Looking out my office window as I write, I can see white. That’s about all because the snow is falling quite quickly and blocking out my normal view. Not that I’m grumpy about this or anything because last week I was in Baltimore for the largest nursery trade show in the eastern U.S. and got my fill of plants and garden stuff.
I did, however, come home to some unhappy houseplants. It seems I might have forgotten to water them as much as I normally do before taking a trip and they were a tad disappointed with their water levels.
Use Your Finger
Let me remind us both that watering houseplants at this time of year is a simple chore if you have a spare finger to do the water finger-test. Put your finger on the soil and if it comes away damp at all, then the plant has enough water. If your finger is bone dry when it comes back from visiting the pot, then water the pot.
I water all my houseplants thoroughly every time I apply water. This means that the water has to run out the bottom of the pot before I stop watering. This ensures that my houseplants go at least a week between waterings as the entire soil mass is thoroughly wet.
If the water sits in the saucer for longer than an hour, I remove it by dumping it down the sink as I don’t want my pots sitting in water and catching some root rot fungus.
My African violets get watered by filling the saucer and allowing the pot to suck up the water by capillary action. Yes, I have been growing African violets for the first time in my life and my grandmother with her kitchen full would have been proud of me. Mind you, they’re a tad unhappy this morning but I’ve been watering and I expect they’ll jump right back with their blooms and growth.
Sitting in their east-facing window where they get a great deal of morning light, the bloom production has been prolific this fall. All this because I began watering from below, giving them regular feedings and enough light.
I wish my amaryllis would have been so happy. The blooms have started fading and no amount of water is going to bring them back into bloom. I’ve cut the individual blooms off as they start to fade and will cut the stem at the base when the last bloom dies. This will force the bulb to throw strap-like leaves and start developing next year’s flower buds.
Keep feeding and watering the bulbs for the rest of the winter (use one half strength liquid plant food) and grow them in the full sun.
Next summer, they can go out on the patio to summer outdoors.
In August, stop watering and allow the plant to go dormant. Give it several months of sleeping time and then bring it up into the light again to produce new blooms.
Remember though that if you don’t feed it, it will not produce new flowers for next year.
Remember to get the insecticidal soap out and use it regularly on your houseplants at this time of year. Those pests that hitched a ride indoors last fall will soon be emerging to increase their numbers and ravage your plants. A spray every seven to ten days should keep their populations under control. If you do get an infestation, decrease the time between sprays to every three to five days until the pests are all dead. A single spray will not kill all pests with these organic sprays. You do have to repeat them regularly.
Feed Your Houseplants Using This Schedule
And last but not least, now that we’re in early spring and the light levels are starting to increase again, it is time to begin a fertilizer programme for your houseplants and overwintering annuals.
Half strength feeding for the next few weeks is a good idea and then gradually increase the amount until by the middle of March you are feeding at full strength once a week.