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Growing Healthy Houseplants during Winter
INDOOR DECORATIVE PLANTS NEED EXTRA TLC
DURING WINTER MONTHS:
Q: I do not have a green thumb but I enjoy plants. I tend
to 30 houseplants at our office. We have several peace lilies, pothos,
philodendrons, spider plant, wandering jew, jade, lipstick plant, sago
palm etc. they are all just ok. Some have a little black
winged bug so I have used insecticide soap but still have some yellow
and brown leaves. They just aren't at their best. I so much want
to have strong beautiful green healthy plants. What do you recommend to
use? Foliar fertilization or soil or root feeding? Please help!
A: What you're experiencing
with your decorative plants is very normal in the winter. Your
office (or house) plants are probably not as their best for a couple of
reasons, but my guess is that it's primarily due to the lesser light
intensity of the winter sun. Just about everywhere in the U.S.
get's more sun than we do up here in the Michigan winters, but for
almost everyone it's usually less than the plants are used to in the
Is your office lit by fluorescent
bulbs? If so, you could replace the bulbs closest to the
plants with new bulbs. As fluorescent bulbs age, they decrease
in intensity, not so much to our eyes, but as far as a plants
lighting needs are concerned. Replacement of these bulbs with
new "cool white" tubes or bulbs makes a huge difference to the
plants. Expensive grow lights are nice, but regular cool white
tubes are OK for plants for about 6 or 8 months when they're new
(enough to get through the winter).
As for the plants nutritive
requirements, a common first impression is that giving them extra
fertilizer might help, but when a plant slows down due to lack of
light, they can't effectively use fertilizer at all.
One product that will help them though
is "Superthrive", which goes a long way for a suffering plant.
Superthrive is inexpensive, and although it's not a fertilizer, it
contains natural hormones (along with other non-fertilizer
supplements) that will give them a nice little burst of energy.
Another less known secret would be to
give the plants a very small taste of some natural sugars.
More specifically, I'd recommend using some "natural-unsulfured
blackstrap molasses". You can safely use about 1/2 teaspoon in a
gallon of watering for a one time treat for your
plants. The plants will use the sugar to store in their leaves
for an energy source to help them through the stress period.
Normal table sugar is NOT a good alternative. I'd stick to the
molasses, or maybe about the same quantity of honey.
Don't overdo it!
The bugs you've got are probably
thrips, and need a different treatment than insecticidal soap to be
These particular insects are a growing
problem for just about all indoor gardeners, but they seem to have
become especially annoying in the office environment because they
are attracted to the dim bluish light of computer monitors. If
you're seeing this attraction at all, then it's a confirmed case of
thrips. If not, they may be fungus gnats, and the treatment
would still be the same, but not as necessary, because gnats won't
hurt the plants as much as thrips will.
My recommendation for either of these
insects would be a product called "Monterey Garden Spray".
It's a natural bacterial treatment that comes in a concentrate, and
when mixed up and sprayed on the leaves and stems of the affected
plants, it should stop them.
Monterey Garden Spray and
your plants will thank you.