Quarantine has us bursting with houseplants, and while we know how to care for house plants in the winter, we have so many new types of plants to consider. Therefore, it is time for a refresher on how to handle houseplants in winter.
There is a lot to evaluate when thinking about caring for houseplants in winter. It would be best to consider where you live, the winter temperatures, how much light you have coming in your windows, humidity levels, drafts, and individual plants’ needs.
Recommended Read: What You Need To Know About Planting A Winter Garden
Winter is Coming for Your Houseplants
Plant needs shift when the season change. Houseplants tend to go dormant and need less care. However, winter is also the time of the year plants are killed by their well-meaning caretakers.
Plants go dormant during colder months, and houseplants need this time to rest.
During this time, your houseplants may seem as though they are on the verge of a tragic death when they drop some leaves and stop growing. The truth is the roots are hard at work in the winter.
Therefore, it is vital to understand your plant’s winter needs.
I Have Seen the Light
The sun shifts lower in the sky during the winter, and the amount of light coming into your windows drop.
Therefore, the windows that gave adequate light in the summer may not be the best spot for your plants in the winter.
You can move plants closer to the windows. However, pay attention to drafts that could chill your plant.
Tropical plants and succulents will not appreciate a cold and drafty window, for example.
Clean the leaves of your plants. Dust accumulates on leaves, just like any other source. The dust gets in the way of photosynthesis, which is vital for plants.
Since you are cleaning, give your windows a good washing to ensure you make the most of the available light.
If you really want to dig in and make sure your plants are getting enough light, look into a digital light meter. A light meter will help ensure your plants are in a prime location.
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Grow lights to the rescue for your houseplants in winter
If you find your light sources in the winter are just not enough, you could use grow lights, too.
Grow lights are a fantastic way to boost your level of light in the winter, and you can set a grow light up with a timer, so you do not have to remember another chore.
You will need to notice the positioning of the plants under the grow light. Many houseplants need to be about 12 inches from the light. However, succulents can be closer.
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Water, Water Everywhere
One reason houseplants do not make it through the winter is due to overwatering.
During the winter, your plant’s roots need oxygen, and the best way for this to happen is by letting the soil get dry. Also, underwatering stunts your plants’ growth. Remember, even in dormancy, your plant is still doing some work.
However, when you do water in the winter, you want to ensure you water them thoroughly. One option is to reduce the amount of water you give your plant but still give your plants a deep watering.
For deep watering, you want to soak your plant in a basin of water until the bubbles stop coming up from the soil. Afterward, drain the water and allow the plant to dry out before watering.
It is fair to plan to reduce the watering by 25 percent but pay attention to the plant itself. If your plant begins to wilt, it needs some water.
Water needs in the winter depending on the plant itself. Also, the climate inside your house plays a role, as well. Consider a moisture meter and looking into the dormancy cycle of the different plants you own.
You can take the guesswork out of your plant’s moisture needs by researching your different houseplants to determine how they behave in the winter.
Also, consider a moisture meter that takes the guessing out of your plant’s needs.
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Why Is It So Cold?
Most houseplants are tropical or from tropical or sub-tropical climates.
Because they prefer warmer temperatures, they are perfect for growing indoors.
Most houseplants are content at 75 degrees. You could go up to 85 degrees, but you want to adjust for higher humidity at that temperature.
Your houseplants are happiest between 60 and 75 degrees, and many become unhappy with temperatures below 60 degrees.
If you realize your plant’s leaves turn yellow and fall off, it may be due to a dramatic temperature change.
However, if the lower leaves look stressed and turn brown or wilt, it may be too warm.
Houseplants in winter: Unique needs of succulents
If you are like us, you went crazy for succulents while on lockdown.
Now that the temperatures are dropping, it is necessary to look at the specifics of succulent care during the winter.
Your succulents need warmth to survive. Depending on where you live, you may be able to leave your succulents outside year around. However, the ability to do this also depends on the succulent itself.
Pay attention to your zone and the zone recommended for your succulent. At the same time, notice which of the succulents go dormant in the winter and continue to grow. This information will help you as you meet the needs of your indoor plants.
Hot and Steamy: Humidity
Humidity is more than just that sticky hot feeling you have when you walk outside, and the air feels like soup.
Your plants care a lot about the humidity levels inside your home, as well.
Also, the lower the humidity in your home, the more the leaves lose moisture.
So, if your house is dry in the winter, you may need to evaluate how often you water during dormancy and consider your humidity.
Plants, when grouped, create their own little environment and raise the humidity. Therefore, if you have a group of high-humidity needing plants, you can group them together.
You could also consider misting your plants several times a day to keep the humidity up consistently, but that does add a lot of extra steps to an already busy day.
Humidifiers are a great idea, specifically if you can place one near a group of plants that thrive with humidity. You could go for a tabletop humidifier for small spaces or plant groupings. Otherwise, consider a whole room humidifier, depending on your needs.
Another option is to take a tray of water and rocks and place your plants on top or near them. You do not want to set your plants in water because the water needs are lower in the winter.
The bathroom is another great place to bring humidity needing plants, assuming you have enough light in your bathroom to suit the plants’ needs.
I Am on a Diet
Many plants need fertilizer regularly in the winter. However, this is not the case in the winter.
During the summer, houseplants are in active growth because the summer light levels are high, and the temperatures are perfect. You might consider fertilizing your houseplants in the fall but taper it off to a partial dose of fertilizer.
If you fertilize your plants in the winter, you run the risk of giving your houseplants fertilizer burn. Fertilizers contain salts and take moisture away from the roots, which can cause problems when those salts build up.
During the winter, the plant’s roots are hard at work, but photosynthesis is not at play to the same degree because the light is low. Therefore, the upper part of the plants do not grow much, and there is no need for extra fertilizer.
However, if you live in a climate where you still receive plenty of light, and your plants do not go dormant, fertilizing can continue.
Recommended Read: Best Grow Tower for Urban Gardening
I Need a New Home
For the most part, winter is a time for your houseplants to rest. Therefore, repotting your plants should wait until active growth begins in the spring.
It is a lot easier for houseplants to get over the shock and awe of moving to a new pot when winter is over. However, if the soil is degraded or the root system is so bound, you may have to repot in the winter.
Who Invited You?
Winter is a fantastic time to get your houseplant pest game in full force.
First of all, be sure you know the conditions your plant needs to be its best no matter the time of the year.
If your houseplant is not stressed or struggling, it is more able to withstand plant pests.
Common pest for plants includes fungus gnats, mealy bugs, and spider mites, to name a few.
Fungus gnats hang out in the soil and thrive on moist plant medium. Therefore, it is a lot easier to starve them out in the winter since your plants need a lot less water.
However, sticky traps are a great way to catch these little flies.
Mealybugs are another pest that likes houseplants. If you see white spots and a waxy-looking powder on the leaves, you may have mealybugs.
Mealybugs stay local to the plant currently infested and will not spread to your other plants. In bad infestations, you have to say goodbye to your houseplant. However, your first line of defense is using an insecticide.
Spider Mites love to hang out with your plants, as well. They like to feast on the sap in your plant’s leaves, and they leave behind a webbing to let you know they are unpacked and living on your houseplant.
Insecticides are a great solution to handle your spider mite infestation.
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To Prune or Not to Prune
The best time to prune houseplants is when the growing season kicks back up. Typically, this happens in very late winter or early spring, depending on your local conditions.
However, not all plants are dormant in the winter. Therefore, it is vital to consider the unique needs of those plants. Also, winter growth is often leggy. You could pinch leggy growth to encourage branching and trim off dead leaves and branches.
Plant On, Plant Parent
In the end, caring for plants in the winter becomes simple once you have the conditions set up.
Each plant has unique needs, and your home has different availability of light. Once you augment light, water needs, temperature, and humidity levels, you can let your plants be dormant for the winter.
Typically, your plants won’t need fertilizer, repotting, or pruning. However, there are some exceptions. Some houseplants do grow during the winter. In that case, it is best if you learn about the needs of those select plants and adjust your schedule.
How did you handle your houseplants in winter? Answer in the comments.
About the Author
A teacher by trade, Victoria splits her free time between freelance writing, her camping blog, and (frantically) guiding her teenagers into becoming functional adults.