by Erin Marissa Russell
Just because houseplants are kept indoors doesn’t mean they don’t need some extra care from you to make it through the winter healthy and strong. Gardening Channel has compiled the most important tips for keeping houseplants healthy in winter, along with answers to some of your most common questions about caring for indoor plants during chilly weather.
Do indoor plants die in winter?
While it’s common for winter to cause outdoor plants to die off, there’s no reason for indoor plants to die during the winter season. It’s true that without some extra attention from the gardener, winter is a particularly hazardous time for houseplants. Their need for water and fertilizer is different during this season, and they need some assistance from you to get enough sunlight. But by following the tips outlined in this article, you can keep your indoor plants alive and flourishing through the winter so you can keep enjoying them next year.
How often should I water houseplants in winter?
It’s easy for your indoor plants to get too much water during the winter, and if they do, you’re sure to see the signs. If you notice moldy soil, yellowing leaves, or bugs buzzing around your plants, that means they’re getting more water than they need.
During the winter season, all your houseplants require less water because of their natural tendency to go dormant over the winter. That means you need to take their lowered water needs into account, because while overwatering is always a danger for plants, it’s even more dangerous over the winter.
As a rule of thumb, water your indoor plants half as much during the winter as you would normally. Succulents and cacti may not need watering at all during the winter. You can try only adding water when the plants look as if they need it. Keep in mind that certain houseplants need more water than others—citrus trees are known for being especially thirsty.
Don’t wait until leaves start drying out or dropping off completely to give your houseplants water. A good way to check whether water is needed is to simply stick a finger into the soil of the plants. If the soil is dry one or two inches below the surface, you can go ahead and water them. It’s best if the water you give your plants is at room temperature to avoid shocking their systems. Increasing the humidity in rooms where you keep houseplants can reduce the need to water as frequently. Use a humidifier
Should I fertilize my houseplants in winter?
Most gardeners won’t need to fertilize houseplants as often during the winter season because they’ll naturally go dormant due to chillier weather and darker, shorter days. If you live in an area with mild weather, however, keep on fertilizing as usual.
But in locations where winters are cold and light levels are low, as long as plants are healthy, stop fertilizing until spring comes back around. If your plants seem to be crying out for fertilizer, try diluting it to half the usual dose, and preferably apply fertilizer in the fall to see plants through the winter.
How do I keep my indoor plants alive during winter?
In addition to reducing the water and fertilizer you give your houseplants during winter, there are few more things you can do to ensure they not only survive, but thrive during the winter season.
Take advantage of these tips to give your indoor plants the best possible care over the winter.
Clean the dust from houseplants so they can make the most of winter sunshine.
We all know that plants need sunshine to stay alive, and in the winter, the amount of available sun is reduced as days get shorter. You can help your indoor plants make the most of the sunshine they get through your windows by cleaning them to remove the dust from their leaves. In the winter, we tend to keep the doors and windows to our homes closed, which means more dust is floating through the air indoors. That dust stands in the way of your plants’ ability to perform photosynthesis, which is how they get nutrition from the sun each day.
If you see dust on your houseplants, next time you water them, give them a good rinse all over, using a paper towel to evenly distribute the water if needed. As an alternative, you can put your plants in the bathtub and turn the shower on,using low pressure, to simulate rainfall and get them nice and clean. It’s a good practice to clean plants monthly during the winter, even if you don’t see visible dust on their leaves, to keep them healthy and happy.
Protect plants from drafts by sealing and insulating windows.
Plants that are next to windows that aren’t properly sealed can be exposed to chilly winter winds in the form of drafts.You may notice plants next to unsealed windows dropping leaves, which is a sign that they’re getting colder air than they’re comfortable with. Tropical plants in particular can be sensitive to drafty air.
Avoid this problem by insuring your windows are properly sealed and insulated. You can go the extra mile to keep plants away from winter drafts by moving them away from areas where drafts are common, such as entryways or windowsills. And of course, don’t open or even crack windows near where houseplants are kept if it’s possible to avoid doing so.
Provide artificial sunlight to make up for the shortened days of winter.
Plants thrive on sun, and during cold weather, there just isn’t as much sunshine available to them as a result of the shorter days of the winter season. But it’s possible for you to give plants some fake sunlight to make up for the decrease in natural light.
To add to the sunlight coming in your windows, you can switch out the incandescent bulbs in your home for full-spectrum lights in fixtures near your indoor plants. Or to really amp up the light your plants are getting, you may choose to install grow lights [https://www.gardeningchannel.com/growing-indoors-with-grow-lights/]. If you need some help choosing the right grow lights for you, check out this Gardening Channel article on how to select the right LED grow lights.
Make adjustments to give plants as much natural light as possible.
If installing artificial lights isn’t an option, consider moving plants that are near eastern or northern windows close to southern or western windows instead to maximize the light that’s available to them. A simple way to give plants more light is to clean your windows thoroughly so the light can shine through.
You can also move your plants into new positions, placing them as close to the windows as possible during winter so they can get every ray of sunshine that comes in. However, if cold air is coming in along with the sunshine, you may need to give plants several inches of space between them and a drafty window.
Avoid repotting plants during winter to save plants from extra stress.
Resist the urge to repot your indoor plants during the winter season, and they’ll thank you by flourishing throughout the chilly weather. Winter just isn’t the time to delve into this project. The same goes for taking cuttings from your plants—winter is stressful enough without adding to the load with these projects. Give plants a break during winter and let them rest to conserve their energy.
Because plants are dormant during winter, their root growth is slowed down, which means it’ll be harder for them to adjust to their new homes. The winter weather also means plants stay wetter, so repotted plants can fall prey to overwatering and root rot during the cold season.
That said, there’s no reason to wait on pruning your plants during winter, when lower light levels can result in leggy growth. You won’t see them respond with much new growth until things warm up in spring, but there’s no risk associated with wintertime pruning. Read more about pruning in the linked Gardening Channel article on pruning tips.
Armed with the knowledge you’ve gained from reading this article, you’re ready to take the extra steps needed to keep your indoor plants healthy and strong this winter. As you can see, with just a few minor adjustments, there’s no reason to say goodbye to houseplants just because the winter season rolls around. With a bit of extra attention and care from you, they’ll be thriving through the winter and coming back healthier than ever next spring.
Want to learn more about caring for houseplants in the winter?
BioAdvanced covers Winter Care: Caring for Plants
Family Handyman covers 14 Tips for Caring for Houseplants Through the Winter
Get Busy Gardening covers How To Keep Indoor Plants Alive During Winter
Pistils Nursery covers 5 Tips to Revitalize Houseplants
The Spruce covers Caring for Houseplants In The Winter