming flower) is breathtaking.