If you are new at gardening and are worried about winter being just around the corner, fret not. We have the complete guideline on how you can take care of your houseplants during this time. In this article, you will learn about the dos and don’ts in winter care, and a list of indoor plants that actually love the cool weather, and may survive through the winter season.
During winter, there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made in order to keep your plants healthy and happy. From the change in temperature, humidity, and shorter days, your houseplants would need extra love and care during this season, even if they are technically in their dormant phase.
Basic Winter Care for Your Houseplants
Winter can be described as a cooler and darker season, and during this time most plants prefer to rest. Just like how most animals hibernate by the first snowfall and wake up in time for spring. This is what we call their dormant phase. During winter, there are necessary precautions you must take in order to make sure your plant makes it to spring. It may take a little effort on your end, but that little effort can definitely go a long way.
We know for a fact, that plants need water in order to make food during photosynthesis. But during winter when they are not actively growing, the consumption of water is less which is why it is important to adjust your watering routine. In addition to this, the cool weather does not allow evaporation to happen as fast as it would during warmer climates.
Reduce Watering Frequency
As we have mentioned, on cooler seasons, the soil will not dry out as fast and since the plant is not actively growing the roots won’t be needing much water either. The rule of thumb for houseplants that need to be kept in moist soil is to water them every week. During winter, you would need to adjust the frequency to 2 or 3-week intervals depending on the type of plant you have and the feel of the soil. Always check how dry the top soil is and then decide if it needs watering or not.
Lessen Amount of Water
Let’s say your plant is used to getting 200 ml of water, during winter you would need to cut back on the amount by at least 25% or use a smaller container to water your plants. Remember, the plant is not actively consuming the water you place. Putting too much will just make the soil soggy and create root rot. Once rotting in the roots begin, your plant will have a hard time absorbing nutrient from the soil.
Use Room Temperature Water
Plant roots are quite sensitive, using ice cold water on them will cause a shock at a time they are supposed to be resting. This will cause severe stress to your plant and eventually kill it. The same concept goes with hot water, the heat will damage your plant’s roots and this is something you must avoid entirely.
Being the most essential ingredient to photosynthesis, the lack of light due to shorter days can be quite a hassle to deal with. Even if the plants are not in an active growing phase, they should have access to light.
Move Your Plants to A Brighter Space
We know that winter months are definitely darker with shorter days. If your plants are not getting the right amount of light, you need to move them to space where the light would be more accessible, like near a window. Just be sure that your plants are not directly in contact with any cold drafts.
Rotate Your Plants
On normal days, we would rotate our plant to make sure that all the leaves are exposed to indirect light especially when the light source is just focused on one side. Depending on the set up of their space, rotate your plants as needed. If routine rotation is not done, you would notice your plant leaning to one side, typically where the sunlight is abundant.
Install Grow Lights
If you are really dedicated to your indoor garden, buying grow lights would be a good investment. With these lights, you can make sure that your plant as consistent access to light even during the change in season. It is important to check the specifications of the lights you buy. While some grow lights like Halogen may be deemed effective, long-term exposure can cause damage because of the head. LED grow lights, on the other hand, does not emit any heat at all, and can be used in longer intervals without damaging the plant.
Fertilizers serve as vitamins plants need in order to grow. They provide the soil with the necessary nutrition for the plants to absorb. Just like humans, plants would need certain supplements in order to thrive, but during the time they are not actively growing, it may be ineffective.
Hold Off Fertilizing!
During the dormant phase, you should not add fertilizer to your plants. They do not need it and there wouldn’t be any benefit to it. Fertilizers should be applied during active growth. When fertilizers are placed during times of domancy, the salt build up in the soil will be increased and this will definitely damage your plant.
It is important that your plants are placed in containers that are suited for their size. Growing a large plant in a small pot can stunt its growth. Once you see the roots starting to come out of the drain hole or off the topsoil, repotting should be on your to-do list. However, this is not advisable during winter seasons.
Do Not Re-pot During Winter
The same concept applies; repotting should be done when the plants are in their active growth. When you repot plants during winter, their roots may not adapt that easily. It may be stressed from the transfer and may not grow at all. It would be better to hold it off until springtime.
Each plant type would have an ideal temperature range. This range is based on the plant’s preference depending on its origin. Some plants prefer humid and warm weather, while others prefer shade and moist environments. If your plant is not accustomed to the dry and cold season, certain measures must be taken in order to give them an ideal environment.
Keep Your Plant Away for Heat Sources
During winter, we cannot help but increase the heat by adding a couple of space heaters in a specific room. Adjusting the ambient temperature shouldn’t be a problem. But do not place your plants by any source of heat. As much as plants love sunlight, heat can be lethal.
Keep Your Plant Away from Cold Drafts
Similar to the ice water concept, extremely cold drafts may cause stress and eventually kill your plant. Avoid placing your plan on window sills and door spaces in order to steer clear of cold drafts.
Warm Days and Cool Nights Are Fine
In nature, plants are used to warm days and cold nights. If you are worried about the cold indoors, don’t. Houseplants can adjust to the temperature change as needed. As long as the temperatures are within their range, they should do fine. It’s a whole other story when it becomes icy cold or extremely hot.
Most tropical plants crave humidity. Once winter has come, the atmosphere would be super dry, especially indoors. This makes it a bit hard for some plants that need humidity to survive.
By simply adding a small amount of water over a bed of pebbles in a shallow dish can help out with the humidity issue your plant would have.
Some plants, like the air plant would need frequent misting. In winter seasons, where the air is dry, misting sessions would be much more frequent. If you do not have the time to do this, you can opt to soak your air plants longer.
You can actually purchase humidifiers for your home in the even the air gets too dry, these devices can help your plants and make your air more breathable.
Most people would not think of cleaning their plants, and they would ignore this need, not knowing the repercussions of their actions. Leaves are what the plant uses to gather light and initiate photosynthesis. When the leaves are dirty, the amount of light that gets to the leaves are not consumed completely affecting your plant’s growth.
For some strange reason, mealybugs and spider mites are quite abundant during winter. Most pests are attracted to dark and moist spaces. It is best to keep an eye out for them, and once caught, your plants would need to be treated and separated from the other plants to avoid contamination.
Most fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases start from cold and very moist environments. During winter, since there is a high chance of overwatering, most diseases come out. Which is why you have to protect your plant against them before they spread within your garden. Take action as soon as possible by isolating the infected plant and by using treatment sprays.
Some store-bought plants may come with decorative moss, rocks or pebbles. During winter, it would be best to remove or push these decors back in order for you to see the soil clearly. With decor on top, you won’t be able to see if you have been overwatering your plants and will promote fungal growth.
The key point in this is to carefully monitor your houseplant during winter. Pay close attention to the moisture of the soil and the amount of light your plants get to make sure they survive the season.
When is the Ideal Time to Water Plants in Winter?
During winter, dry air and possible overwatering can be more damaging than the low temperature. Cold air is the same as dry air, and this can easily remove moisture from your plant’s roots faster than your plant can re-absorb them. It also affects the moisture content of the foliage.
Ideally, the perfect time to water your houseplants would be early in the day so it has time to take in the water before the temperature and humidity completely drops by nightfall. Be wary of the temperature as well. Water your plants if the ambient air is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Do not water in colder conditions.
Always use water that is room temperature. Cold or hot water will damage the roots of your plant, and once there is damage to the roots, the chance of your plant not surviving the winter would be very high.
How to Save Overwatered Plants
Overwatering is quite common in winter seasons compared to other months, and this is because your plant is currently in its dormant phase and would not consume as much water. This why it is important to give your plant a little space before smothering it with love and care.
But in case you have already made the mistake of overwatering your plant, here’s what you can do to save them:
Allow Your Soil to Dry Out Completely
If you have already overwatered your plant, it is time for you to let your plant’s soil completely dry out before watering it. Remember, most plants that are with you during winter would need an extra source of needs.
Take Out the Soil and Inspect the Roots for Visible Damage
As much as we discourage re-potting during winter, for cases of severe neglect we can make an exception. Take them out of the soil and inspect your plant for possible damage. If they have been sitting in soggy soil for a long time, the chances of contracting a fungal infection are quite high. In addition to that, wet soil also means possible root rot, in extreme cases root rot will kill your plant and you will very sad about it.
Check for Pests, Bacteria, Fungi, or Samuel
Aside from physical damage, your plant may be suffering from all sorts of diseases especially in overly moist spaces. By being able to identify the problem, you will also be able to treat the disease accordingly. The first thing you should do is separate the infected plant and keep it in isolation until it is fully healed. This way, the disease will not spread in your home.
Trim Dead Parts of Your Plant
Whenever a plant’s leaf starts to brown or wilt, the ideal thing to do is trim them. Routine pruning will benefit your plant greatly. Removing the dying parts of the plant signals the rest of the system not to focus on providing food to those parts in particular. The purpose of removing the dead leaves and flowers that are still attached.
Repot with New Soil
If the soil is extremely wet, you can no longer salvage it. The best option would be to buy new potting soil and transfer your plant to the drier space. Ideally, repotting should not be done in the winter time since the plants are in hibernation mode and their roots may not be strong enough to hold onto the new soil.
Houseplants That Can Survive Winter and How to Care for Them
In the event you may not be as attentive or would not be able to fully devote your time to take extra care of your plant, here are some houseplants you can choose that are sure to survive winter.
- ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
This plant is the most resilient when it comes to the lack of light hence would most likely survive winter. The trick is keeping it happy all throughout the year is watering it only when the soil is completely dry.
Ironically, the perfect care for ZZ plants is lack of care. They will actually do better when they are left alone. They do not need much watering and don’t really mind low-lit spaces. There is no need to fertilize or make a fuss. This is the perfect plant for a forgetful plant parent.
- Maidenhair Fern
The maidenhair fern comes in lots of varieties, and they do not need much light because they are accustomed to growing in shaded areas in their natural habitats. They would do well in winter because of this characteristic.
Though they do not require much light, they are very particular with moisture and humidity. It is vital to keep their soil moist but not soggy. They also need to be misted at least every week. In the event you have forgotten about your fern, don’t worry, just give them a good soaking and they will be back, good as new.
- Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
While most houseplants may be quite difficult to care for, the Chinese evergreen can make a beginner gardening hobbyist seem like an expert. These are known to be the most durable plants in the market and can tolerate low-lit spaces, dry air, and drought. This makes it perfect for winter conditions. Tip: If you’re growing your Chinese Evergreen on water, just make sure the water doesn’t freeze, lol.
Very little effort is needed when caring for a Chinese evergreen. Moderate watering, minimal fertilizing, and adequate lighting should help it reach optimum growth. But if the goal is to have it survive through winter, your main focus would be to not drown it in so much water.
- Natal Lily (Clivia spp.)
The Clivia loves low-lit and chilly spaces, which would make it great for winter. The cool weather during this time would encourage blooms. Like most plants on this list, they do not need to be watered. Instead, allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again.
These plants do not mind neglect but would need some attention during its active growing phase. They usually rest during winter, and would not need much care. You can actually withhold water and fertilizing at these plants for a month. They do not like root disturbances, therefore does not need to be repotted often like other house plants.
- Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)
Most plants cannot tolerate cold drafts and heat from radiators but the Jade plant is able to tolerate it. It’s adaptability to fluctuating temperatures make it best for the winter season.
Being part of the succulent family, the Jade plant would not need a lot of watering. They need to be watered moderately or when the topsoil has dried. In growing seasons, they love sunlight. In winter, while they are resting, it would be best to keep them in a low-lit space where they can recuperate for the remainder of the season.
Special Winter Houseplants
Aside from those houseplants that would tolerate cold and dry conditions, there are plants that were meant to flourish in winter. These plants are not as complex as others when it comes to basic care, but in order for them to grow and bloom, there is much-needed preparation.
Ironically, most of the plants on this list are of tropical origin. It may adapt to cooler ambient air but is not as forgiving as the Jade plant when it comes to inconsistent temperatures.
- Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
These flowers are quite popular during the holidays. They are usually forced to bloom during the holidays with a lot of extra care and effort months before winter. Which is why it’s quite difficult to grow them if you are not as devoted as most experts.
- Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.)
Being of tropical origin, this plant would need cozy warm temperatures and a lot of humidity in the air. This can be solved by placing a water pebble tray or even a humidifier in the area your plant is in. The flowers of these plants are absolutely amazing and would look amazing in your home during the holidays.
- Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera spp)
Originating from the rainforests of Brazil, this plant is the most rewarding to have around the home. Without special care, it may be quite difficult to coax out a blossom from this plant. They thrive in moist soil and a lot of light. If you want to be sure that your Christmas cactus will bloom during the holidays, you would need to provide your plant with 12 hours of complete darkness every night. This should be done 6. to 8 weeks prior Christmas.
- Holly (Ilex)
The holly has been associated with Christmas for decades, during ancient times, the berries from the holly plant were used to brighten the desolate winter. The plant grows as a small shrub with pointy leaves, and white blossoms. It is important to constantly rotate your plant, especially in winter in order for all the leaves to be given a chance to absorb light. If possible, install grow lights in your space to help your plant flourish.
- Mistletoe (Viscum album)
The mistletoe is used as a symbol of love throughout the Christmas season. According to tradition, couples caught underneath a mistletoe would need to kiss. Contrary to its purpose, this plant is actually parasitic. If you want to grow this plant indoors, you would need to have a host plant serve as its source of food. It takes a long time for this plant to mature. It takes at least four years for the mistletoe to do so.
- Christmas Azaleas (Rhododendron obtusum)
Azaleas, in particular, come in different kinds. They are evergreen shrubs that produce flowers in a variety of colors. The Christmas azalea in particular blooms with a bright red blossom that fits in well with the holiday season. In addition to having the color scheme meant for Christmas, this particular variety of azalea prefers to bloom in the winter and continue blooming until early spring.
- Persian Violets (Cyclamen)
Originally from the middle east, these bright red blooms are perfect as festive decor. This plant is very temperamental when it comes to temperature. Anything exceeding their normal range of 40 degrees to 50 degrees Fahrenheit can be detrimental to its growth.
- Paperwhite Narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus)
These Mediterranean flowers are fragrant and absolutely beautiful. They are closely related to the daffodil and is characterized by its bell-shaped flower that often blooms during the holiday season. They may be quite tough to have reflowered, but in the right conditions, having them consistently bloom should not be a problem.
- Winter Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
Known for their tomato-like berries, these plants are also capable of producing small white flowers during the summer time. They are often seen whenever Christmas is just around the corner. They adapt to changing environments easily which makes them great as winter houseplants. One thing to weary about is that this plant is extremely dangerous to have around pets and small children are it is quite toxic when consumed.
With winter slowly approaching your best option would be to know what kind of plant you have and base their care specifically for what they need or prefer. With the right amount of love and basic elements, your plants are sure to thrive through any setting.