How to Care for Houseplants in Winter - Backyard Boss
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How to Care for Houseplants in Winter

While houseplants remain indoors throughout the cooler season, you still need to adapt your care routine in winter. Even though your plants aren’t out in the snow, the atmosphere of your home will still change in winter. Changes in temperature and the amount of sunlight during the day affect how the plants grow and, in turn, what they need to survive. 

Fortunately, plants require less attention during the cooler months, so your care routine should be easier! Learn about all the tools you’ll need and how to alter your care regimen to ensure your plants survive the winter.

Tools You’ll Need

Houseplant care tools
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While houseplant winter care is simple, there are still a few tools you’ll need to keep on standby.

  • Grow lights (if required)
  • Watering can and plant mister
  • Humidifier
  • Pruning shears
  • Sticky traps
  • Microfiber cloth

How to Care for Houseplants in Winter

Growing houseplants indoors during winter involves some changes from spring and summer care since plants’ needs shift with the seasons.

Lighting

Houseplant on a windowsill, illuminated by a table lamp. Heavy snow outside the window and deep snow outside the window.
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Winter days are shorter, so the amount of sunlight your plants get lessens. You can place plants that require extra light in your south- and west-facing windows. Remember to keep the plants far enough away from the window that they aren’t touching the glass or getting a draft, as they can suffer from cold damage.

Providing extra light is especially important if your plants are already in low-lit locations, such as bathrooms or basements. If you need to supplement lighting, install a grow light nearby or use LED lightbulbs in a lamp or overhead light.

Pro Tip: Rotate plants regularly to ensure they receive light at all angles. This stops the plant from becoming leggy or bare on one side.

Watering, Humidity, and Temperature

person spraying houseplant
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Since plant growth slows in winter and the cooler temperatures and low light mean soil doesn’t dry out as quickly, you don’t need to water as often. With that said, the soil will dry out if you place your plants near a heat source or vent.

As with regular watering rules, it’s important to avoid setting a schedule to water your plants. Instead, stick your finger 1 to 2 inches deep in the soil to determine if it’s still moist. If it’s dry, it’s probably time to water. As a general rule, smaller pots will dry out faster, so keep a closer eye on them. Be careful not to overwater your plants, as this can lead to problems such as root rot

Since many houseplants come from tropical environments, such as birds of paradise and pothos, they require humidity. In winter, humidity levels tend to drop. To remedy this, you can place a humidifier in the same room as your plants. As a general rule of thumb, plants prefer warmer conditions of around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 55 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Fertilizer

Woman pouring granular fertilizer into pot with house plant at table
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Many indoor plants go dormant or slow down in growth during winter, meaning they don’t require fertilizerOver-fertilizing plants can have negative consequences similar to overwatering. 

Over-fertilization can lead to sudden plant growth with an insufficient root structure, meaning the plant will lack adequate water and nutrients — combined with salt damage to the roots. This results in discolored leaves, root diseases, defoliation, and death.

Plants that flower during winter, such as African violets and some orchids, are exceptions since they are actively growing. If that’s the case, wait until you see new growth to begin fertilizing.

Pests, Pruning, and Repotting

some dark-winged fungus gnats are stuck on Flypaper
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Houseplant pests, such as mealybugs, thrive in the dry conditions of winter. With this knowledge, it’s crucial to prevent pests by keeping an eye out for them, isolating new plants, and implementing preventative measures such as sticky traps.

While you can prune houseplants any time of year, winter is the perfect time to clear away dead foliage. Using sharpclean pruning shears, snip away any dying or dead leaves. You can also cut the plant down in size if it’s too big for your space! Also, dust the leaves of your plants regularly with a microfiber cloth to increase photosynthesis.

Even if your plant is a little root bound, it’s best to leave repotting until the spring. That’s when the plants begin actively growing and will adjust better to a new pot and develop a strong root system. Repotting in winter may shock the plant. With that said, if the plant is extremely root-bound and roots are shooting out of the pot, the plant is susceptible to root rot, and you should repot.

Chill Out!

While caring for houseplants is simple, making a few adjustments to your care routine is crucial to ensure they stay happy and healthy throughout the season. For a few general rules, remember to supplement lighting if necessary, water and fertilize less frequently, and keep an eye out for pests and diseases.

Do you have any tips for caring for houseplants in winter? Share in the comments below!

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