Houseplants: ‘Most common’ reason plants ‘perish’ – how to look after them in winter

Gardeners' World: How to care for houseplants

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Houseplants can provide the home with a variety of different benefits and are often easy to look after, as long as they are watered correctly. John Dempsey at, shared top tips on how houseplant owners can make sure their plants survive the winter.

The expert said: “Over the colder months, limit your plants’ intake of food and fertilisers. Many houseplants become dormant over the colder months.

“They may look a little sorry for themselves, however, they are still alive and kicking.

“The dormant stage sees them suspend the growing process and a slower rate of photosynthesis, which is why food is not necessary. Fertiliser should be diluted in the winter months by half.

“Overwatering and underwatering are the most common reasons that plants perish.

“Many plant parents observe the top layer of soil, consider it dry and then water, when in fact the soil underneath the top layer is perfect.

“Of course, some neglect their plants altogether and forget to water them, leading them to die.”

The expert explained that there is an easy check to see whether or not the plant needs water.

John said to dip your index finger into the soil and if it is damp, then it doesn’t need watering.

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He added: “If it is dry then it may need watering. Ensure that all water is drained from the pot to avoid root rot. Keep in mind, cacti and succulents prefer drier conditions.

“If you wish to replicate the humid conditions of a plant’s natural habitat, mist its leaves with water to keep its environment saturated.”

In the winter, some houseplants might thrive better in a different location.

This may be away from direct heat sources, which can kill plants.

John said: “The intense heat that flows from radiators will put stress on even the hardiest of houseplants, especially those that prefer humid conditions.

“A radiator that provides a lot of heat will rapidly rob a plant of moisture, especially its soil.”

Signs of houseplant stress include yellow leaves, wilting and stems turning brown.

According to the expert, moving plants to an area of the home which experiences a draft, may be ideal.

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He added: “The colder months mean shorter days, as indoor plants experience limited sunlight. It’s important to be mindful of this and reposition plants to places where they will receive the most natural light.

“A plant often signals if it’s in need of more light as it begins to lean towards it.

“Households tend to experience high amounts of dust throughout the cooler months.

“Ensure that plants are kept dust-free as a layer of dust on the leaves will create a barrier, preventing them from receiving sufficient light.

“Before losing faith in your plant, determine if it’s dormant or too ill to recover. If it’s dormant, the plant will gain a new lease of life towards the spring.”

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