During the winter months, houseplants can fulfill our green craving. We miss those hours spent in the garden, and therefore pour our affection into our house plants. But how much care do our various house plants need?
Different plant species can vary considerably in their winter care needs, so always do a little research to learn the particular needs of your plants. Succulents and cactus will require little to no watering. Plants from the tropics, where there is little difference between winter and summer, often do not have the same dormant period as plants originating in more temperate zones. Try to mimic the winter conditions of the regions where the species originate.
While some plants may go completely dormant, others will continue to grow – but at a slower rate. As long as they are still getting light, water, and nutrients, and the temperatures are kept reasonably high, they should be able to grow.
Keep in mind that different plants have different water needs—drought-tolerant cacti, and other succulents might not need watering at all, while some tropical plants might still require more regular watering. Tropical plants with the proper light, temperature, and humidity will continue to grow, only at a slower rate and will need to be watered lightly and fertilized less often than in the summer. Over watering can lead to root rot.
With our heaters kicking out that warm, dry air, it’s not just our skin that dries out. That dry air will suck moisture out of plant leaves as well. Increasing the humidity around your house plants will reduce those crispy leaves. Clustering your plants in groups will increase the humidity. Plants naturally release water through their leaves by transpiring, so grouping them together will put that moisture to good use. Bathrooms and kitchens are the best rooms to congregate your plants because that steam from your boiling pot of soup, and the steam from your hot shower, is great for those leaves to absorb.
Humidity trays are another way to increase humidity. Get a tray or plate and layer rocks or pebbles roughly 1 inch thick. Put water in the dish just below the rock line and set your potted plants on the rocks. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the pot. The water will evaporate around your plants and increase the humidity!
Misting can be effective but tends to be more about making us feel good about ourselves rather than benefiting the plants. You might think you are giving your plants some much needed humidity, but misting is only a temporary blast of moisture. To be effective for your plants, you need to mist multiple times a day to really see any benefits.
Your tropical houseplants are going to want temperatures between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temps above 50 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them happy and (slowly) growing.
Not only are there fewer hours of sunlight during winter, but the rays also come in at a lower angle. Moving your houseplants to a brighter spot will benefit them greatly. A good spot is a south- or west-facing window that remains sunny all day (but be careful, don’t move plants too close to a frosty window because they might get a draft.) Even better than a winter window is adding supplemental light. You can get full spectrum light bulbs to add to a lamp and set your houseplant under that lamp or if you have too many plants for 1 lamp you can invest in a T5 or T8 light bar to supplement our low light winter months.
Dust build-up on our plant will limit how much light it can absorb effectively. Dusting your leaves or wiping the leaves gently with a damp rag will allow it to absorb more light!
Most houseplants don’t need any fertilizer in winter because they are not growing as actively as they do in the summer. Feeding them now will just upset their natural cycle, so stop feeding until early spring. When you start to see signs of new growth or the existing leaves appear to be greening up, resume fertilizing to give them a boost for the growing season. If you are mimicking a tropical environment with heat, humidity, and added grow lights, you can continue your fertilizing but at a reduced concentration.