I had thought this was a well-settled practice: we don’t fertilize house plants in winter months (whatever those months are for you).
But this year, I have begun to see all sorts of social media posts, accompanied by photos, of plants with new leaves and the advice to keep fertilizing through winter.
What’s going on?
To be honest, I think that people are seeing leaves and believing that plants need fertilizer in winter. Do they?
They surely do not in my house. This is not to say that none of my plants ever make new leaves in winter. Some occasionally do. The ones most likely to put on new growth in the winter are my ancient ficus elastica ( but neither of my two newer ones grow–perhaps because they are variegated); a saxifrage; a couple of rex begonias, an osmanthus–very few plants.
The photo above–the bird of paradise with what looks like a new leaf about to unfurl–that leaf has looked like that since I acquired the plant in December. I even did the unthinkable and potted it in my own container (because the nursery pot was just unacceptable and nearly broken–it really couldn’t live in that pot until about now, which is what I normally would have let it do) and that leaf stayed tightly closed. No growth for me in December, January, February or even early March. This is why we call it the frozen north–and don’t waste fertilizer.
In fact, I can more easily number the plants that lose more leaves than not: croton, calatheas, anglaeonemas, citrus, abutilon, even my pothos will lose leaves and not gain any until a month or two from now.
So for me to actually fertilize any of this would be absurd. I know my plants.
But for those who do see growth, more power to them. They must live in a warmer home than mine (not hard to do) and perhaps have different latitude.
I can’t pass judgment on them for fertilizing–but I do think they ought not presume that everyone has plants growing in the winter and should be doing the same thing.