Winter is difficult for most plants because of unfavorable environmental conditions. Caring for plants in winter requires extra attention from you. Start by altering the care routine for your plant to help them survive through winter.
The winter hardiness or cold tolerance of a houseplant depends on the variety you grow.
Do Houseplants Die in Winter?
Difficult growing conditions like chilly weather, short days, low light levels, and dry air make winter difficult for most houseplants. Plants do not die but experience slow growth in winter or enter dormancy. You can adjust the care to help your plant get through harsh winter weather. Once spring comes, your plant will wake up and start growing again.
What is Dormancy?
In simple words, dormancy is described as the metabolic inactivity of perennial plants. This is a response to adverse or unfavorable growing conditions.
The plant is not dead during the dormancy phase because the foliage above the soil might not show any sign of growth, but the roots under the soil are still alive.
Plants do not grow in dormancy but store useful energy for survival. You can cover the garden soil with mulch to protect your plant from thaw and freeze cycles.
Dormancy is a hibernation phase that helps the plant survive winter. It prepares the plant for nutrient shortage, lack of water, dry weather, and freezing temperature.
Have you wondered how plants decide when to enter dormancy? The answer is a change in temperature and light levels. With shorter days, more darkness, and chilly weather, the plant signals the soft tissues to begin dormancy.
Winter Care for Plants
If the winter temperature in your area falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), your tropical plant will struggle to survive. Most tropical plants prefer growing in temperatures ranging from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 to 23.8 degrees Celsius).
You cannot control the outdoor temperatures, so bring the outdoor plants inside and adjust the thermostat to create perfect growing conditions for your plant.
Plants dislike temperature fluctuations. The following tips will protect them against temperature changes in winter.
- If your windows in winter frost overnight, move your planters away from the window in the evening.
- Do not position your plant next to a heat source (heat vent, fireplace, or heater) or cold, drafty windows, doors, etc.
Make sure the windows in your home are sealed and insulated. Else the cold-sensitive plants will start shedding their leaves.
Most regions have low sunlight in winter because the light levels drop by half.
Houseplants that were thriving in a north or east-facing window in summer should be transferred to the south or west-facing windows. Most plants can withstand few hours of direct sunlight in winter.
To help your plants grow better in the low sunlight of winter months, do the following
- Use the help of fluorescent bulbs or any other artificial lights. I prefer fluorescent bulbs because they generate less heat and are economical. The bulb should be positioned at the height of 4-12 inches above the plant but make sure the light evenly distributes.
- Clean the glass windows for maximum sunlight transmission, also move your plant closer to the window. You should examine the light levels in different locations of your house in winter before transferring your plant to a new location.
- Sometimes leaves struggle with light-capturing because they are dusty. I would recommend cleaning the leaves to avoid this issue.
- Due to low sunlight, your plant will have leggy growth in winter. You can pinch the foliage for a bushy appearance.
Low humidity in the winter months can lead to a spider mites infection and brown leaf tips. Improve the humidity in winter in the following ways.
- Move your plants closer to the humidifier.
- In case you do not have a humidifier, cluster your plants together.
- Place your plant on or near a pebble tray to elevate the humidity around it.
- Mist your plant multiple times throughout the day.
Houseplants prefer an average humidity of at least 40%, but in cold months the indoor humidity is mostly between 10-20%.
Overwatering becomes a huge issue for houseplants in winter. Some common instruction to water houseplants in winter are
- Poke your finger 2 inches deep in the soil. Only water your plant if dry.
- Low humidity means plants require more water. But if you are maintaining good humidity, do not blindly add water to your plant.
- Know your plant’s moisture needs for a better understanding of watering.
- Lift the plant and judge the moisture content by the weight. It will take several tries to make a perfect judgment.
- Never leave the water in the drainage saucer for too long, especially overnight. This creates a perfect scenario to encourage root rot.
Plants grow slowly in winter, so they require less water compared to summer. You should not rely on the dryness of the soil surface because the upper soil mostly dries quickly in winter. But the bottom layers are still wet.
Some plant varieties like cacti or succulents do not need to be watered at all, depending on their drought tolerance.
You should always use water at room temperature to avoid temperature shock.
Controlling Pests in Winter
Houseplants go dormant in winter but not the pests. In fact, some of them actively thrive in winter.
Check your plant regularly for any pests or bugs because they can silently feed on your plant throughout the long winter months.
If you suspect a pest infection, start treating your plant with neem oil as soon as possible.
Leaf infesting insects like aphids, caterpillars, and slugs love feeding on the green leaves of your houseplants. They cause physical damage, transmit viruses, and feed on several ornamental, vegetable, and fruit crops.
Frequently Asked Questions About Houseplants in Winter
Can I repot my plant in winter?
Winter is not the ideal season to repot because most plants should be repotted during active growth (summer or spring).
Should I continue fertilizing my plants in winter?
For mild climates, continue fertilization if the plant is growing. But you should stop fertilizing in cold climates, where sunlight is low, and the plant enters dormancy. You can resume fertilization in spring when the plant starts growing again.
How can I ensure even light distribution for my plant in winter?
You should rotate your plant every time you water it. This ensures all parts of the plant receive sunlight and prevents leggy growth.
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.