Winter Container Gardening 101: How To Care For Houseplants During Cold-Weather Months

November 5, 2015

Did you know that your houseplant requires different kinds of care in winter and summer?

For a houseplant, winter provides an opportunity for rest after a season of rapid growth. While it sleeps, it needs maximum comfort and minimal stress to wake up in spring happy and healthy. For a gardener, this can mean a difficult balancing act between offering too much and too little care. Luckily, a few tips and tricks can help make this winter a success for your houseplants:

Provide The Best Light Possible.

  • Utilize the sunniest window available. You may have to re-position plants to accommodate the changing angle of the sun. Eastern windows are ideal, as they receive mild morning light that will not stress plants as much as western or southern light may. Unless you’re growing a low-light plant, avoid northern windows.
  • Clean the windows, both inside and out. Dirty windows can greatly reduce the amount of sunlight available to the plant
  • Rotate plants with each watering to ensure that each surface of the plant gets adequate sunlight. Plants will lean and stretch if parts of the plant are constantly shadowed, resulting in a uneven and lopsided plants.
  • Clean and dust the plant itself. With large-leaf and succulent plants, wipe each leaf surface with a dampened cloth. For smaller leaves, use a damp cotton swab or small paintbrush to clean the surface. If it’s also time to water, place the plant in the sink and gently spray it clean while watering.
  • Supplement light with fluorescent bulbs with a color temperature between 4500-6000k, 25 watt, and place 8-12 inches above the plant. Keep it on a timer, to shine between 12-18 hours a day.

Watering – Easy does it. Over-watering is the primary reason house plants die over winter.

  • Unless you are growing ferns or citrus, which require constantly moist soil, allow the dirt to dry 2-3 inches below the surface before re-watering.
  • Fill a watering can and let it sit until it reaches room temperature. Plants are not able to recover as quickly from temperature shock during their dormant months.
  • Fertilizing is discouraged during the winter months. If you chose to continue fertilizing, reduce the strength by at least fifty percent. Resume regular fertilizing when active growth appears in the spring.

Household humidity can drop to 10% or lower in winter. Plants prefer closer to 50%!

  • Place plants on a saucer or tray filled with pebbles or gravel and fill with water. Don’t allow the pot to sit directly in the water.
  • Place as many plants as you can in bathrooms and kitchens. Showers and boiling water provide more humidity than other rooms can offer.
  • Misting is not effective in raising the humidity level. Instead, place a humidifier or cool vaporizer in each room that contains a plant.

Other Cold-Weather Considerations:

  • Your plants will appreciate a location away from furnaces, vents, radiators, and space heaters. Also avoid drafty windows or frequently-opened doors, and be sure to keep foliage from touching frigid window panes. Maintain a few inches of buffer space between the plant and the window.
  • Do not re-pot your plant in the late autumn or winter. Repotting is stressful and potentially damaging to roots. Save this task for spring when the plant can quickly bounce back.

Wondering why it’s worthwhile to have houseplants all year round? Find out why and how houseplants keep your indoor air cleaner and greener!