Have you noticed that your indoor plants haven’t been the same since, let’s say, Thanksgiving? If so, you’re not alone—and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad houseplant parent. All plants need a little extra love, care, and attention to make it through the winter chill. But with these helpful tips, you can keep your winter houseplants looking pretty until Spring returns.
While we tend to generalize all “houseplants” as one thing, the truth is that not all plants are equal, and neither are their needs. Some plants need more sunlight than others, some need different types of soil, and some plants go dormant in winter, which means no matter what you do, they’re going to look a little different until spring.
Do some research on all your plants and keep their needs in mind. If you have a large variety of plants with different needs, keep your very own plant journal with information. You can even keep track of when to water or prune on your calendar.
No matter their individual needs, these remaining tips are good general guidelines (especially if you don’t know what your plant is besides being green and leafy).
In the winter, you might find your skin particularly dry. To compensate, you probably load on the lip balm and lotion and drink extra water. But before you start giving your plants the good old hydration treatment, stop. Plants are not people (even if you talk to them).
The truth is, plants need less water in winter, so you should be cutting back. Overwatering is always a dangerous sport, but especially so in winter. If your plant’s friends have yellow leaves, are attracting bugs, or have moldy soil, you’re dealing with an overwatering problem.
Before you water in the winter, make sure your pot has a drainage hole (this will prevent rot). A saucer is also important to catch your excess moisture. Don’t let your plants stay too wet or you’ll risk sending them to a watery grave. When it does come to watering, either cut the amount of water in half or limit the drinks to when they actually look thirsty.
Just as you need to cut back on watering your plants, you also need to cut back on feeding them. And by cut back, I mean just don’t do it. During the winter, your plants are barely growing (if they’re not completely dormant). If you feed them now, you’ll just interrupt their natural cycle. It’s best to wait until early spring when you see signs of new growth again.
Remember how we talked about dry human skin? Well, while plants still aren’t people, they feel the effects of dry indoor air even more than we do. Since a lot of indoor houseplants are jungle plants and prefer the nice, hot, steamy jungle than our wintery living room, it’s important to prevent dry leaves. And no, preventing dry leaves doesn’t mean overwatering; it means giving them their very own humid microclimate.
If you have a humidifier, your plants will thank you. If you don’t have a humidifier, it’s best to group your plants together during the winter because they naturally transpire their water. Put them together and they’ll all benefit from that moisture. Bathrooms and kitchens are the best rooms for your plants (other than a room with a humidifier). Another option is to fill a tray of pebbles halfway with water and place the plants on that tray. The water will slowly evaporate and give your plants a little humidity boost.
During the winter months, we experience a significant reduction in sunlight. Not only in terms of sunrise/sunset but also on days where heavy, snow-laden clouds fill the sky. And did you know that the sun actually comes in at a lower angle during winter? Yeah, it’s not just you. It’s winter.
So, if you find yourself feeling gloomy with the lack of sunlight, imagine how your plants must feel! They need the sun for photosynthesis (which makes energy). If your plants are looking droopy and are starving for light, you might need to relocate them, if possible, preferably to a south or west facing window—anywhere that gets sun all day. If you don’t have such a sunny spot in your home, you might want to consider adding supplemental light.
If you do move your plants by a sunny window, don’t put them too close to a frosty window! Plants are sensitive to cold air (especially those indigenous to the jungle) and will drop their leaves if it gets too drafty for them. Make sure your windows are sealed and insulated (which you want to do anyway for a more energy efficient home!) or keep your plants out of drafty areas.
While you’re dusting the end tables, mantle, and picture frames, don’t forget to dust your plants! Yes, you read that right. Just as your corners collect dust, so, too, do your houseplants.
Wiping the leaves just once a month will actually help light intake because the dust affects the photosynthesis process. Use a wet paper towel or stick them all in the bathtub and let the shower (gently!) clean them for you.
Sarah is a content writer and social media assistant with a BA in literature/creative writing from Wilkes University. When she’s not spending her days at work writing, reading, and drinking coffee, she’s usually at home reading, writing, and drinking coffee. She also devotes a fair amount of time to HGTV, drawing, and doting on her dog. As a creator, Sarah believes in emphasizing personality through design and DIY projects.