Mid-February is the time to wake up your houseplants from their long months of winter slumber. What you do now will impact them throughout the coming growing season.
I’m gardening. I’m scratching soil and trimming plants and having a great time, wish you were here.
No, really. Mid-February is the time to wake up your houseplants from their long months of winter slumber. What you do now will impact them throughout the coming growing season.
There’s nothing like a houseplant collection to satisfy your urge to garden in February. Look closely and you will see signs of plants brushing off their sleepy period. My cactus and bromeliads have offspring. I’m seeing leaf shoots on my philodendrons. My Norfolk Island Pine has turned bright green, and my jades and violets and pothos are filled with buds.
The dormant period is important for future health and growth. It’s a recovery period where growth above the roots stops and the plant takes a breather. The leaves and roots still are collecting energy, but it’s being stored instead of consumed. The plant’s metabolic rate slows.
Dormancy is a normal process. It produces dried up leaves that need to be picked. It’s also a good time to shape up plants, as pruning will cause no stress.
Dormancy can happen in any season. If your plant had a major problem and you had to trim it back, it will go dormant for weeks to recover. For this reason, don’t throw it out too early. Give it a chance.
Late winter is a good time to divide plants. There will be much less shock than in growing months. The newcomer will have a chance to develop the roots it needs to survive.
It’s time to increase watering, not to the extent of summer but just enough to support the new growth.
I’m a big fan of top-dressing my houseplants with new potting soil. I scrape off some of the old. This gives a gentle shot of nutrients and assists drainage.
Repotting is necessary when the plant is root bound (roots showing through the drainage hole). Generally, this is needed about once every three years. Many plants don’t need it if you refresh their soil.
If you use fertilizer, it’s time to start but go slow. Start with a 50 percent dilution of liquid plant food every other week. That can be increased to full strength in late spring when the plant is really popping.
I like Osmocote pellets for fertilizer ($9 list for 1.25 pound). This is an old-timer (four decades) that gently time-releases fertilizer as the plant needs it. One treatment lasts four months, and there is none of that ugly white salt buildup you get from liquid fertilizers.
If you make compost, it’s not a good idea to use it indoors. Compost comes with insect eggs, primarily gnats. It must be pasteurized for indoor use — heated to 160 degrees for 30 minutes. Bags marked “sterilized” are OK for indoors.
This indoor gardening is fun stuff — no dirty knees. Your plants will reward you with a season of healthy growth.