If winter makes you feel like hibernating turn your attention to indoor gardening, seek inspiration from houseplants and most importantly propagation. There is nothing more satisfying than creating new plants for free. But how do we keep our indoor plants healthy? Houseplants require minimal attention over winter. Read some simple steps in my latest feature in the 15 January 2022 edition of Garden News magazine, to help you keep houseplants in tip top condition.
Caring for houseplants over winter
Increase natural light. Daylight hours are limited in winter so make the most of every ray. Clean windows and move plants closer to a light source. Many houseplants favour indirect bright light. As plants grow towards the light, rotate them once a week to keep growth even and upright.
Dust leaves so your plant can photosynthesis.
Keep plants away from cold drafts and hot radiators. Windows create a dramatic drop in temperature whereas radiators pump out heat causing water to quickly evaporate.
Reduce watering over winter; better to under water than overwater. Roots may rot if sat in water. If the soil feels dry below the surface, give it a good soak and let it drain.
Increase humidity. Sit your pots on a water-filled pebble tray, mist leaves and group plants together. No need to feed houseplants over winter, let them enjoy dormancy.
Always use clean, sharp tools and a sterile growing media. A mixture of peat-free compost, grit, sand, vermiculite and perlite all help keep the soil aerated and well drained, although some plants are happily supported simply suspended in water.
Tradescantia, spiderwort - in water
Propagating Tradescantia is fun, easy and super speedy! Snip off 10cm stems above a node and remove lower leaves, this gives cuttings the best chance of rooting. Why do this? Plants release water via stomata on their leaves in a process called transpiration. Removing half the leaves reduces the amount of water loss before the plant can grow roots. Simply pop cuttings in to a glass jar of water and wait. Roots will appear within a week!
Place rooted cuttings in a pot of gritty peat-free compost for a fabulous display.
Sansevieria, snake plant - division
As Sanservieria’s mature you may notice foliage appearing through the soil. Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally underground and these rhizomes produce new shoots called pups, which can be divided.
Tip pot out onto newspaper and shake off the soil to reveal rhizomes. Cut the new pup off the main base and allow a few days for the rhizome to callous over before potting on in gritty peat-free compost.
Aporocactus flagelliformis, Rattail cactus - offset
This species of flowering cactus is incredibly easy to look after and propagate. Once established the rattails cascade out of the pot and produce new growths on the trailing stems.
As these pups grow, white roots can be seen at their base. Gently pick off new pups from the stem and group in a pot of cactus potting mix. Pups maybe slow growing but this is a quick method to make new plants. Best displayed on a shelf or hanging basket.
Pelargonium - stem cuttings
Pelargoniums quickly grow from cuttings. This vegetative reproduction ensures you have lots of new plants ready for spring. Slice 10cm cuttings from the mother plant above a leaf node and remove lower leaves. Dip the cut end in rooting hormone and insert around the edge of a small pot of compost. Leave in a warm, light spot. Roots should appear within four weeks. Cuttings can also be rooted in water.
Begonia rex - leaf cuttings
Leaf cuttings are a fun way to propagate and the large multi-coloured leaves of begonia rex provide the perfect muse.
Select a mature, healthy leaf and snip off the stalk. On the underside of the leaf cut 1cm slices across the main veins with a sharp knife. Prepare a seed tray with moist cutting compost and pin leaf underside down so the veins contact the soil. Now wait. Plantlets take about two months to develop. When large enough to handle, gently tease plantlets apart and pot on in free-draining compost mixed with perlite.
Pilea peperomioides, Chinese money plant - root and stem cuttings
The easiest way to propagate Pilea peperomioides is though patience; by simply waiting the plant will send up numerous plantlets from its roots. These quickly establish into substantial baby Pilea.
Empty your plant on to a tray and gently shake away soil from the roots. This will expose the new plant’s growth point. Take a sharp knife and slice all plantlets off the mother plant’s stem or roots.
Repot your original mother plant and rooted plantlets in individual pots; stem cuttings can be first placed in a glass of water to produce roots before potting on.
All photos © Debi Holland 2022