Posted on December 10 2020
Once the initial thrill of the first snowfall has worn off, winter can feel dull and gloomy. A great way to combat the winter blues is to fill your home with lush and vibrant houseplants! It can seem daunting to keep plants in peak condition over the long winter months, but with the correct care you can keep them healthy and help them flourish year round!
In the winter, house plant growth may slow down or stop altogether, some plants may even go completely dormant. While your home may be nice and warm, house plants respond to the shorter daylight hours and the lack of light intensity. During this time they will stop actively growing. While some plants may sprout a new leaf or two, you may not notice significant growth until the spring. It is important to alter your care routines to keep your plants healthy during this time.
Winter Care Tips:
While you may think extra fertilizer means a healthier plant or faster growth, this is not always the case -- especially in the winter! Avoid fertilizing your plants during the winter months. Fertilizing your plants during this time can burn the roots and damage leaves! Start fertilizing again in the spring and you will be rewarded with fresh new growth.
Plants require less water during winter. Since plants are not actively growing they use less water. Familiarize yourself with your plant’s specific water needs and only water when necessary. If you adhere to a strict watering schedule be sure to check your plants first to make sure they really need it, don’t just water out of habit. When in doubt, stick your finger into the soil as far as your second knuckle, if the soil feels dry then it’s probably time to water. Be extra cautious about over watering as this can lead to root rot, fungal disease and fungus gnats. Check your pots for adequate drainage and make sure plants are never left in standing water.
Add a grow light to keep sun loving plants healthy. For small spaces consider a grow light desk lamp!
If you have sun loving or high light plants you may want to add some supplemental light. Succulents and cacti will especially benefit from this as it can help prevent stretched out growth as they seek out sunlight. For houseplants, you can start simple by adding a compact fluorescent grow bulb to one of your lamps and placing it at least 6 inches away from plants in need of a little extra light. Keep the light on for about 8 hours a day depending on your plant's light requirements. Just remember that plants need a period of darkness too, and will not benefit from having a grow light on 24/7.
While central heating keeps you (and your plants!) warm and cozy it can also lead to low humidity in winter months. If you notice leaves turning brown on the edges, shriveling, drying or falling off, you may want to increase the humidity. This can be especially important for moisture loving plants such as ferns. Consider adding a small humidifier to give yourself and your plants a boost of moisture. Misting your plants is an easy option but you must be consistent and careful not to over do it and leave plants dripping wet. A pebble tray is another easy option. Simply fill a large tray or saucer with small stones or pebbles and add water. Place your potted plant on top of the pebbles, making sure it is not sitting in the water. As the water from the tray evaporates it will create humidity. Be sure to replenish the water regularly.
While plants soak up the sun in front of your windows make sure they don’t get too close! Don’t allow plants to sit pressed up against the window. Cold glass or drafts of cold air can damage indoor plants. Check the edges of your windows to make sure cold air is not blowing in. Add insulation strips if necessary. Avoid placing plants too close to heating vents or radiators as too much heat can be just as damaging as the cold.
* PRO TIP
If you are gifting, transporting or purchasing a plant make sure to protect from the elements. Package it in a paper or plastic bag and be sure not to leave it in the car without the heat on.
Avoid repotting your plants during the winter. If you want to upgrade from the plastic pot your plant came in, you can transfer the plant to a decorative pot the same size or place the plant into a new container without removing it from the plastic pot. Don’t repot into a larger pot with more soil. Since tropical houseplants are not actively growing over the winter they will not be producing new roots and it can be very easy to overwater a plant in an overly large pot with lots of extra soil. Wait until spring to upsize into a new pot and your plant will flourish.
If you brought you houseplants outside over the summer for a mini vacation they may have returned with some visitors. Pests can flourish indoors over the winter. Check your plant’s leaves regularly and use sticky traps to monitor for flying bugs. If you do notice insects they can likely be treated with insecticidal soap which is safe for indoor use.
With the right knowledge, caring for your houseplants over the winter can be fun and rewarding. Adding to your collection can be a great pick-me-up in the winter. With the correct care your plants will stay happy and healthy all year!