The Garden Corner

The Garden Corner By Sharon Allen Winter care of houseplants

We need to consider the changes that occur during the winter inside our homes and how these changes affect our houseplants. For example during the winter in South Dakota, daylight hours are shorter, the sun's angle is different, and the days are cloudier than at other times of the year. To accommodate these changes, we should place plants in more direct sunlight (but not touching windows) than we would at other times of the year.

Other considerations are humidity, temperature, nutrients and dust. Lower humidity levels in the winter increase the need for more frequent watering. Grouping plants together will help offset moisture loss during transpiration.

Optimal temperatures vary somewhat among different houseplants. The main points to remember are to keep plants away from cold, drafty locations and hot, dry spots close to radiators. Fertilization is not necessary until the plants are actively growing in the spring and summer. The exception is for plants placed under fluorescent lights. They do not experience dormancy and will need fertilizer year-round.

The last point is the dust and grime build-up that occurs. It filters the light that reaches the plants so it is especially important to keep the leaves clean in the winter. Clean plant leaves with a soft rag moistened in lukewarm water containing a few drops of mild dish washing soap. If the leaves are small, swish the plant upside down through a tub of similar water.

Poinsettia care

Poinsettias need a cool room, full sunlight, and moist soil. A plant in good condition will keep its colorful bracts for several weeks if kept at a room temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. After the bracts fall, place the plant in a cool, bright location, watering sparingly. The plant will probably become dormant under these conditions.

In May, cut the plant back to within six inches of the pot, repot, and resume watering (keeping the soil moist). Set it outdoors after danger of frost has passed.

Written by Sharon Allen, Master Gardner and free lance writer. For answers to gardening problems write to Sharon Allen at 110 North Plum Street, Vermillion, SD 57069, or through the internet at

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