Winter Care for Houseplants
Nothing lifts a winter-weary spirit like thriving, green houseplants, which help purify and improve air quality inside your home. However, even seemingly fuss-free plants can get the winter blues if not cared for properly. Here are some tips to keep them happy and healthy this time of year.
Set them up for success. Match your houseplants’ growing needs with their indoor environment. Most plants thrive in sun, so place them in a well-lit area, such as a windowsill, for a few hours a day. Flowering plants usually require even more light because the sun is less intense in winter months. Set plants with high-light requirements in bright windows, usually south- or west-facing.
Also, avoid placing houseplants near direct sources of heat (like a heating vent) or cold drafts (like a front door or drafty window).
Let them rest. Most indoor plants’ growth slows in the winter. It’s natural and means less work for you, since such plants require less care. Skip the fertilizer, and water only when the first inch of soil feels dry (roughly every two weeks). If your house suffers from low humidity in winter, lightly (and occasionally) spritz leaves with a spray bottle filled with lukewarm water.
Pampering makes perfect. To keep your plants looking good, moisten a soft rag with tepid water and wipe down leaves to remove built-up dust and grease. Spritz tiny-leafed plants with lukewarm water, which helps leaves better absorb light for photosynthesis and discourage pests.
Lastly, don’t use any plant shine products. They can impair a leaf’s ability to absorb light—critical to their overall health.
Proper Pruning Advice
Pruning deciduous shrubs keeps them looking tidy and encourages good plant health. But did you know that the best time to prune may be during the colder months? Horticulture expert and author Melinda Myers explains:
Save major rejuvenation pruning for late-winter or early-spring: Late-flourishing plants will recover and fill out quickly. “Summer- and fall-blooming shrubs flower on new growth, so prune anytime during the dormant season—I prefer late winter,” says Myers. “That way, I can clean up any winter damage while pruning.”
Prune spring-blooming plants after their show-stopping floral display.
“Spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs, bridal wreath spirea, forsythia, and the summer-blooming blue and pink hydrangeas bloom on old wood,” explains Myers. “They set their flower buds the summer before blooming that next spring or summer.” So, pruning too early can harvest disappointing results.
For more advice from Melinda Myers, visit her Web site at melindamyers.com.
Hailed for its medicinal properties and considered a delicacy, asparagus is a well-known harbinger of spring.
The perennial vegetable takes up to 3 years to produce its delectable, edible shoots. It’s worth the wait: Not only is the plant productive, producing up to 15 years or more of quality produce, but asparagus is packed with vitamins K, A, and C, and a powerhouse of folate and potassium.
Lucky for us, green asparagus can be found at most food markets. Less common varieties, in white and purple hues, might be more expensive and difficult to track down: Look for these rarities in upscale grocers or farmers’ markets.
Perhaps the most attractive trait of asparagus is just how easy it is to prepare. Sautéed, roasted, blanched, grilled, steamed, or stir-fried, this early-season favorite is lovely by itself or when added to omelets, pasta, or salads.
So why wait? Enjoy this easy-to-make recipe today!
Perfect Asparagus … 1, 2, 3!
1. Cut 1 pound of fresh asparagus into 1½-inch pieces and sauté for 2 minutes in 1-2 tablespoons of butter with 1 minced garlic clove.
2. Stir in ½ cup chicken broth, cover, and cook on low until tender-crisp.
3. Remove to serving dish with slotted spoon and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.