How to Take Care of Houseplants in Winter, Wherever You Live
As the weather changes over winter and we receive less sunlight and colder temperatures, the necessary care for our houseplants changes accordingly! And while many plants are accustomed to this reduction in light and will go into dormancy, sometimes it’s hard to know if your plant is just resting, or if it might actually be dying.
To ensure your plants are getting everything they need from now until March, follow the tips outlined for the area where you live. We’ve also included some bonus tips for keeping plants happy while you’re away on vacation—keep reading to learn more!
Winter Plant Care Across America
If you’re in sunny Florida or snowy Minnesota, you can probably expect that the necessary requirements for your plants will be a little different. To make things simple, we’ve organized these tips for maintaining your plants in the following regions:
Find your region below to learn how to keep your plants happy over the holiday season!
December brings a whole lot of cloud cover and gloomy grey days, but the temperatures aren’t likely to get uncomfortably frigid. To make sure your plants get adequate light, it’s worth moving them closer to the window, provided the windows are well-sealed and don’t have any cold drafts coming through. If you’re really concerned they still aren’t receiving enough light—particularly plants that prefer lots of bright, direct sun—a small UV grow lamp can provide some supplementary light.
Reduce watering and allow the soil to mostly dry out before watering again. If you were watering once per week in the summer, scale back to once every two weeks. Stop fertilizing your plants entirely until spring—this will help them to conserve energy so they have healthier, steadier growth once the temperatures rise. Heavier feeders like ferns and spider plants can have a little bit of diluted, slow-release fertilizer.
You typically won’t have to worry about the weather getting too dry out by the coast, but indoor heating can make the air feel a bit dryer. If you have plants that prefer humid air, you can mist them occasionally, or bring them into the bathroom once a month and crank the shower up extra hot to fill the room with steam.
Wintertime in the midwest can be seriously cold and snowy, but on the bright side (literally), there are a whole lot more sunny days compared to the coast. So, to be on the safe side, you probably won’t want to place your plants too close to the window, because the cold temperature by the glass could cause some distress.
Instead, leave some space between your plants and the window, but try to place them in a spot that gets some strong, direct beams of light, preferably by a South or West-facing window. Be very mindful of drafts from windows and doors, or heat sources like fireplaces, vents and space heaters.
Reduce watering and stop fertilizing, but make sure to add some humidity into the air—it can get bone dry in the midwest, and using a humidifier can make a world of a difference for your plants. If you have a large plant collection, a bigger electric humidifier is a worthy investment, but if you’ve only got a couple plants, you can buy conveniently-sized humidifiers that sit in a cup of water.
If you have struggled with plant care in the past and are unsure if your windows provide enough light, it might be worth opting for low light plants like pothos, philodendron, or sansevieria. They are much more resilient to changes in light levels, and can survive on just a bit of indirect sun each day.
Overcast weather and mild temperatures are a hallmark of wintertime in California and the surrounding Southwest region. Move plants closer to the windows to get more sun, reduce watering, and stop fertilizing all plants, except for heavy feeders like spider plants, which can handle a little bit of slow-release formula. Don’t worry too much about your cacti or succulents—they tend to adapt quite well to reduced sunlight and dormancy.
Vining plants like tradescantia and ivy can benefit from a bit of a trim during the winter if they’ve got any scraggly bits. Be sure to sanitize your shears with rubbing alcohol before pruning—just like us, plants can contract illnesses from unsanitary tools. Think of yourself as a plant surgeon, and keep your equipment clean!
If you’ve got potted plants outside that you want to overwinter indoors, be sure to rinse off the leaves with your hose on a light setting, and generously apply a natural insecticidal spray to prevent outdoor pests from invading your plants indoors. Mist your plants regularly to make up for the lack of humidity, but be sure to keep them in a spot with good air circulation and shake off any excess moisture to prevent the development of mold.
In Southern areas with desert climates, the most important thing to do when caring for your plants in wintertime is to reduce watering! In the summer when temperatures are scorching hot and the air is super dry, we get used to watering our plants frequently, since the soil dries up quicker. But once the temperatures cool, frequent watering can lead to moisture buildup and root rot, especially for your succulents and cacti.
Water plants every 2–4 weeks depending on the variety, and if necessary, use a mister for tropical plants like croton, to improve humidity. Alternatively, you can arrange your potted plants on a large tray full of pebbles with a bit of water to deliver some humidity directly to the leaves of the plants. If you bring any container plants indoors for the season, give them a good rinse and coat them with insecticidal spray to prevent bugs.
In sunny spots like Florida and other states along the Atlantic coast, you won’t need to worry too much about your plants not receiving adequate sunlight, or getting blasted by cold drafts. Simply ease up on watering and allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before watering again, stop fertilizing, and move plants closer to the window if they’re looking a bit sun-starved.
Dry air isn’t likely to be a major problem, but humidity levels can still drop, so if you notice any brown edges on your plants’ leaves, plug in a humidifier or bring your plants into the bathroom and turn on the shower to release steam and moisten the leaves.
How Do I Keep My Plants Alive While On Vacation?
If you’re away for three weeks or less for your holiday vacation, you don’t have to resort to hiring a plant sitter! Here’s what you can do to keep them lush and green:
- Huddle them altogether. This will help to keep a bubble of humidity around them.
- Use water orbs, or make a DIY irrigation system. These slow-release methods of watering will keep your plants hydrated, and since you don’t have to water as much from December–March, this will buy you plenty of time. You can easily rig up a DIY irrigation system with old plastic bottles and everyday household materials. Search Pinterest for an easy tutorial!
- If there’s sunlight in your bathroom, huddle the plants in the tub. This will work even better for increasing humidity.
- Leave your succulents and cacti alone. They’ll be just fine without you!
- If you use a grow lamp, make sure it has a timer! It’s important for plants to maintain the pattern of mornings and nights, and constant light will confuse them. If you’re using grow lights, set them up so they’re only on for 6–8 hours per day.
Caring for plants is an awesome way to beat the winter blues and enjoy the beauty of nature from inside your home! Stock up on some new greenery for 2021 with brand new plants from Plant Decor Shop. We have an incredible selection of different varieties to suit all skill levels, homes and budgets!