The average home can be pretty grim in mid-winter, mostly just shades of white and grey, along with any colors in the furniture and walls.  Some bright greens are needed now, some flowers, some scent, some reason to walk into a room and smile, instead of frown.  Which is why every home needs some plants.

Almost any department store will sell you a plant stand that stands as high as you wish, even 6 or 7 feet with shelves that can be adjusted to hold tall plants and/or short ones.  And almost every house has at least one south facing window so plants can get as much light as possible.  What else do you need, except to go shopping in those department stores again or any greenhouses still open and buy some plants, scatter them picturesque on those new shelves, and enjoy?

Unfortunately, plants are just a little harder to keep inside than they are out, and you’ll have to do just a little work to keep them healthy and happy.  Your first need is to select plants that can handle fairly low light, low humidity, and cool air, since no one keeps their rooms at 80 degrees or more in winter.  Who can afford it?

My plant shelves always hold geraniums, usually transplanted from flower beds.  Geraniums are extremely tough individuals who can handle almost anything.  I have impatiens and coleus too, both of which can handle low light and temperatures, and both again taken from flower beds in fall.  If the pair have a problem, it’s that they’re prone to insect diseases from spider mites to white flies.  A good spraying with an ordinary insecticide once a week can handle the problem.

Bamboo is always a good choice, another tough plant that looks good, and you won’t go wrong with aloe vera, begonias, cactus, bonsai plants, spider plants, various vines, and similar offerings.  Actually, if winter plants have a problem, it’s you!  Home owners like to kill their plants with kindness and tend to water and fertilize them every day or at least every couple of days.  Winter plants living in a cool, low light environment grow slowly and need little water.  If you water too often, they’ll develop root rot or other problems and die.

So, you leave the plants alone, and every few days insert a finger deep in the soil.  If it’s dry, then water thoroughly until fluid comes out the bottom into the plastic saucer below.  Let the soil drain for 15 minutes or so, and pour out the saucer water.  Then leave it alone until it feels dry to your finger, and water again.  That might come to once a week, or even more, though a light potting soil in a low humidity room can dry sooner.

Light is your other major problem.  Most winter plants don’t need much, but they do need it all over.  So, it’s important to turn the plants every few days so sunlight can reach all sides.  Fail to do so, and you’ll soon have plants green and lush on the window side, dry, brown, and dying on the room side. Ferns are particularly prone to the problem.  People often buy a beautiful fern and hang it near a window or place it on a stand only to have leaves start to fall and the plant start to look ratty because they never turned it once.  So, they buy another.  And another.  It’s cheaper to just turn them.

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