Banish Gardener’s Droop: Have a Winter Garden

Potted houseplants, like this azalea, let us enjoy a winter garden.

We’ve just had the shortest day of the year—the Winter Solstice—and from now on we’ll enjoy a few Extra Minutes of Daylight. Hurray. As this is a barely detectable change, I’m taking steps to surround myself with more growing things to brighten the gloom. I normally overwinter my tender plants in a downstairs sun porch. Unfortunately, far away, they are easy to forget. They are far from the tap, so watering is a big production. I often walk by them feeling guilty as I go out the front door. This year I am bringing more plants into my apartment. Even though my place is small, with NO ROOM for plants, I am tucking them in everywhere. Right now there’s an azalea in bloom a few inches from my keyboard and it’s making me happy. I’ve got geranium cuttings in 1″ clay pots lined up on my window sashes. My Dr Suess-like twisty old geraniums are in my south window.

9 Reasons to have a winter garden

1. Winter gardens ward off “gardener’s droop”. This insidious malady starts at the first snowfall, even if it’s only a dusting. Gloom descends on the chirpiest of gardeners, as it’s the official end of an activity we love so much. Toronto’s You Grow Girl, Gayla Trail, wrote a great post recently about the wretched state gardeners get into when the snow starts flying.

2. Spring Preview: A plant’s leaf size announces the growing strength of the sun. Come February, house plant leaves and stems fatten up, growing larger and sturdier. Flowering plants like geraniums start popping out blooms. It’s only a matter of time before crocuses start pushing up.

3. It’s fun spritzing your plants in the sink with a plastic water sprayer. I pretend I’m a giant in the rainforest for a few minutes while I’m doing it. Spraying h20 helps ward off spider mites, fights overheated house syndrome, and gets rid of dusty leaves.

christmas tree with silver ornaments and white lights

Fiesta Gardens sells the world’s best (and eas­i­est to use) tree stand, with a large water reservoir.

4. If you don’t have one already, get some winter greenery or a Christmas tree. For the next 10 days you’ll have the outdoors indoors and exercise your Inner Pagan. (They’re the ones that started with the indoor greenery) Make sure you keep your tree well watered, with an efficient tree stand that holds a large amount of water to keep your tree hydrated. Trees can suck up a lot of water in a day, and will transpire the moisture into the house, which benefits your indoor environment. No room for a tree? My place isn’t big enough for one, so I put some evergreen fronds in a container, with some sparkly lights. It’s the next best thing.

5. Hate to water? Grow tall, spiky Sanseveria (Mother in Law’s Tongue) or Crassula (Jade Plant) if you are a forgetful or lazy gardener. They can take drought. Sanseverias are known as the bedroom plant, as they give off oxygen at night, making your indoor air quality better while you sleep.

6. Trick for dark spaces: Buy two of one kind of plant, (an azalea or caladium for example). Keep one in a sunny spot and one in your darker corner. Rotate the plants every couple of days. Azaleas and caladiums both like it on the cool side, so they are fine right up against a window.

7. Buy an orchid in bloom. Once in flower, they flower for months.

8. Herbs all winter. If you have a sunny window, or light fixture, keep rosemary, chives, basil, and sage growing for the kitchen. Although most herbs like to dry out in between waterings, a little spritz of water on the foliage every few days keeps them happy and healthy.

9. Watering and grooming plants gives you that summer in the garden feeling. I rather like snipping off the yellow leaves of my overwintering geraniums. It’s restful and gives me something to pop into my worm composter.

Do you have any winter garden strategies? Let us know in the comments.

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