Dry winter air causes houseplants to dry out quickly. At the very least, check plants weekly to assess soil moisture. Sticking a finger onto—or even into—soil is an easy way to determine if plants need a drink. With small plants, lifting the pot is another good way to figure out how moist soil is. Dry soil is light; wet soil is heavier. Soil color also changes as moisture evaporates. Wet soil is dark; dry soil is lighter in color.
When choosing a plant to make a bold statement in your home, instead of one single dramatic specimen, stage a grouping of several plants. This quartet features variegated houseplants that offer contrasting leaf textures that combine to create an eye-pleasing scene: dracaena surrounded by silver pothos, Aglaonema and spider plant. Stairstep pot sizes to stir more interest. Skip the cachepots and simply wrap plants in burlap for a unified look that’s natural and a ready complement to many decorating schemes.
Problem: You see webs on your houseplants. The leaves look discolored and/or curl and drop off. Hard-to-see spider mites, which are actually spiders, are the likely cause. Solution: Knock the mites off with a gentle spray of water from the kitchen sink, or put big plants in the shower. If the pests keep coming back, use an insecticidal soap or neem oil. Shown here: Dracenea 'Song of India'
Indoors, keep an eye on houseplants, especially any you kept outdoors for summer. Pests multiply quickly in the warm environs of a winter home. This vining violet is infested with spider mites, which are very difficult to eradicate on indoor plants. The white speckling on leaf surfaces is a clue mites are feeding. Webbing where the leaf attaches to the stem is another dead giveaway.
Usually dwarf Alberta spruce is a go-to plant for adding an air of formality to gardens. But the topiary forms also lend themselves to playful garden whimsy, like this pom-pom spruce decked out with sun hat and shoes. It’s a great choice for a children’s garden. If your dwarf Alberta spruce develops brown needles or dead spots due to winter burn or spider mites, you can always prune out those branches to create your own one-of-a-kind topiary style.