Does your senior garden extend indoors? If so, this would be a good time to give your houseplants some tender loving care. If you don’t have houseplants, this winter would be an opportune time to turn to indoor gardening. After all, this segment of the plant market continues to grow. It’s only natural, then, that you should join the trend and garden for 12 months a year.
Many gardeners move their houseplants outdoors for the spring, summer and fall, and then bring them back indoors for the winter. Surely, you care for them when they’re outside. You water them when nature turns off the rain. You deadhead them to encourage new flower growth. They may need a bit of fertilizer and, possibly, some insect and disease control when they’re outside for their summer vacation. And those tasks have to be worked in among your seasonal outdoor gardening.
In winter, you may be seeking ways to keep your green thumb from fading. Some care your houseplants would appreciate, in addition to watering, deadheading, fertilizing and controlling pests, include…
• Cleaning the leaves. Dust tends to settle on plant leaves. Outdoors, wind and rain remove most of the dust. Inside, however, air movement is not fast enough to remove dust. The easiest way to keep your houseplants dust-free is to spritz the leaves and then wipe them gently with a soft cloth.
• Repot when necessary. Check the roots periodically to be sure they’re not pot bound. Gently remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots. If they’re growing around the plant instead of downward, you have two choices. If you want them to keep growing, repot them into a larger container. Choose a new pot that’s only a size or two bigger than the current container. Check it in a year to see if it needs to be repotted into a bigger container. Plants prefer repotting in increments to being planted in a much larger pot. And, they won’t look like a person dressed in clothes that are too big. If you want a pot bound plant to continue living in the same container, root prune it. Just shorten the really long roots that are circling the plant so that they grow downward.
• Prune and remove dead leaves. Houseplants that grow too full for light to penetrate the interior or show stress even though their foliage is full may have to be thinned by pruning. Using scissors, cut out stems that won’t affect the plant’s shape. The pruning shears that you use to prune your shrubs may be too big to get into houseplants’ tight spaces. Some indoor gardeners simply use kitchen scissors. I have a pair of bonsai pruning shears that really work well. They have big handles that even my arthritic sausage fingers will fit into but the blades are real small for tight work. You can also use your shears to remove unsightly dead leaves.
• Propagate your houseplants. If you’re looking for an interesting, garden-related activity this winter, try your hand at propagating more houseplants. It’s really easy. Take a trip to your favorite garden center for a supply of small terra cotta pots, a bag of soilless potting mix and a container of rooting hormone. Take a cutting or cuttings from the plant(s) you want to propagate. Cut a piece of stem with two or three sets of leaves. Dip the stem in potting hormone and plant in a pot of potting mix. Keep the new plants moist and keep them in the light and soon you’ll see new leaves appear as they take root and begin growing. If you don’t need or want any more plants for your indoor garden, give the new plants to a charity plant sale, confident in the knowledge that you propagated it.
One important aspect of adaptive gardening is to garden smarter, not harder. Your indoor gardening can be done standing at a counter or sitting at a table. Starting now will also make your transition to indoor gardening smoother if it becomes too difficult to work outside for any length of time.
A whole section on indoor gardening begins on page 112 of my critically acclaimed book, The Geriatric Gardener: Adaptive Gardening Advice For Seniors. Order your copy at https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener