houseplant tuneup: late-winter care regimen
HOW WOULD YOU FEEL (and look!) if you hadn’t showered since October? Well, my houseplants have been cursing me lately because like patients confined to a hospital bed—which is how the heated house must feel to them in winter—they want out, or at least some rain. Everyone lined up yesterday for a turn in the shower, some grooming, a proper meal and yes, even a haircut. Late-winter houseplant care time!
Days are longer, and the houseplants signal it gradually from late January on. Now they’re telling me that they are really awake, and I need to pay attention.
Most of my charges get groomed and have a quick shower first, in my Victorian clawfoot tub. I put a bit of screen over the drain to catch particles from washing down.
To rehydrate and lightly feed, I then use a plastic dishpan maybe one-quarter filled with water and seaweed-fish emulsion concentrate diluted to label directions. Each plant stands in there to “bottom-water” itself, percolating up moisture and hydrating better than it can when watered from up top.
Once the bubbling stops and the pot feels “full,” I set it to drain in a second dishpan, then back onto their saucer it goes, one after another until everyone is happy. Some details:
Bromeliads like the one up top (on its way into the tub) couldn’t be easier, and make great outdoor plants in summer, too. Yesterday I trimmed off dead foliage, and gave them all a good shower. The basics of bromeliad care.
I have many fancy-leaf begonias, both cane types and rhizomatous ones (such as ‘Black Magic,’ looking all pitiful and straggly, below, before some rehab). The poor dear and his cousins are spindly from low light, but there are energetic-looking masses of small leaves suddenly emerging at the base, from the rhizomes, so I picked out dead stuff and trimmed off all the pendulous leaves and fed him, and all is well (if a bit more compact temporarily).
How I grow begonias, indoors and out (including great resources on their care, and places to shop for them). Soon ‘Black Magic’ will be full and happy again, more like this:
I’ve been watering my clivias again since January sometime, after two and a half of three months of withholding water (true!). Their lustrous strappy leaves (below) are a magnet for dust, so the shower was most welcome in this case. I expect to see some flower stalks start pushing up soon. How I care for Clivia. (I’ve had some of my giant plants for more than 20 years, by the way.)
I won’t repot things until next month, when I can lay a tarp down outdoors, only because of the mess. If you have the right indoor spot for potting, or you weather’s fairer than mine, the time is right for those in need of bigger quarters.
All my houseplant adventures are here, in the archive.