(Wet) Winter Care For Tropical Plants
The BOM has spoken. It is going to be a wet and soggy winter from July onwards, and this atypical QLD winter weather is going to raise some atypical challenges for our tropical plants.
Tropical plants, of course, don’t mind a bit of water, but they are very vulnerable to the cold. In the cooler weather, water isn’t readily absorbed, so fungal problems and root rot can really ramp up.
So, with more rain and cold weather heading our way…what can you do to protect your tropical plants?
These tips are aimed towards SE QLD conditions, but will apply to anyone with tropical plants in Australia.
10 TIPS FOR CARING FOR TROPICAL PLANTS IN WINTER
Move potted tropical plants inside or to a sunny garden spot.
If you have potted plants, now’s the time to move them if you haven’t already — particularly with this early cold snap we’re experiencing!
You’ll also find indoor plants really follow the light as the days get shorter and cooler, so you may need to play ‘musical plants’ and move them around.
- Put your plants on a diet.
Most tropical plants will really slow down their growth in the winter months, even so far as some are going dormant and dropping their leaves (here’s looking at you Alocasias). You definitely don’t want to overfeed tropical plants at this time of year, and you want to let the soil dry out a bit.
Cut watering back to once every 4-5 days (less if you’ve had rain), and fertilise once a month or thereabouts.
When watering is required, make sure you do it in the morning so that the soil has the whole day to dry out.
Action Stations for Fungal Attacks!
We are talking a LOT about fungi with our customers at present, as the mega-drenching of the last few months has really ramped up fungal problems on tropical plants.
You'll need to be particularly vigilant checking your plants this winter for those telltale signs of black on leaves and stems. When you see some, whip out the anti-fungal spray. We recommend Mancozeb Plus, which we sell in-store.
Create a microclimate.
If you have your tropical plants in pots, cluster them together in groups to create their own little microclimate. It only takes 4-5 plants before you’ll start to see the benefits, as they start creating their own humidity. Mad, but true.
- Aerate your top layer of soil and mulch.
Soggy mulch and topsoil needs to be aerated so it can dry out and drain efficiently again. Get a fork or rake and stir up the top layer.
Consider new drainage solutions.
The soil is nice and easy to dig at present, so it’s a good time to lay some Ag-pipe to direct any heavy water flow away from your garden beds.
In our landscaping business, we always install ag-pipe drainage; it’s a vital part of garden design and will often save your gardens in really big rains. We offer a landscape design service if you need professional help with planning and installing better drainage or raised garden beds.
Create well-drained garden beds and potting mix.
Well drained garden beds are your saviour in the wet. Use a high quality, well-draining soil mix.
If you have heavy clay soil, add some gypsum to break it down.
Add stones/bark/perlite to any soil to help make the mix more porous.
Do a PH test.
High rainfall can lead to an increase in acidity of the soil, which will often decrease the availability of essential nutrients for plants and be quite detrimental. We suggest doing a PH test to check your soil.
If you find increased acidity, the best way to neutralise it is with the addition of lime or dolomite, which we sell in-store.
Hold off on planting into the ground.
Don’t plant any tropical plants directly into your garden in winter; the soil will be too cool for them to grow. Wait until spring. If you’re planting them into pots, but be sure to keep them either indoors or on a warm, bright patio or verandah. They will still grow, but not at the pace of spring and summer.
OK, that’s it from us for now. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop into the nursery or give us a call.