Caring for houseplants in late winter

foliage plant

Q. Is there anything that I should be doing in March to my houseplants?

A. March is the time when houseplants begin their normal active growth state. Some houseplants, such as African violets, (Saintpaulia), actively grow and flower all winter. However, many tropical houseplants begin to wake up from their winter dormancy beginning in March. Now is a good time to repot them, unless you have plants that do not require annual repotting, such as spider plant, (Chlorophytum comosum) or Norfolk Island Pine, (Araucaria heterophylla). 

When repotting a plant that has outgrown its container, it is best to select a pot one size larger than the original. Be sure the new pot has adequate drainage holes. Carefully remove plants from their original pots by gently tapping the pot; do not pull the plants from the pots. Inspect the plants thoroughly and trim off any dead roots. If the plant is already too large to transplant into a larger pot, root pruning will allow it to be comfortably returned to the same pot. Pots should be cleaned before transplanting. If you experienced previous problems with disease, thoroughly wash and sterilize the used pots with a 10% bleach solution mixed with water (1 part household bleach to 9 parts water). Replace old potting soil with a lightweight medium specially formulated for houseplants. If your plants have been free of disease and insect problems, used potting soil can be recycled by placing it in a compost pile. Use specific soil formulations for plants such as cacti and other succulents. A slow-release fertilizer can be added to the potting soil according to product label directions before the plant is placed in the pot. 

Resume more frequent watering to prepare houseplants for their active growth cycle. As new growth starts, begin to regularly fertilize the plants, either with a slow-release or balanced liquid fertilizer according to product label directions and the plants’ requirements. Certain plants such as tropical Hibiscus perform better if they receive more light; therefore, if possible, move the plants to a brighter location.