Are you gasping for air? Drinking more water than ever before? Taking WFH Zoom calls in a tank top with a fan on full blast? Welcome to summer 2022, the year of heatwaves and heatblasts...and just think how your houseplants must be feeling.
Yes, the foliage friends you've been caring for all year are going to need a bit of attention if you want to ensure your houseplants survive a heatwave. True, some will be thriving. Succulents will think they've returned to the motherland, and can be left to their own devices. But for everthing else, the rules change a little - even how often to water your plants and when is up for debate.
Here are the five things I'm doing to keep mine as alive as possible, the tips I pull out every year. Even my white philodendron isn't currently wilting (and she wilts at the slightest thing).
How to ensure your houseplants survive a heatwave
1. Water well last thing at night
Plants need to be well fortified with water if they're going to last a heatwave, and tend to be able to drink better when its cool. Give everything a drink just before you go to bed the evening before - and then on the evenings of - a heatwave. Your plants will be better placed to absorb the liquid throughout the relative coolness of the night, and therefore go into the higher temperatures as fortified as they can be.
As a general rule, it doesn't actually matter how much water you give a plant, it's how often, and how damp its soil stays. Plants will only take in the water they need - if you've potted them in holders with good drainage the rest will drain away. So be generous and flood them. As long as their roots don't then stay drowning, you'll be giving them the best chance to survive.
2. Move your plants out direct sunlight
Even the most sun-loving plants will appreciate some let up from the glare of the day. Excepting cacti and other succulents, move all your houseplants into corners of your home that have some daylight, but where the leaves don't come into direct contact. The positioning of this fiddle leaf fig, near the skylight but not right under it, is ideal.
As this is - hopefully - only for a day or two, this rule, normally reserved for the best houseplants for low light, can cover pretty much anything. Even sun worshippers will thank you for it in the long run.
3. Place houseplants in the bathroom
In fact, if you want to go one better, move your houseplants to a well ventilated bathroom. Modern bathrooms tend to not have too much sunlight blazing into them anyway, and the moisture and humidity from any showers you will take will create a better environment for your plant.
This is where my moody white philodendron is currently living, soaking in the mist from the steam of all the many showers I'm taking. And it's thriving.
4. Give them an ice cube mid afternoon
Even with all this extra plant care, some houseplants - like some humans - still won't be happy in this heat. Do a mid afternoon inspection, and check up on how they're doing.
If there are any that are seriously wilting - and hopefully there shouldn't be if they had a really good drink the night before - then give them a couple of ice cubes, placed on top of the soil. These will be asborbed slightly more slowly than regular water, cooling the soil around the roots and making it easier for them to drink.
5. Move any struggling plants somewhere cool and dark
And move any struggling plants somewhere even shadier. A cool pantry, under a dining table on the ground floor of your house, or anywhere you can find that will cool them down. It's not forever - a few hours shade won't harm them - but until they're well enough to face the direct light.
Most plants are relatively hardy, and these simple tricks ought to ensure your indoor garden makes it through the blast. Misters at the ready...one for the plants, one for yourself.
Take a look at our editor's pick of the best gadgets for a heatwave.
The editor of Livingetc, Pip Rich (formerly Pip McCormac) is a lifestyle journalist of almost 20 years experience working for some of the UK's biggest titles. As well as holding staff positions at Sunday Times Style, Red and Grazia he has written for the Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and ES Magazine. The host of Livingetc's podcast Home Truths, Pip has also published three books - his most recent, A New Leaf, was released in December 2021 and is about the homes of architects who have filled their spaces with houseplants. He has recently moved out of London - and a home that ELLE Decoration called one of the ten best small spaces in the world - to start a new renovation project in Somerset.
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