Transitioning Your Tropicals from Winter to Spring
Every Manitoban can appreciate the newfound energy that comes with the longer days of spring. As the sunset grows later by the day and the snow and ice begin to melt, new buds on the trees and shrubs start to swell in anticipation of spring. While most of the action is happening outdoors, we mustn’t forget that our houseplants are experiencing a transition, too!
As we gain more sunlight, tropical houseplants begin to move out of their winter dormancy. Just like a family of hibernating bears, this awakening from sleep is accompanied by a change in needs and a hunger for food and water! Here’s how to accommodate your indoor tropicals and ease them into spring.
Water More Frequently
Dormant plants are essentially frozen in time; they’re conserving energy rather than focusing on new growth and therefore consume very little water. When dormancy ends, the plant enters a growing period, and the need for water increases substantially. Most of your indoor tropicals will need to be watered every 7 days throughout spring and summer to keep up with the demands of the season.
Begin Applying Fertilizer
Ask anyone who has trained for the Manitoba Marathon, and they’ll tell you that proper nutrition is just as important as thorough hydration. The same goes for your tropicals. Now that the winter is over, fertilizer is more important than ever to give your plants the nutritional boost it needs to grow and thrive throughout the season.
Begin applying fertilizer approximately eight weeks before the last expected spring frost, which is typically just before May long weekend in Steinbach. In mid-March, start using water-soluble fertilizer at half strength. Water your tropicals thoroughly first, then make a half-strength solution of water and fertilizer and pour in onto the soil surface (avoid splashing on the plant’s foliage). Another method is to pour the solution into a saucer and place the plant pot on top. This method allows the solution to soak into the soil via the drainage holes, bringing the fertilizer closer to the root system. Apply using this method bi-weekly until the last frost has passed.
Once spring has officially arrived, transition to full-strength fertilizer according to the package directions. Continue to fertilize bi-weekly, or according to the needs of your plant.
Repot As Needed
If you notice your plant roots have started to creep through the drainage holes of their pots, now is the perfect time to repot them. Timing is everything when it comes to repotting houseplants—you want them still a little dormant, which reduces stress on the plant, but close to a period of rapid growth, during which the plant can recover from any damage sustained from the move.
Repot your tropicals on a day when they’re due for water, but not fertilizer. Water the plant thirty minutes to an hour prior to repotting. When choosing a new home for your plant, a pot with drainage holes is best. Prepare the new pot with a layer of fresh, sterile potting soil at the bottom. Remove your tropical from its old pot by gently tilting the pot to the side and slowly sliding the root ball out into your hand. Avoid grasping or tugging the plant by the stem. Once the plant is out of the old pot, gently tease the root ball apart to release old soil and separate the roots. Place the plant in the centre of the new pot and backfill around the sides with fresh soil. Add soil until the plant stands in place, tamp it down firmly, and water again to settle.
Dust Off the Leaves
Sunlight is as vital to your tropicals as water, fertilizer, and soil. Our Manitoba winters leave us with a very dusty indoor environment thanks to those long months of dry air from the furnace. When the dust settles on your tropicals’ leaves, it blocks out sunlight and slows down the process of photosynthesis. Furthermore, dusty plants are an eyesore!
If your plant has large, broad leaves, it may be easiest to simply wipe the front and back of the leaves with a soft, damp cloth. Plants with finer foliage may be easier to clean in the shower under a gentle stream of cool water. Once your plants have been dusted off, apply Miracle-Gro Leaf Shine to give them a beautiful, glossy sheen.
Once spring arrives, your tropical plants will come alive with healthy, vigorous growth and better defences against pests and disease. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy starting the new growing season surrounded by beautiful, vibrant greenery.