If you own houseplants, you have very likely noticed a change in their behavior, or possibly even lost a houseplant or two as soon as the weather and outdoor temperatures drop during the winter season. Many people don’t realize just how sensitive houseplants can be and attribute this to something else or give up on their plants completely. Winter houseplant care really is not that complicated, and just a few simple adjustments can significantly increase your success rate with your indoor plants in winter. That is why we are going to walk you through an easy guide on how to take care of houseplants in winter.
1. Know Your Plants
Knowing your plants is the first step to providing them with the care they need. Some indoor plants are quite particular, while others are quite hardy and can withstand conditions far outside of their preferences. So, if your houseplant is beginning to look a little shabby, do some research first! This may help give you a better idea of what might be wrong and how to help your plant recover. And if you would like to know more about different kinds of houseplants that are very hardy, low maintenance, and can withstand a wide variety of environments, check out this blog!
2. Diagnosing Struggling Plants
First of all, how do you know if your plant is struggling? The most common signs of unhappy plants can be seen in their leaves. Many may droop, turn yellow, or fall off completely. The leaves of some plants may also shrivel up and turn brown and crispy. Some plants may not show many signs of discomfort at all and may just stop growing altogether. And while slowed growth is to be expected in the off-season, a complete halt in growth could be a sign that your plant is not as happy as it could be. If any of these symptoms appear, taking action right away will be key in saving your plant.
3. Do NOT Water Them
The largest cause of death for most houseplants is overwatering!! Oftentimes, when a houseplant starts showing signs that it may not be doing too well, people automatically water the plant. And when it doesn’t recover in a week’s time, they water it more. If a plant is already stressed, watering it excessively will often induce more stress which can cause the plant to give up on life. Not to mention, many indoor plants tend to be susceptible to root rot, which occurs when the soil is too saturated and does not dry out quickly enough, creating the perfect environment for fungus to grow in the soil that causes your plant to rot and die from the roots up. Your houseplants will also need substantially less water throughout the winter season because their growth is slowed and they are not using as much water. During the winter season, temperatures are cooler and sunlight is often more limited, which also decreases the amount of water that evaporates naturally. So, if your plant appears to be having a bad day, resist the urge to water it. And overall, you should always decrease the amount in which you water your plants during the winter to about half as much as you do during the summer. Just remember, it is SO much easier for a plant to recover from underwatering than it is for them to recover from overwatering!
4. Avoid Drafty Windows, Doors, or Heat Vents
All houseplants are tropical houseplants, which simply means they are varieties that are native to tropical climates. This means that these houseplants are used to warm temperatures, and many of them cannot survive in environments that are cooler than 65 degrees. And while many of us likely keep our thermostat set at 65 degrees or warmer, many of us also have the bulk of our houseplants concentrated around any window that receives natural light, and the temperature near windows and doors is easily five to ten degrees colder than whatever temperature your thermostat reads. The cold air coming off of windows or gushing through doors that are opened even just once or twice per day is enough to shock your houseplants and send them into a state of disarray. And the same goes for air vents in your home. Some houseplants can be sensitive to the air conditioning coming out of a vent in the spring as well as the hot air coming out of your vents in the winter.
5. Increase Humidity
Being from tropical regions, many houseplants also require certain levels of humidity to remain happy in their environments. For the majority of houseplants, 40-50% humidity is the lowest they will tolerate, while somewhere around 60% or higher is ideal. Depending on the plant and its preferences, you may begin to notice dry, crunchy leaves despite adequate watering, or the growth of your houseplants may become stunted due to lack of humidity. If you begin to notice anything of the sort, you may want to provide some supplemental humidity for your plants. Here in Colorado, the humidity is very low even on a good day, especially in the winter when furnaces are pumping hot air throughout your house and drying things out even more. That being said, having a humidifier placed nearby is highly recommended. Other methods for increasing the humidity include pebble trays, regular misting, and grouping plants together. Sitting your plant over a pebble tray will help moisturize your plant as the water from the tray evaporates into the air around the plant. Misting helps hydrate the leaves and introduces particles of water into the air surrounding your plant. And grouping plants together helps to increase the humidity in the area as all plants release moisture into the air from their leaves, causing the humidity in the air surrounding a group of plants to remain higher than it would with a solo plant.
6. Provide Supplemental Light
We all are plenty familiar with winter's short days and long nights. While this decrease in natural light will not often cause the demise of your plants, it will slow their growth substantially. Also, if you have had to move any of your plants away from any windows for the reasons mentioned above, this will further decrease the amount of light your plants are receiving. An easy fix to this is to provide your plants with a synthetic light source. Buying a full spectrum grow light or light bulbs is the best way to provide your plants with the light they need.
7. Cut Back on Fertilizing
If you are a responsible houseplant parent and fertilize your plants regularly, you definitely will want to cut back during the winter. Many plants sense the change in light and temperature and enter a dormant state or a state of slowed growth. In this state, your plant is not going to use up as many nutrients as you may be accustomed to giving it, and too much unused fertilizer sitting in the soil can burn the roots of your plant causing irreversible damage. Over-fertilizing your plants can also cause the tips of leaves to dry out and become brown and crunchy. Always follow the instructions on the back of your bottle of fertilizer, and if there are no winter-specific instructions, it is not a bad idea to cut back on fertilizing for the entirety of the cool season. If you notice a plant beginning to bloom or starting to push out new growth, it is entirely fine to give these plants a diluted amount of fertilizer, just do so sparingly and be sure to watch for signs of fertilizer burn.
8. Watch Out for Pests
Many pests that commonly ail houseplants are often tiny and very easily fly under the radar. They disguise themselves, hide in the smallest cracks and crevices, or are so small that they are all but undetectable. So, if your plant seems to be struggling to no avail, take a closer look. Especially if you like to place your houseplants outside during the warm months, it is very easy for little critters to get into the leaves and the soil of your plants and slowly suck the life out of them. If you re-examine your plant and happen to find some unwanted tenants, we have tons of great organic pest control products to help you help your plant.
9. Give It Some Time to Recover
With any recovering plant, patience is KEY. Even at the peak of a plant's growing season, recovery can easily take two weeks or longer to start showing positive changes. Especially in the winter when their growth is dramatically slowed down, it may seem like nothing is changing. However, even if you aren’t sure what exactly was the cause of your plant's distress, if you put all of the above recommendations into action, it is almost guaranteed that you will see positive results in time. If your plant is stressed or damaged to the extent that it is past the point of recovery, you will find this out sooner than later. And as much as none of us hate the idea of losing one of our beloved houseplants, this is part of the learning process and we have plenty of big, beautiful, and healthy plants in our greenhouse to help fill the gap.
10. What To Expect from Your Plants This Winter
This winter season, try to maintain reasonable expectations for your houseplants. Remember that they are trying to survive in a climate that is much different than their native environments. And remember that slowed growth is to be expected. Simply lookout for signs that may indicate your houseplants’ discomfort, keep all of the advice above in mind, and you are sure to maintain a happy house full of all your favorite plants. If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding your houseplants or how to take care of indoor plants in winter, let us know! We are always happy to help!