Congratulations! You found some amazing indoor house plants at the garden centre or nursery, and decided to adopt them! After the initial excitement of finding matching pots, making room in your home, and giving them catchy names...it's been a few weeks and they don't look as nice as when you first saw them! What happened? Did you fail your new indoor tropical plants somehow?
Let's talk about how to keep your indoor plants looking as amazing as when you fell in love with them.
You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine...
One of the biggest changes for tropical indoor plants, when you bring them home, is the amount of light they're getting. In the nursery or garden centre, they are generally getting their optimum light requirements. For tropicals, that means quite a lot of light everyday to mimic their native conditions!
However, once they are in your home or apartment (especially in Vancouver, Surrey and the rest of the west coast of BC) they are subject to the shorter, greyer winter days. Not to mention that not all windows get optimal light for sun loving plants.
If you find your houseplants are starting to look yellow (especial the new foliage or lower leaves), turn a paler green, or grow smaller leaves than normal, it probably means they aren't getting enough light. Other signs include long thin stems with lots of space in between the leaves or quitting their regular flowering schedule. For Monstera Philodendron, the new leaves will not have the classic split design, if the plant isn't getting enough light.
So what can you do about it? You're not in control of the weather, right? How can we make our plants happier? Relocating them to a sunnier spot is the first option. A window that gives them bright indirect sunlight for 5-6 hours of the day is optimal.
If this isn't possible, then you can also add a lamp nearby with a plant light, to add some artificial sunlight. Find more tips and ideas on finding your plants the right spot to thrive in this blog post here.
Remember though, that the natural growing cycle of plants is to go dormant and sleepy during the winter months. It's normal for your plants to grow less new leaves, even turn a shade lighter and stop flowering, between October and March. This gives them a chance to rest and rejuvenate, so they can jump back to life in the Spring when the sun comes out again.
A Healthy Diet
Another helpful way you can keep your plants healthy, and looking as good as when you first got them, is to remember to fertilize them. The nutrients in their potting soil won't last long, so they need a good balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) every 2-3 weeks during their growing season. If you notice the leaf colour is fading, and you want that vibrant green back, then a product like "Quick Green" or a similar fertilizer with extra nitrogen will add iron and quickly bring back that lovely colour.
Of course all plants need regular waterings too! You should check if your soil is dry before watering your plants, to avoid overwatering which can cause root rot. Test the top 1-2" of the soil to make sure it's dry. Alternatively you can lift the pot to check the weight of the soil, which will be heavier when it's wet, and use that as a watering guide.
Give your plants water until it starts to flow out the drainage holes, and make sure to empty the trays of excess water. Plants definitely don't like to sit in wet soil for long periods of time. They'll need less water in the winter, and more in the summer when it's warmer. Keeping your plants healthy with enough sunlight and good nutrients is the best way to avoid pests and other problems with your indoor tropicals so you can enjoy them year round!