Houseplants forum: Temperature in an empty house

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skywatcher
Nov 1, 2014 6:06 PM CST
Hi everyone! My dad's house is empty, and I have turned the ac/heat off. I noticed today that the temp in the house is 59 F. As I am trying to prevent a high utility bill, can you please tell me how low I can let the temperature in the house get, and not hurt the plants? He has African violets, arrow plants, schefflera, Christmas cactus, Peace lilies, and a vine with heart shaped leaves that may be a Philodendron. Also, with the temperature low, should I move the plants out of and off of the window sill and window shelf? Some of the leaves of the African violets touch the window. I am in West Tennessee, and the outside temp gets below freezing during the winter. For the plants that are not near window light, will a regular ceiling light be enough for them? Thank you all so very much!
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Nov 1, 2014 6:43 PM CST
I have a couple of houses that I rent and I keep the temp at 55. I get long periods of cold I think colder than what you would get. I do have a very good insulated windows and it is a brick. I keep almost the same plants you have listed except african violets. I cannot seem to keep them alive even being good to them. I stage my houses and live plants give a lived in look and they rent and sale better.

I only water them maybe once all winter because it is cool.

skywatcher
Nov 5, 2014 12:38 AM CST
Cinta, Thank you so very much. Your info is very helpful. Just wish I didn't have to turn on the heat at all. Rolling my eyes. Sighing! Also, the watering info is very useful!!!
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
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drdawg
Nov 5, 2014 8:05 AM CST
Welcome! Sky

Those are basically all tropical plants and if I were growing them I would definitely keep the temperature at or above 50 F. I never had any luck with African violets (but haven't even tried to grow them for 30 years! Sticking tongue out ). Do not, I repeat, do not allow any of your plants' leaves to touch the window panes. The panes will be the same temperature as the outside temperature is. I cannot tell you how many orchids (basically dead) have been brought to me that were growing on a window seal or close to a window and the leaves touched the window. Those orchids froze! Unless you have south-facing windows (best for fall/winter growing) and lots of indirect light comes through the windows, you need to consider supplemental lighting. Also, reduce your watering frequency by half (on average). There is no need to fertilize from October through February. In my opinion there will not be enough light/warmth for those plants to utilize fertilizer.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 5, 2014 8:54 AM CST
I agree about making sure plants aren't touching windows.

During winter, the days are shorter, the sun's rays are weaker, so plants need more light than they during the heat and longer days of summer. I would try to get them as near windows as possible, without actually touching the glass or sitting on a sill. A table or other surface that can be very close to windows, but an inch or two away, will allow the cold air from the window to fall to the floor and not affect plants. Any plants sitting on the floor would likely benefit quite a bit from getting up onto some kind of table or stand if possible. Windows facing east, west, and south are the ones where sun shines directly in for a significant time (unless a tree or something like a porch roof blocks the light.)

Doubtful bulbs in a ceiling fixture would be enough to keep plants looking great, but probably enough to stay alive. Unless on a timer, leaving those on all the time could freak plants out, (they need to rest at night too,) and be unnecessarily expensive if left on only for the plants.

Putting plastic over the windows would help keep the cold out/heat in. Other weather proofing like caulk, weather stripping around doors, is usually worth doing, saving more than they cost. If there are rooms with no plumbing or plants, maybe you could close the doors and shut the registers in those rooms?

Our house doesn't have a central system, no ducts, so we heat per room, as needed, and it sometimes gets down to about 50. (Putting on more clothes is free.) IDK anything about AV's either, but have the other plants and they don't mind a bit.

A central heat system usually removes most of the moisture from the air, and plants use less moisture when it's not hot, so the less the heat runs, the longer it will take plants to use the moisture in their pots, causing plants to need watering less frequently. Just make sure there's no water in any drip trays afterward. During summer, I water plants till soaking, dripping wet. During winter, that can do more harm than good for some plants, causing their roots to rot. I do give some plants small sips when very dry during those few cold months. Don't try to keep them moist constantly, drying out is fine, as long as there's no significant wilting.

The holiday cacti should be forming buds soon, if not already. Hope you don't miss the show!

There may be other concerns, like plumbing, when letting a house get much cooler than normal, the possibility of pipes freezing. If not used occasionally, drains and toilets can have various issues. Going a little off the topic of plants with that, but well worth your consideration if you haven't already given those things some thought.
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Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Nov 5, 2014 9:20 AM CST
My thought is, if the indoor temperature remains at 59ยบF the plants should be okay as long as they are getting enough light. I'd open all blinds, curtains to allow as much natural light in as possible. I agree with everyone else in that the foliage should never touch the window pane, winter or summer. Since you are in Western Tennessee, as the winter progresses I'd think the indoor temperature will drop well below the current 59ยบF unless you turn the heat on; tropical plants will not survive cold temps for extended periods.

Although our database shows minimum cold hardiness for African Violets (Saintpaulia) as zone 9 that is an error because they would not survive outdoors in winter.

For Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola) the database shows zone 9 also and they will survive colder temps in winters outdoors here in zone 9 but only for short periods.

Same for Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera buckleyi) but extended cold and freezing temps would likely kill them.

Same for Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum)

Heart Leaf Vine (Philodendron hederaceum var. oxycardium) which will definitely get stressed with prolonged low temperatures.

The Peace Lily can take low light situations as well as the Philodendron but the others prefer a lot of bright light to flourish.
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Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
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drdawg
Nov 5, 2014 9:55 AM CST
Actually the Schefflera and Peace Lily will survive pretty cold temperatures. I have numerous of those (along with Jade and Rubber Trees) that have survived mid to low 30's. However they were all under oak/cedar trees and thus were protected from frost. I have lost many of these plants when the temperature dipped well below 30 F though. That being said, because of the other plants involved, I would still maintain at least the 50 F.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Nov 5, 2014 11:09 AM CST
The houses I stage my standby plants that survive the cool homes are....

Rubber tree
Jade plants
Peace Lilies
Schefflera
Spider plant I use in the kitchens and bathrooms where I want a hanging plant.

These plants are in big pots on the floor near windows.

Two years ago the furnace failed and the pipes froze and busted. The entire house had to be gutted and walls and floor replaced. I did not lose one plant. No water got in the pots just the floor and my staging furniture that was in the house.

The difference of plants living in a cool home and outside in the cold is different. There is no wind and if they are not moist for long periods they do not freeze. Pipes freeze because of the water. The same thing will happen to the plants if they have too much water in the soil. If you keep them on the dry side they do great. The rubber tree I water in Dec and do not water it again until March.

I have been doing this for 10 yrs. I know it can be done.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Nov 5, 2014 11:59 AM CST
I agree

Hey Cinta. We have the same plant varieties! Thumbs up
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]www.tropicalplantsandmore.com[/url]
If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Cinta
Nov 5, 2014 12:58 PM CST
Yes Ken I love these fighter plants. They have sold many of my houses. People like to walk in and see living things in their future house. House is not a home without life.
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Nov 5, 2014 1:34 PM CST
I think you are on to something, Cinta. Staging homes with nice, large, healthy plants in the larger areas and nice, though smaller, healthy plants in the not-so-large areas are really appealing. If one looks at any high-end, glossy, home and garden magazine ("Architectural Digest", "Southern Living", and "Better Homes and Gardens", et al) you will more often than not see the Fiddle Leaf Ficus showcased. The Fiddle Leaf has long been used as a show-case plant, but for most of us this plant is extremely hard to find. But like the plants previously listed, the Fiddle Leaf is tropical and must be protected from cold.
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
[Last edited by drdawg - Nov 5, 2014 1:35 PM (+)]
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Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
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Cinta
Nov 5, 2014 1:46 PM CST
Ken I am not selling high end but try to make them look high end. Rolling on the floor laughing

I have been able to pick up middle class suburban homes cheap and turn them around. With great Thrift Store furniture finds Nice wood pieces of furniture can be found in Thrift store that just need a good polish and it looks high end. Quality furniture that you have a hard time finding in even the high end stores these days. They are all stuck on press cardboard. Plants in Thrift Store containers. Many containers that were not intended to be planters but once you put a plant in and it matches the room it looks high end.

All these great ideas I have found on this site and magazines. It really pays off to show potential buyers what a place can look like. It seems to help them visualize the potential of what they can do if they just give me their money and buy the house. Rolling on the floor laughing
Name: Ken Ramsey
Starkville, MS (Zone 8a)
[url=www.tropicalplantsandmore.com]
Orchids Greenhouse Vegetable Grower Ferns Region: United States of America Hummingbirder
Composter Bromeliad Master Gardener: Mississippi Cat Lover Tropicals Plumerias
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drdawg
Nov 5, 2014 4:02 PM CST
What you are doing works, so I would say you are "right-on". Thumbs up
drdawg (Ken Ramsey) - Tropical Plants & More
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If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.

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