The Myth of Winter Dormancy
So much of the advice we tend to see this time of year, usually starting in fall and continuing until around now, revolves around the idea that houseplants go dormant during the darker days of the year. I used to buy into the idea myself, until I really started paying attention to my plants. I live roughly 50 miles northwest of Chicago in an area that experiences rather gray winters. (Some people will say that the sun never shines during the winter here. While that is obviously not true, we do seem to have fewer really bright, sunny winter days than I remember experiencing in the NY metro area, where I spent most of my life.) I have found that while it is true that many of my plants slow down in growth between say, early November to mid February, very few of them actually stop producing new growth during that time, which is what the word "dormancy" suggests. And some of them are actually quite active in the winter. As an example, here is a list of plants that have produced particularly noticeable, healthy new growth, or have flowered, between the winter solstice (Dec. 21) and now. I am only listing plants I grow in natural light, since one expects the growth of plants under lights to be fairly consistent.
Zamioculcas zamiifolia: 5 new stalks plus a new flower.
Monstera deliciosa: 4 new leaves in January alone.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (aka P. selloum): at least 3 new leaves (slower than spring/summer, but still active.)
Aspidistra elatior: 1 new leaf (notable because these can be very slow growing.)
Paphiopedilum orchid: New flower (probably started in early Dec.)
6 different Hedera helix cultivars: All have continued to produce new leaves.
Chlorophytum comosum: New stolon produced.
5 different Epipremnums (pothos): All have continued to produce new leaves.
Hoya carnosa: Long vine on which several new pairs of new leaves are starting, as well as a new branch off of one the vines.
Trandescantia pallida: Intermittant flowering.
Peperomia incana: new leaves.
Dracaeana reflexa ‘Song of India’: new leaves, possibly a new branch (just noticed it, not sure when it started.)
Haworthia arachnoidea: 2 of them are flowering.
Echeveria NoId: also flowering.
The moral of this story? Well, other than the fact that Karen obviously needs to get a blog or a life, or both ;-), it is that one should always observe what one’s plants are actually doing, and attend to their needs accordingly, (including frequency of watering and fertilizing) rather than accepting conventional “wisdom” (don’t feed in winter) that may be well off the mark.