By Julie Martens
As winter snow flies, stoke your garden passion by tending houseplants. Winter care requires TLC, especially in the watering department. I overwatered my 20-year-old Thanksgiving cactus last winter—it’s barely clinging to life. This winter I’m proceeding with caution as I water indoor plants. Finesse your watering by following this checklist:
It’s tricky to know when to water. When plants wilt and soil is dry, the signal is clear: Bring on the water!
But it’s best not to let soil dry out so much that plants wilt. When plants become that dry, they’re more susceptible to pests and diseases. The best way to know when to water is to touch the soil. Insert a finger to the first knuckle. If soil is dry that deep, grab the watering can.
For small houseplants, such as this vining violet, you also can use a lift test. Lift the pot after watering. Feel how water adds weight. As soil dries out, the pot becomes lighter.
Know Your Plants
Some plants don’t need a lot of water. Succulents, for example this Zamia, have thick, fleshy leaves that store water.
Plants with thinner leaves, such as the wilted vining violet (above), need watering more frequently. Do a little research to learn how much water your plants crave.
Know Your Pots
Unglazed terra-cotta pots are porous, which means water evaporates through the sides. That makes them perfect for plants that like their roots on the dry side. This includes succulents, cacti, and Mediterranean plants, such as rosemary.
On the other hand, you need to frequently check the soil for water-craving houseplants in terra-cotta pots, and water them as needed.
Xanadu philodendron is an eye-catching houseplant that’s even more striking when slipped into a cachepot.
Cachepots make for great décor. But they are easy to overwater because water that drains through soil is hidden from sight.
Check all houseplants an hour or so after watering, and dump any water in the cachepot or saucer. Allowing houseplants to sit in water is a quick path to drowning.
Winter Means Rest
In winter many houseplants experience their slowest growth, so they’re not using as much water. As spring sunshine arrives, plants dry out more quickly. In the meantime, while winter lingers do your best—like me—to avoid drowning your houseplants.