University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Winter News ArticleWATERING HOUSEPLANTS AND OTHER JANUARY GARDENING TIPS
Leonard Perry, UVM Horticulturist
and Charlie Nardozzi, Garden Consultant
Watering houseplants properly, checking them for spider mites
regularly, and ordering seeds early are some of the gardening
activities for this month.
Feel the soil of your houseplants. When it's dry an inch or so
deep, apply enough water so it comes out the bottom drainage hole.
The larger the pot, the longer you can wait in between watering. If
you have a fireplace or forced-air heat, you may have to water small
pots every couple of days. Humidifiers are very beneficial for
plants, and for us. Even setting plants on a tray of pebbles, kept
moist, will help them.
Many houseplants, including palms and cyclamen, are attacked by
spider mites this time of year. They are microscopic creatures that
suck plant juices, causing the leaves to look speckled or silvery.
To scout for these pests, mist the plants lightly; if mites are
present, the water droplets will cling to the mites' fine webbing.
Control them by misting plants daily to keep the humidity high
(spider mites love dryness) and by spraying plants with insecticidal
If you want to have the best selection of plants ready to go into
the ground when you're ready to plant, place plant orders early. The
selection dwindles the longer you wait, especially for new and
unusual varieties. Some very tiny seeds such as begonias need to be
sown in winter. Others, such as the All-America winning coneflower
PowWow Wild Berry, need to be sown the end of January in order to
bloom the first year from seed.
Most coneflowers (Echinacea) will need to be purchased as
plants, either through catalogs, online, or from local nurseries
this coming season. To get an idea of which of the hundreds now
available may perform best in our climate, look over the results of
several years of trials so far with this genus
(pss.uvm.edu/ppp/coneflowers16.pdf). Youíll want to look for ones
that not only are hardy, but also stay upright and donít flop over.
If you want to help pollinators, make sure to plant some cultivars
(cultivated varieties) that are single, not double.
Schefflera or Umbrella Plant is a common houseplant that you may
consider if you have bright light, and sufficient space. This has
glossy, leathery leaves in a pinwheel shape. While the common
species has up to 7 leaflets, up to a foot long, the dwarf
schefflera has 7 to 11 leaflets only up to 4-inches long. The
species can get up to 8 feet or more high indoors, and about 4-feet
wide, while the dwarf one only gets about 4 feet high and wide
indoors. Keep these plants away from drafts, and donít overwater
If you keep any kind of gardening journal, dig it out now and
refresh your memory about what worked and what didn't work last
year. Read notes you took at garden visits and gardening workshops
to give you ideas of plants and techniques you may want to try this
year. If you don't have a gardening journal, just designate a small
notebook as a place to collect your thoughts and wish lists. You may
have a folder for each year to tuck notes into during the year,
(such as ideas for next yearís vegetable garden, and what varieties
that you want to try), as well as plant lists, receipts (to know
what you bought), and maps of what was planted last year and where.
Other garden-related activities for this month include keeping bird
feeders filled and cleaned regularly, making plans to attend one of
our garden tours this coming season
(pss.uvm.edu/ppp/forpecon.htm#tours), gently removing heavy snow
from shrub branches, using deicing salts that are safe for plants
and pets, and checking stored root crops and bulbs for rots.
Nardozzi is a nationally known horticulturist, author, gardening
consultant, and garden coach; gardeningwithcharlie.com).
Return to Perry's Perennial