Keeping your tropical plants happy can be hard during the short, dark days of December. If we humans suffer from *SAD, imagine what plants go through. They depend on light to make their food.
Grooming: I have a few nasty looking leaves—yellow with brown spots, ugh—on my Monstera Philodendron. Does this mean it’s about to transpire its last, or due for the compost heap? No, rest assured, it’s just winter. After spending the summer outdoors, it’s been inside for the past three weeks. It’s sulking, and has a right to, having to make do with the paltry light that’s coming through the window at the moment. There’s no match for the number of foot candles (light measurement) it enjoyed outside, in full sun. Leaves will yellow—it’s completely normal—but the plant will live. Use a sharp pair of scissors to make a clean cut close to the base of the leaf or stalk, and your plant will look immediately fresher. Continue to remove anything yellow (or crinkly) as soon as you see it.
Humidity: Increase the indoor humidity two ways. By spraying the plant with plain water from a plastic mister, and by using a layer of pebbles on the bottom of the saucer. Water will drain into the saucer and slowly evaporate, creating a humid micro climate for the plant. (Aquarium gravel, or fine stones work well.) The plant is suspended above the water level by the gravel, so roots don’t rot. Even when the plant doesn’t need to be watered, you can top up the water in the gravel to keep humidity up.
Increase the light: Train a table lamp, a clamp lamp, or even position a mirror to maximize the light the plant gets during the day and night. I have a swing-out mirror in my bathroom that is pointed at a staghorn fern during the day. The light coming in through the window gets reflected right onto the plant, which is in a bit of a dark corner. It really helps.
If you have a basement or spare room to install a fluorescent plant-light unit, here’s a neat trick. Buy two identical plants. Keep one plant under the lights, and another in the house. After a couple of weeks, rotate them, so that you always have a perky plant to show off. I do this with pots of cat grass.
Give plants a little extra TLC in winter’s worst dark days. Then you can look forward to a growth spurt in February when the days get longer.
*Seasonal Affective Disorder