Winter Houseplant Care Advice

Most plants grow very slowly during the winter months some even become dormant. They have very different care requirements when days are short and the weather is cold

LESS is the word to remember. Since there is less growth, less light, and less humidity, plants need less water and less plant food.

Light: During the winter, the sun is lower in the sky and light coming through the windows can be up to 50% less than the light during spring and summer months. Plants near a northern or eastern facing window may need to be moved to a southern or western facing window. If possible, move all of your plants closer to windows. Keep plant leaves dust free so they can absorb as much light as possible, and, if necessary, add fluorescent bulbs to provide an additional light source.

Water: Over-watering is the main reason houseplants die during the winter. When not actively growing, houseplants need to practically dry out before being watered. Checking for moisture on the surface of the plant isn’t enough. You need to find out how wet the soil is near the roots. One way to do this by lifting the plant right after you’ve watered and feeling how heavy it is. When the soil is dry, the pot will be much lighter. I like to check the soil by getting my fingers dirty and sticking them into the soil as far as possible. Sometimes I use a long pencil to carefully dig a hole deep into the soil, being careful to avoid damaging the roots. If it comes out with wet soil stuck to it, I know the plant doesn’t need water. It’s like using a toothpick to test if a cake is done. Ferns are the exception; they need to stay moist even in winter.

Plant Food: Houseplants need plant food only when they are producing new leaves. When you feed plants that aren’t growing, the fertilizer is not absorbed. As the salts in the plant food build up in the soil, they cause ugly brown tips on your plants.

Humidity: Due to the heat used during the winter, relative humidity in our homes and offices is reduced to only 10-15%.  Houseplants prefer 40-50% relative humidity. When the humidity is too low, plants develop brown leaf tips and often get infested with spider mites. There are several ways to increase the humidity. Group plants together to create a mini greenhouse effect. Place a small humidifier in the room. Set your plant on a wet pebble tray. This is simply a shallow dish lined with small rocks or pebbles. Keep the water just below the pebbles so that the plant never sits in the water. As the water evaporates it increases the humidity in the air. Refill the water as needed.
Pruning: By pinching back stem tips during the winter, you’ll be rewarded with lots of new growth and a bushy plant in the spring.

See pictures and learn more about identifying and caring for your plants in the Popular Houseplant section of the website.

Use the Plant Wizard to select the right plants for a specific location.

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Learn  about poisonous houseplants that should be kept away from small children and pets in

Don’t Feed Me to Your Cat! A Guide to Poisonous HousePlants