When watering my houseplants the other day, I got to thinking about how I do it differently in the cooler, darker months. I was going to do a post and video solely on this subject but thought, why not cover the whole nine yards? Therefore, this post covers my 16 key tips for winter houseplant care.
Indoor plants like to rest in the winter months so I basically leave mine be. Come spring, when the days start to warm up and daylight hours get longer, is when you’ll see them liven up and start to grow. Oh we do love that fresh spring growth! Even though they’re not growing much in winter, they certainly do liven up the drearier months.
By the way, this post contains a video towards the end. It’ll help you visually get an idea of winter houseplant care in all its glory!
My Aglaonema Silver Bay grows on the floor in my living room. Love that big patterned foliage!
1. Cut back on the frequency of watering.
The soil won’t be drying out as fast & the roots don’t need as much water at this time. Here in Tucson in the summer, I water my houseplants roughly every 7 days. In the winter I cut back the frequency back to every 2-3 weeks. How often for you will vary depending on the type of plants you have, the pot sizes & soil makeup, light conditions, & how warm your home is.
2. Decrease the amount of water.
This is something I do by roughly 25%. I have many houseplants so what helps me out is 2 sizes of watering cans, which you’ll see in the video below. I use the smaller 1 for all my plants in winter.
3. Use room temperature water.
Houseplants are resting at this time & don’t appreciate the shock of ice cold water.
4. Don’t let too much water collect in the saucer.
A little bit trickling out is fine but you don’t want to submerge the grow pot in 1-3 inches of water as it will cause the roots to eventually rot. On layers of pebbles or rocks is fine – more on that under “humidity”.
A few of these Guzmanias sure would add some color to your home in the gloomier months.
Light / Exposure
5. You may have to reposition your plants.
Winter months are darker & the days are shorter. If you feel your plants aren’t getting the light they need, then move to a different location for more light. If you move them closer to a window, just make sure they’re not up against the cold glass or catching any drafts from a window.
6. Rotate them if need be.
If the light source is coming from 1 side, then houseplants need to be rotated even in winter. I rotate mine every month or 2 depending on how they’re looking.
Fertilizing / Feeding
7. Don’t fertilize them at this time.
Remember, houseplants rest at this time & go dormant or semi-dormant. They don’t need or want it. Wait until the weather warms & the days get longer. I’ve been feeding my houseplants every spring & am going to start doing it in the summer too.
The ZZ Plant is an old standby which is known for easy care & glossy foliage.
Repotting / Transplanting
8. Hold off.
Just like fertilizing or feeding, spring, summer & even early fall (depending on your climate) are the optimum times to do this.
9. Keep away from direct heat sources.
Move your plants away from any heating vents & keep them off any standing heaters.
10. Keep them away from any cold drafts.
If you have any plants near any doors which open regularly, move them. Just like close proximity to a heat source, they don’t like frigid drafts. This goes for windows too.
11. Houseplants don’t mind being cool at night.
I’ve learned this over time. I grew up with a home greenhouse & the temp. was kept around 45F. The sun warmed it in the day but the evenings of course cooled. We set the temp. back to 64 or 65 every night (love a cool bedroom for sleeping!) & my plants are fine. If you set the temp. back when you go off to work, yours won’t mind it at all.
12. Your plants may need a boost at this time.
Most houseplants are native to the tropics or sub tropics & are raised in greenhouses. The heat in our homes is drying. You can up the ante on the humidity factor by misting or spraying them a few times a week. I know some people who take their plants to the shower. My small houseplants get a trip to the sink & get watered & sprayed off.
13. Pebbles in water in plant saucers.
This will give the plants a bit of moisture in the air directly around them. Just make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the grow pot.
14. It’s a good project to do in winter.
Pick a snowy, cold day & clean your plants! Heat can blow a lot of dust around. The leaves of your plants need to breath & a build up of dust can prevent this. A damp, soft rag does the trick as well as a good spray off. And don’t use a commercial leaf shine – it blocks the pores.
This is actually a living wall of plants. I saw it in a mall in La Jolla, CA. Not what most of us have in our homes but it sure is delightful to look at!
15. Keep your eye out.
Spider mites & mealybugs seem to explode in the late fall/winter when the heat is turned on. Fungus gnats can appear if you keep your plants too wet. Take action as soon as you see them. You can spray or treat in winter; more on that in the posts.
16. Remove or push back.
Decorative covering like moss or large river rock or beach pebbles should be removed or pushed back so the soil won’t stay soaked. This is good to do if you tend to over water your plants. A thick layer of damp moss also encourages fungus gnats.
The key points you have to pay attention to are watering and lighting. It’s very easy to overwater indoor plants in winter so cut back on the frequency and amount. If you plants are looking sad, they could very well need more light for the darker months.
Plants add so much life and beauty to our homes and can survive winter just fine if properly cared for. I let mine rest in the winter and go through their natural cycle. You can pamper them in spring and summer!
You can find more houseplant info in my simple and easy to digest houseplant care guide: Keep Your Houseplants Alive.
Much more on houseplants here!
Happy (Indoor) gardening,