This news item expired on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 so the information below could be outdated or incorrect.
What did you do with all those house plants you brought inside for the winter? Did you take the time to hose them off, remove dead leaves, and check them over carefully for insects? If not, use one of the nice autumn days to carry them back out long enough to give them a good cleaning and inspection. If you bring in one plant with mealy bugs or mites and shove it onto the windowsill with the others, in short order they will all be infested.
Also give some consideration to where you locate each plant. Does it need direct sunlight, or indirect light? It is often difficult to find an indoor location that receives similar light to what the plant had outside. A couple of my orchids already have some scorched leaves because they were not adapted to the direct afternoon sun they are exposed to in the window.
It is also not uncommon for plants to shed a lot of leaves when moved to different light conditions. Ficus benjamina trees are well known for this, but some begonias, geraniums, and other plants will do it too. Don’t panic. Just pick up fallen leaves and wait for the plant to grow new ones.
You may also need to change your watering schedule. The humidity indoors in winter can be quite dry. So plants may actually need to be watered more frequently than they did during the summer. Feel the soil with your fingers every few days for a while until you figure out what the winter schedule is going to be.
Most house plants should not be fertilized during winter because they are not receiving as much light and are not growing as much. The exception would be flowering plants such as African violets, cyclamens and orchids. Since these all tend to bloom during winter, regular applications of a weak fertilizer solution (1/4 to ½ strength) is the usual recommendation.
For more information, call Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at 255-5522.