Tropical plants, such as codiaem variegatum, need extra care in dry heat. (istock)
Houseplants take a beating at this time of year. The humidity drops when the furnace goes on, and for plants itís like living in the desert ó even though many have their origins in the rain forest.
To make matters worse, short days and lots of cloud cover reduce the amount of sun they get. For those who like to bask in the rays, it can be stressful. And to add insult to injury, many plants lose their prime piece of real estate to the Christmas tree during the holidays and end up on a shelf or in a dark corner. A few days without the proper amount of sunlight wonít do a great deal of harm, but if the plantís leaves begin to turn to the sun and start to pale, the plant is hurting and should be moved to brighter location.
Cold drafts are another issue. Tropical plants can get cranky when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees. I am one of the unfortunates who lost power when an ice storm hit the Saturday before Christmas. My collection of succulents in my little conservatory is toast, frozen solid. Those in the house are still alive, but the last time I checked the temperature in the living room had dropped to 42 degrees. As I write this column on Christmas Eve, DTE tells me my electricity should be restored by midnight. There are no guarantees.
So what happens if my little succulents survive the cold treatment? And what can you do to help your stressed-out plants that suffered humidity and light deprivation?
First, resist the temptation to fertilize. Feeding a stressed plant will only stimulate it to grow, stressing it further. Water is key, but not too much. Limp leaves could be caused by cold or heat stress, so check the soil before watering. If it feels damp to the touch, pass on the H20.
To increase the humidity around plants, donít mess with the ďmist them twice a day routine.Ē Itís a waste of time and can trash a nice wooden tabletop. Better to set the plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water with the level of the H20 just below the base of the plant pot.
If any of my plants survive, Iíll water them every two weeks with my rescue remedy made up of ľ teaspoon Super Thrive and 1 tablespoon liquid seaweed (available at independent garden centers) to a gallon of water thatís room temperature.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question, visit Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.