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Indoor Gardens
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The Challenge Of Winter

Having green things growing in the house during the dark and dreary days of winter can lift our spirits and help us look forward to the warmer days of spring. Unfortunately, those of us who live in the more northerly zones often find it difficult to keep the indoor garden thriving through the toughest months. Reduced sunlight, lack of humidity, and drafts can all negatively impact our plants.

A good first step in keeping the indoor garden healthy is to choose unfussy houseplants that allow for a lot of leeway with exposure and temperature. Difficult exotics that may fare well during warm, long days, may shrivel, drop leaves, or suddenly die when conditions change for the worst. Leave those plants to friends who have a greenhouse or a sunroom where they can be pampered through winter. For the rest of us, there is a long list of hardier plants such as philodendrons, spathaphylium, dracaenas, plus many more that can handle a wider range of sun exposure and humidity.

Moving plants closer to light sources is one way to help compensate for shorter days. My spatiphyllum gets moved only a few inches closer to a glass slider. I'm careful not to place it too close as the slider is drafty and most plants hate that. A few inches seems to be enough though, as it continues to bloom even in December and January, and is a most welcome sight when nothing else here is flowering. If you happen to have abundant light in a kitchen or bathroom, moving plants there also helps solve the problem of lower humidity levels as they're usually the most humid rooms in a house.

If you can't move your plants, all is not lost. I have a large grape ivy that has to stay put year round. New leaves that sprout in winter are significantly smaller than the ones produced in spring in summer, but this is not a problem. When the days get longer, I just cut it back a good six to eight inches and get vigorous new growth as spring progresses. It helps that grape ivy is indifferent to humidity levels. A humidifier helps the other plants (and me) be more comfortable in the dry heat of the house.

Choosing the right plants and providing a little extra TLC during winter allows us to keep our indoor garden healthy and gives us something to enjoy as we dream of spring.