Houseplant Winter Care

Houseplant Winter Care

December 11, 2022
Adams Fairacre Farms

Your houseplants aren’t immune to life-threatening challenges during the winter, even though they live in a temperature-controlled climate. Indoor plants, whether they are year-round houseplants or plants you brought indoors to over-winter, can be affected by several winter stress factors, including temperatures that fluctuate from daytime heat to evening chill, dry air, and short days that reduce the amount of light they receive. Keep your houseplants thriving by modifying their care during the cooler months of the year.

Tools and Supplies You May Need
The supplies you’ll need for winter houseplant care will vary depending on your environment, but may include any or all of these:

  • Room humidifier
  • Watering can
  • Supplemental grow lights (if needed)
  • Soil Meter

Before Getting Started
Different plant species can vary considerably in their winter care needs, so always do a little research to learn the particular needs of your plants. The following tips offer a good general guideline, but the precise needs of an amaryllis or poinsettia, for example, will be different from a rapidly climbing pothos or a potted geranium plant that’s coming indoors for the winter.

In general, try to mimic the winter conditions of the regions where the species are native. For example, plants originating in the jungle tropics, where there is little difference between conditions in winter and summer, often do not have the same dormant period as plants originating in more temperate zones. While there are some general guidelines, remember that the goal is always to mimic the plant’s natural outdoor winter habitat to the degree that you can.

Adjust Your Watering Routine
Keep in mind that different plants have different water needs. It might sound counterintuitive, but some indoor plants need less water during the winter. Drought-tolerant plants such as cacti, succulents, snake plants and other thick leaf plants might not need watering at all. Many tropicals plants on the other hand, should be thoroughly drenched once a week during the winter, until you see the water coming out into its tray.

A soil meter is a great indicator you can use to measure when your plants needs water. It penetrates the soil deeper and will give you a more accurate moisture reading of the soil.

Do not use cold water to water your houseplants. Use water that is about room temperature to avoid shocking the plant’s roots. Tap water can get very cold in some winter climates, so let the water sit for several hours before watering your plants.

Alter Humidity Levels
Low humidity levels can be the biggest hurdle that houseplants must overcome during winter. The humidity level in heated homes can drop to 10 to 20 percent in winter, and plants prefer a level closer to 50 percent. Start by clustering your plants in groups. Plants naturally release water through their leaves by transpiring, so grouping them together will put that moisture to good use. Bathrooms and kitchens are the best rooms to congregate your plants because they absorb moisture from showers and cooking activities.

If you have a humidifier in your home, move your plants to a spot where they will enjoy its benefits. A humidifier on its own does not provide everything your plants need, but is helpful in coordination with other measures.

Pay Attention to Temperature
Most plants, like people, are comfortable in daytime temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temps above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To provide that for your plants, keep them away from both cold drafts and sources of heat such as radiators, ovens, fireplaces and electronic devices. Fluctuations in temperature can kill houseplants just as easily as prolonged periods of heat or cold.

Follow the Sun
Not only are there fewer hours of sunlight during winter, but the rays also come in at a lower angle. You might need to relocate your houseplants to a brighter spot or even add supplemental light. A good spot is a south- or west-facing window that remains sunny all day. However, don’t move plants too close to a frosty window because they might get a draft.

Rotate the pots about a 1/4 turn whenever you water your plants. This ensures that all sides of the plant receive some sun and grow evenly, rather than some branches stretching to reach the light.

Layers of dust on plant leaves can also reduce the amount of light they receive. Wiping down leaves with a damp cloth will remove this dust and allow the plants better access to light during the winter.

In locations where winter sun is nearly absent in winter and plants must get most of their light from supplemental lighting, they will need to be exposed to the grow lights for longer periods. If a plant requires six hours of direct sunlight, it may need as much as 12 or 14 hours of supplemental light to give it an equal amount of energy. Grow lights are considerably less intense than direct sunlight, so plants need longer exposure to receive adequate energy.

Put Your Houseplants on a Diet
Most houseplants don’t need any fertilizer in winter because they are not growing as actively. Feeding them now will just upset their natural cycle, so stop feeding until early spring. When you start to see signs of new growth or the existing leaves appear to be greening up, resume fertilizing to give them a boost for the growing season. Some tropical plants, especially vining climbers or trailers, grow quite actively all winter long, and these may still require some feeding, though usually at reduced rates.

For information on how to care for a specific plant, please visit the Houseplants department of your local Adams store. Our experts will provide advice on what your plant needs all year long.

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