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Give Your Indoor Garden TLC This Winter

Your landscape may extend indoors and you don’t even realize it. Even people who don’t have an outdoor landscape probably have an indoor garden consisting of houseplants. We know that because houseplants have topped the list of plant material grown by nurseries for the past several years, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down.  

Winter, when you aren’t distracted by outside landscape chores, would be a good time to give your houseplants some tender loving care. In most households they tend to be overshadowed by the demands of our outside plants, especially our lawns. If you don’t have houseplants, this winter would be an opportune time to turn to indoor gardening. Join the trend and garden for 12 months a year.

Many people move their houseplants outdoors for the spring, summer and fall, and then bring them back indoors for the winter. Surely, you care for them when they’re outside. You water them when nature turns off the rain. You deadhead them to encourage new flower growth. They may need a bit of fertilizer and, possibly, some insect and disease control when they’re outside for their summer vacation. And those tasks must be worked in among your seasonal outdoor landscape care.

In winter, you may be seeking ways to keep your green thumb from fading. Some care your houseplants would appreciate in addition to watering, deadheading, fertilizing and controlling pests include…

• Cleaning the leaves. Dust tends to settle on plant leaves. Outdoors, wind and rain remove most of the dust. Inside, however, air movement is not fast enough to remove dust. The easiest way to keep your houseplants dust-free is to spritz the leaves and then wipe them gently with a soft cloth.

• Repot when necessary. Check the roots periodically to be sure they’re not pot bound. Gently remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots. If they’re growing around the plant instead of downward, you have two choices. If you want them to keep growing, repot them into a larger container. Choose a new pot that’s only a size or two bigger than the current container. Check it in a year to see if it needs to be repotted into a bigger container. Plants prefer repotting in increments to being planted into a much larger pot. And they won’t look like a person dressed in clothes that are too big. If you want a pot bound plant to continue living in the same container, root prune it. Shorten the long roots that are circling the plant so that they grow downward.

• Prune and remove dead leaves. Houseplants that grow too full for light to penetrate the interior or show stress even though their foliage is full may have to be thinned by pruning. Using scissors, cut out stems that won’t affect the plant’s shape. The pruning shears that you use to prune your shrubs may be too big to get into houseplants’ tight spaces. Some indoor gardeners simply use kitchen scissors. Bonsai pruning shears really work well. They have big handles, but the blades are small for tight work. You can also use your shears to remove unsightly dead leaves.

• Propagate your houseplants. If you’re looking for an interesting, garden-related activity this winter, try your hand at propagating more houseplants. It’s easy. Take a trip to your favorite garden center for a supply of small terra cotta pots, a bag of soilless potting mix and container of rooting hormone. Take a cutting, or cuttings, from the plant(s) you want to propagate. Cut a piece of stem with two or three sets of leaves.  Dip the stem in potting hormone and plant in a pot of potting mix. Keep the new plants moist and keep them in the light and soon you’ll see new leaves appear as they take root and begin growing. If you don’t need or want any more plants for your indoor garden, give the new plants to a charity plant sale, confident in the knowledge that you propagated it.

Athletes train during the off season and conscientious students read when school is out to keep their skills sharp. The same thinking can extend to gardeners and folks who enjoy tending to their landscapes. Spending time helping your houseplants look their best this winter will keep your thumb green and ready for spring.


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