For gardeners, this is a melancholy time. We miss the splash of color from flowers, the scent of fresh soil and the magic of slicing garden-grown vegetables. Alas, another growing season has passed.
Let’s turn to houseplants.
For hundreds of years, we have been brightening up our homes and offices by adding plants. Even though we call them houseplants, they have evolved outdoors and are not adapted to grow inside.
All plants need the basics (water, sunlight and nutrients) to grow and stay healthy. As gardeners, it is our responsibility to provide these in our routine care. An atrium, sunroom, enclosed porch or courtyard with glass walls/ceiling might provide appropriate light and temperature conditions for plants, but a challenge is that these plants are not exposed directly to outside elements such as wind and rain.
Many of our houseplants are tropical, jungle varieties; understory plants that grow in shade and that may not tolerate bright light. Others, such as geraniums that you can overwinter indoors, are sun-loving tender perennial species that will thrive with the brightest light. When selecting a plant for a location or a location for a plant, make sure you understand what the best light exposure is for that species.
When grown indoors, plants collect a layer of dust on their foliage since there is no rain to wash it off. Dust has a negative effect on plants by blocking and reducing the light that reaches the leaves, which diminishes the efficiency of photosynthesis, the process by which a plant produces its own food.
Respiration and transpiration also are impacted since the gas exchange cells on leaf surfaces are also blocked by dust particles. Plants stay healthier when they are clean and can metabolize at optimal levels; this also has the added benefit of helping to keep them pest-free.
The practice of stimulating the plants with movement and dusting the leaves is recommended for all plants grown indoors. Using a fan to simulate wind and giving them a gentle shake once in a while will make them stronger and will help loosen dead leaves.
If plants are light enough to be moved to the sink or tub, they will benefit tremendously from a shower. Your hands plus a soft rag will reap healthy benefits. Providing some “wind and rain” for houseplants on a regular basis will make them strong and happy.
Indoor plants create an inviting environment with a relaxing effect. Whether you have a salvaged pot of blooming geraniums to overwinter, are starting the popular “kitchen” window herb garden, or “would really like to try growing that lemon tree,” caring for plants over the next few chilling months is a way to keep our green thumbs warm until next spring.
Submit gardening questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . They will be answered via our remote help desk system. The in person Help Desk is closed for the winter,. Find us on Facebook at Colorado Master Gardeners – El Paso County.