Caring for houseplants during the summer months is fun and rewarding. New growth comes quickly, plants look perky, and problems are minimal. Things change during the winter, leaving many to wonder how they should care for their Tradescantia.
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What Happens in Winter?
The change of season may seem obvious outdoors. But have you ever wondered why your indoor plants undergo change?
Switching to heat. Even though you likely maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, you switch from using the A/C to heat somewhere during the fall, and this change influences your environment’s ventilation and humidity.
Shorter days. Mother nature naturally gives us less light during the winter months. Your houseplant will receive fewer hours of sunlight, even if it stays in its usual summer location. Also, spots that used to receive direct sun during the summer may now only get indirect light.
Dormancy. Your plant is also experiencing changes! Its Spring-Summer growing season has come to an end, and it has become dormant. Why? Your plant is resting, essentially recharging for next year! As a result, the root system uses less water.
As you’ve probably noted, your Tradescantia’s summer care routine needs a revamp during the winter months. How can you make the adjustments?
Caring for your Tradescantia in the Winter
Your plant’s lighting needs do not change with the seasons, even though the amount of available sunlight does. Solution? Keep your Tradescantia in bright indirect light to care for it during the winter. Keep in mind; this may mean relocating your plant closer to your window.
If you fail to maintain a healthy light level, your Tradescantia’s leaves will start to fade. Dim light also contributes to symptoms of overwatering and root rot because water isn’t evaporating quickly enough.
Unlike lighting, your plant’s watering needs do change. Why? During the winter, your Tradescantia is dormant. Since it isn’t growing as rapidly, it doesn’t need as much fuel (water).
Large plants: allow 1-2 inches of soil to dry out before rewatering.
Mini Tradescantias: allow ½-1 inch of soil to dry out.
Your watering method for your Tradescantia is also essential. Overhead watering will contribute to stem rot. What’s that? Excess moisture sits on your plant’s stems, rotting them. While this is always a concern for Tradescantia’s, the threat is more acute during the winter months because of fewer daylight hours. What method should you use? Bottom watering is the most effective way to care for your Tradescantia in the winter.
Your Tradescantia requires high levels of humidity in all seasons. Plant parents often suffer from dry skin during the winter months due to lower humidity levels, and this change affects your Tradescantia too. Brown leaf edges, tips, and falling leaves are the most common symptoms of low humidity.
How can you fix the problem? The most efficient method for boosting your environment’s moisture levels is a humidifier. Small units can supply consistent humidity to 500-700 square feet of your home, keeping you and your plants happy.
Do not mist your Tradescantia, especially during the winter. Why? Stem rot. Moisture that stays on your plant’s stems will rot through them, eventually causing entire limbs of your Tradescantia to fall off.
If you’re comfortable, your Tradescantia will be too. These plants prefer temperatures around 60-80 degrees. If they were grown outdoors during the summer, you should bring them in before temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Frost will kill your Tradescantia. Keep your Tradescantia away from uninsulated or drafty windows in the winter.
You should not fertilize plants during dormancy. For the Tradescantia, this means you should stop fertilizing in the Fall-Winter. Why? While you may still see new leaves emerging slowly, your plant is resting. Fertilizing during the winter will contribute to root burn, which has symptoms similar to overwatering.
You can resume a healthy routine in the Spring, using an organic, liquid fertilizer diluted to ½ strength monthly.
Tradescantias benefit from regular springtime pruning of up to ¼ of the plant! Why? Pruning encourages your plant to make new branches, contributing to a bushier specimen.
Should you prune during the Fall-Winter? No. Large prunings during dormancy can shock your plant. Your resting Tradescantia needs all its leaves to soak in as much sunlight as possible, fueling photosynthesis.
The new growth that does emerge during the winter is often weak and leggy. While it may be unsightly, remember: you’ll be getting rid of that ugly growth soon enough in the Spring.
Unless your Tradescantia is suffering from a severe issue, you should not repot your plant during the winter. What is a severe issue? Anything that makes repotting a last resort: acute root rot, pest infestations, or fungal problems.
Having suitable soil is an essential aspect of caring for a healthy Tradescantia in the winter. But, since you’re likely “stuck” with whatever soil you selected in the Spring, it made the last on the list.
What type of soil does Tradescantia prefer? Well-draining. Is this different from a Traditional Potting Mix? Usually yes. To improve the drainage of a traditional mix, add a few extra handfuls of perlite, making sure to combine the two thoroughly and evenly.
Ensuring that your Tradescantia has well-draining soil will help it maintain healthy levels of moisture throughout the winter, so keep that in mind when you’re repotting next Spring.
It’s true: Your Tradescantia does need a little extra tender love and care during the winter months. The key points to remember? Ensure your plant continues to receive bright indirect light, water from the bottom when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry (for large plants), and place your Tradescantia near a humidifier. Wishing you the best!