House Plants Slow Down for Winter

When I first brought my plants in from their little “summer vacation ” outside, I found that the ones in the south windows needed water twice a week. It was almost as if they were still outside and needing that constant moisture that they had been getting there.

It’s now been 5 weeks and they’re back on the indoor schedule. Just in this last week, they haven’t needed that mid-week drink. Some of those that I checked this weekend didn’t even need water after a full week. So growth is definitely slowing as the light diminishes.

It’s also getting cooler. And of course, as it gets cooler outside, it gets cooler inside my house. I talk about how cold we keep our house. Yesterday it was 62 degrees when I got up–that’s almost winter cold for the plants. So they will use less water–and if I don’t adjust, I will rot their roots.

Finally, not that I ever feed my house plants, but if I were so inclined, this is definitely the time to stop. With less light, less warmth and growth slowing for the winter, no feeding is needed.

If you are a house plant feeder, you can resume again when growth and light returns. For me, that’s early March. In the southern hemisphere, it would be just the opposite. They are just coming out of their winter now, so now is that time.

Poinsettia Myths

Pink Poinsettia

Remember this plant from last year?

It looks a little different now–and yet, I am expecting a bloom somewhere around the holidays or shortly thereafter.

Notice where this plant is located. It’s on a sunny southern windowsill. I have no idea how many foot candles of light it is getting but what’s important here is that it’s not in a closet or under a box–aren’t those the usual crazy places that you’re supposed to put these plants in order to force them to bloom? I ask you, if you were continually shoved in and out of a box, would you bloom? I sure wouldn’t!

The key to getting a poinsettia to bloom somewhat naturally is to keep it in a room that you don’t generally use in the evenings. That way it gets the 12-14 hours of darkness it needs to re-bloom naturally.

One other myth. Poinsettias are not poisonous. The sap might be irritating to some people. But the plant is not toxic. Other holiday plants like mistletoe and holly are far more toxic. So don’t be afraid to have them in your home.

House Plants: What Must You Know and What’s All the Rest

House plants are amazingly “in” right now. This trend has only increased during our times of quarantine. Some people grew Victory Gardens. Others stayed inside with house plants. Some did both.

But just like when I was beginning to garden (I won’t actually admit to how long ago that was, but let’s put it this way: if any of my house plants had survived from then, they would be approaching antique status), there are numerous people talking about ways to grow plants and what you need to know.

It sounds quaint now–or it does to me, but I never bought into it back then–but there were lots of ” home remedy ” type ideas about growing plants when I was a beginner gardener.

Yes , we still have some home remedies around. I even spray milk myself as a fungicide (speaking of home remedies). But these were things like using 7-Up on your lawn and beer for something–don’t ask me because I paid little attention to most of it.

Today everything is about science. We need to know how many foot candles of light a plant needs in order for it to grow properly. Everyone needs a light meter to place plants appropriately.

Really? I don’t want to discredit the fine folks who are writing about this but really?

Perhaps if I lived in a place with fewer windows–or where my windows were obstructed by tall buildings–I might question the quality of my light. But most likely not. I suspect that I would need plants for low light and adjust accordingly.

South window with house plants

After all, part of the year, my windows are obstructed by deciduous trees. You can see that the window in the above photo–a south window–is actually shaded fairly heavily right now by a Japanese maple. In another month, all that shade will be goner. I, and the plants, manage to adjust accordingly.

There’s surely no harm in using a light meter or figuring out foot candles for your various plants. But I don’t find it necessary and think it is overly complicated. Look out the window. Use common sense.

What you do need to do is to learn botanic–or Latin–names for the plants. It’s the only way to assure yourself of getting the correct plants. You don’t have to memorize anything. But it’s very helpful to know the difference say, between monstera deliciosa and monstera adansonii. Both are referred to as Swiss Cheese Plant (& very trendy right now) but the first has those distinct cut leaves that you often see displayed in vases while the second is a tropical vine with leaves whose perforations are enclosed. You want the one that you want and not a relative or a cousin, so to speak.

So if I were trying to comprehend house plants right now, I would spend some time learning the correct botanic names for the ones that I wanted to grow.

I would learn about the growing conditions they like (warm or cool, lots or humidity or is the average home fine) which catalogs, growers sites, and other resources readily provide. And I would begin to add things slowly.

When find things that grow well for me–that I also like–I generally buy more of the same variety in different cultivars. It works out well.

Fall Will Be Canceled Due to Drought

Is there lawn under there?

A friend in the middle of the country remarked this week that it must be pretty lovely by now where I live.

Normally it should and would be. But we are having such a severe drought that leaves are shriveling on the trees in many cases.

This is not how maple leaves should look. They should be a glorious mix of red, orange and yellow.

This dogwood should be a lovely russet red, not sickly yellow.

And this was a blue spruce. It survived our last drought. It’s going to have to be taken out shortly. Evergreens have a tougher time with drought because they can’t drop leaves to conserve moisture.

Container blueberries

These are about the only things with any color on our property. They look good because they got some regular watering over the summer.

As much as I hate the idea of a snowy winter, we desperately need moisture. I will endure it for the good of the garden!

More About Trees

Fall Trees

On Friday, I posted a bit about trees, vines, and tree management. This is on my mind right now for a couple of reasons.

First, if we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, New England would be just full of visitors right now who had come to see the fall foliage. While the were here, they would do some other New England things: maybe have a lobster roll, or buy some real maple syrup (or many other things made with maple syrup or sugar) to bring home, or maybe visit one of our farms or mazes.

We are lucky if local people are doing those things now. It’s just one of the ways the world has changed at the moment.

Abother reason trees are on my mind is that so many were damaged by our tropical storm in early August. Many people are still cleaning up tree damage from that storm. In my particular part of the state, as the worst of the storm went by, we had a tornado warning. Tornadoes did touch down elsewhere, but here they did not. However, trees were ripped off 20-30′ in the air and hurled some distance.

Do not underestimate the words “tropical storm.” A tropical storm can cause an amazing amount of damage, particularly if a large tree uproots on your house.

Finally, after all the chainsawing and woodchipping of the last 2 months, it is heartening to see several neighbors planting trees. One neighbor has planted 4 and another has 7 on his lawn waiting to be planted.

The neighbor with the 7 trees has already planted 2 new ones. And don’t think that this is a neighbor who escaped the tropical storm with no damage. He was one of the ones that had a tree on his roof! So it’s heartwarming to me to see that he is replacing lost trees.

A few of my neighbors have reacted to falling trees–or even falling tree limbs–over the years by cutting down every last tree on their properties. That is just the sort of thing that makes me crazy.

Life is full of risks. And so long as we do what we can to properly manage those we can control, it is pleasurable. Those same neighbors that cut down all the trees didn’t stop driving or flying. It would have been far easier for them just to prune their trees. But no one ever said everyone is logical!

Connecticut’s Tree Problem

English ivy on a sugar maple

Have you ever seen English ivy fruit? This is why it’s listed as invasive in many climates. Here in Connecticut it has not run rampant yet. If our winters continue to be warmer, that may change.

But fruiting English ivy allows birds to spread it to other places. Still, that’s the least of the issues. Notice, in the top photo, how abundant it is on that maple. The weight of those vines is quite something, which we only discovered as pieces of them have been dislodged over the years in various storms (yes, these are my trees ). In certain instances, when the vines have come down, we have had to cut them into pieces to move them.

So when ice or snow builds up on these vines, it makes them even heavier. It’s enough to topple trees, although so far ours still stand.

This Virginia creeper, lovely as it is, and great for the birds, with lots of berries, also loves trees. Here it’s just scrambling over our woodpile. We fight constantly to keep it from our dogwood. Right plant, right place.

You can see it climbing up on our pines in the photo. It won’t do any harm if it get on the trunk. It would have quite a way to get into the canopy. If that happens, it can be cut back. On these trees, there’s not a lot of low branches like the dogwood.

Many times over the years , after storms have brought down trees, vines in the canopy were blamed. We try to manage our trees so that no vines get into and over the canopy, weakening them, and making them susceptible to wind, ice, snow and other weather issues.

But of course, trees are living things and you can’t manage everything. You just hope that you have prepared as best you can before the storms come.