It never fails that something is forgotten.
At the end of summer when night temperatures begin hovering around freezing and bright sunny mornings are apt to burn tender leaves through glistening drops of moisture, there is usually something that has been left behind.
I invariably find a tender plant or a wayward container out in the weather that my husband or I forgot to bring indoors. A couple years ago, I lost a dragon-wing begonia to an unexpected cold spell because it was overlooked when other plants were brought indoors.
Most plants are easily replaced, but to lose a plant because of our own neglect and forgetfulness can be traumatic. It might be just a plant, but when there is sentimental value attached, it becomes something more.
In the case of the dragon-wing begonia, of course I can go to any garden center and buy a new one. Dragon-wing begonias grow like weeds (provided they aren't left out in the cold), and can be easily propagated by simply sticking a leaf stem in a pot of soil and kept moist. How hard is that? But a friend who recently passed away gave me this cutting from her own collection, and it was that particular dragon-wing begonia that was important.
Taking care of indoor plants can be a difficult for some, but for others, it seems to be second nature. I've been to houses where the windows were bursting with plants of all shapes and sizes, hung on decorative hooks, clinging to window shelves and draping plant stands. I've also been to houses where I have been told, "I have a black thumb. Everything I touch immediately dies."
It might be easier if we consider where the plant, or its ancestors, originally lived. Is your favorite plant from the tropics or the Mediterranean region of Europe? Does it grow at the top of a mountain in lots of sunshine or does it hide beneath taller plants where it gets filtered sunlight? Duplicating these conditions is the best way to keep those indoor plants alive through winter.
The best windows for many houseplants in winter are those that face south or west. South is the better and brighter of the two because the sun is lower in the southern sky in winter. It is also the hottest. Plants that need lots of direct light can benefit from a southern-facing window, but sunlight through glass windows can create a lot of heat and some plants might suffer leaf burn if they are too close. Using sheer curtains or mini-blinds can lessen the heat while still giving the plants enough light.
Most indoor plants can adapt to varying light conditions. What is important is to be mindful when we move those plants into different conditions from where they are used to growing.
To avoid stress from changing a plant's location, acclimate them first by moving them into their new location for several hours a day for a couple weeks before making the move permanent.
Also, it is important to remember that even indoor growing plants need a rest now and then. Like outdoor plants, most indoor plants take their break during the winter months when there isn't as much light available. Remember to water them less frequently and hold off on fertilizer during this time.
Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University Extension of Trumbull County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.