Friday, February 5, 2010

Houseplants - Spring Cleaning

I generally start my spring-cleaning of houseplants in February. There are lots of bright, sunny days & the plants just seem to crave a bit of T.L.C. after my 3 months of neglect.

Their leaves will be dusty, so on a nice warm & moderately sunny day, I'll take them outside & lightly hose them down. If that isn't an option, I also gently wipe down their leaves - easy to do with succulents that have big, firm leaves. My aloes (pictured right) usually don't get dusted, but if it's really bad, I will use small paint brushes or even q-tips...

The soil in the pots could also do with a bit of topping up with sterile potting soil - there are some blends just for houseplants or use your seed starter soil. I like to fluff the soil a bit first with a fork or my fingers, especially around the edges of the pot, to encourage the older soil to blend in a bit with the new soil. After a few months of neglect, the soil sometimes doesn't absorb water like it should. When I bring back regular watering, I usually put my plants in the sink & let them soak for 10 to 15 minutes in a few inches of water to ensure that they are actually getting watered. If you notice your soil just won't soak up water, it may be time to repot the plant & start with new soil.

Speaking of repotting plants, February is also a great time to divide plants that have become root bound or are getting too large for your space. Or to pot up new ones from cuttings or off shoots (such as my spider plant babies on the left removed in late fall & let to grow roots in water over the winter). I don't have an outdoor work area dedicated to this chore, so I get to make a mess in my kitchen (which usually leads to spring-cleaning the kitchen afterwards...). If you find that you like small sized plants, but your's keep growing like monsters, divisions or extra houseplants are wonderful spring time gifts for friends & neighbours! They may not have had as much success as you over the winter with their plants...

I also give my plants a weak dose of fertilizer during the spring-cleaning time. If there are any leaves that aren't healthy or have brown tips, I cut them out & just spend a bit of time looking at how they are growing in their pots. The spider plant (pictured right) has already rewarded me with a couple of new flower shoots that will hang down, grow little white flowers (which make a mess) but then turn into baby spider plants. I can also see if I've forgotten to rotate the pots so that all sides get even sunlight during the summer months. Nothing like a lopsided plant that tips over!

Once I've gotten my hands dirty with my houseplants, I usually can't resist checking on plants that I've been trying to overwinter - outdoor plants such as geraniums, cuttings that need to be planted in the warmer spring months, herbs that have survived in pots on my deck (such as the flat leaf parsley pictured on the left) and flower gardens that are starting to stir. Now is the tough part of the year where spring is almost here, but it's still too early to get outside to play!!

No comments: