Caring For Your Precious Plants This Winter
With Winter fast approaching, we sat down with Maddison Lippman from Exotic Nurseries to find out the best way to care for our beloved plants during the cooler months. Exotic Nurseries is one of Australia’s leading wholesale nurseries with over 30 years of experience, so it’s fair to say they know a thing or two about keeping your plants happy!
How should people prepare their plants for the cooler months?
With the colder weather well and truly approaching it is ideal to protect our leafy friends from high winds that prove to be quite a challenge throughout Winter. If however, your plants are undercover and protected from strong winds, it’s okay to let your plants brave the winter where they are.
It is important to keep watering to a minimum though and let the plants dry out naturally as best as possible. The rate in which plants dry out will vary from plant to plant. For our warmer climate plants like cacti & succulents, the advice is much the same but it is important to keep them cool when inside. If they’re too warm, they might be tricked into thinking it’s their time to grow and in the case of taller growing cacti like Euphorbia Cowboys & Ingens for example, this may cause their growth to be a lot skinnier than normal which can lead to a kind of girdling that will leave stems uneven and eventually unable to support themselves. If it’s necessary to move your plants, in particular, cacti as mentioned, a cool, dark spot like a garage is fine until the weather warms up again.
For the curious ones, a simple rule of thumb is to use your index finger second knuckle deep in the soil & if the tip of your finger is dry, that can be used as a safe indication to give them a little bit of a top-up watering. Keeping in mind, if you have plants that are sitting in saucers, ensure that there is no excess water build-up as that can upset the root system and slowly drown the plant from the outside in.
If your patio/balcony doesn’t have much protection from strong winds and large rainfall, it is advised to bring your more tender plants inside when night temperatures could be anticipated to drop below about 12 degrees.
What tips do you have for keeping plants safe in winter?
Much like preparing them for the colder months, it is advised that minimising their exposure to high winds is encouraged. Imagine it as though you’re stuck out in a high wind area with not much shelter or protection....not fun unfortunately, especially when they can’t defend themselves, they’re relying on you to do that for them. Keep taller and more delicate plants that little bit more secure that in the case of high winds that can be quite damaging, your babies aren’t falling from a great height and being damaged. Remember, they can’t stop themselves from falling. If you notice that something is a little bit off with a particular type of plant, don’t be alarmed, it’s common to see a few changes occur with plants when it gets colder, especially if your plant is quite new and is experiencing their first winter in the garden! If you find your concerns aren’t easing, a simple visit down to your local garden centre for some friendly advice is never discouraged!
Are there any products you swear by to help protect plants in the cooler months?
If only we could wrap them up in fluffy bed socks & pop them in front of a heater! As plants are much like humans in a lot of ways, a good dose (but not too much) of H2O and natural sunlight do them wonders, even in the colder parts of the year. It is important to remember that when the colder weather hits, plants go into what is called ‘dormancy’ which is simply defined as a period in an organism's life cycle when growth development/physical functions are suspended or slowed down for a period of time’, in even simpler terms, they’ve gone to sleep! This generally allows most plants to conserve energy for the warmer parts of the year as that’s where most of their work is done. So remember, don’t shock them too much by trying to have them do more work than they used to around this time of the year. They should make up for it when they wake up!
As winter is much of a place of downtime, to say the least for plants, it’s important to remember three keys points:
1. Avoid feeding & watering on a ‘need-to’ basis. Most things that are encouraged in the warmer parts of the year for plants aren’t as necessary in winter as your plant is basically asleep. Think of like as a beautiful, decadent 5-course meal being served to you whilst you’re in a deep sleep – a fantastic thought but unfortunately it would just go to waste.
2. Keep them as dry as possible but not too dry. They still like their watering but not as much as they do in late Spring and Summer. They’re happy to lay low for the most part & pick up where they left off once Spring kicks in & Summer rolls around.
3. If you’re unsure of what’s happening to your plant, don’t panic. Always ask the question. No question is ever a silly question!
Exotic Nurseries is one of Australia’s leading wholesale nurseries supplying landscape contractors, architects, designers, property developers, builders and garden centres since its establishment in 1983.
*All images remain copyright to The Balcony Garden