Taking Care of Houseplants During Winter

Taking care of houseplants in winter is just a little trickier than during the warmer months. Oh sure they still need water and sunlight but they have a few other requirements during the colder months. Ample light can be hard to come by and might need supplemented. Also fertilizer isn't needed nearly as much.

houseplants in sunny window during winter

Temperature fluctuations can also be a problem especially if the plant is near a drafty window or in direct line of a door that's opened frequently. On the other hand being too close to the heater vents can be bad for plants too. Keep in mind that many houseplants are actually tropical plants and that is exactly why they do so well in constant 70°F temperatures all year round. They're just not built to tolerate blasts of hot or cold!

Keeping houseplants alive during winter

Your houseplants don't need a ton of extra attention in winter, but keeping an eye on these 5 points can keep them thriving till spring!


Most house plants live near the windows which is great in the summer. In the winter though, that might not be bright enough. First, you may want to move them a few inches back from the window. Any leaves in constant contact with the cold window glass will not do well at all. Medium-sized plants can be placed on furniture but there are alternatives like hanging baskets, wall-hung planters, stands or window shelves. 

Place houseplants in front of a south facing window to get the most amount of sun. Make sure the plant gets at least 6 hours of bright sun daily. Some houseplants need less light than others, but normal artificial lighting is no substitute for the natural daylight that all plants need. Rotate the plants every few weeks so all sides of the plant gets sun. 

In many plants you'll notice the leaves will slowly turn to face the sunny side. This solar tracking behavior of plant leaves is called leaf Heliotropism. Personally I find it fascinating and check my plants frequently after turning them to see how much they've moved. One day I'm going to put a camera on them to catch it on film! How cool would that be?

If your plant isn't getting enough light you'll have to supplement with an LED plant light. I like to supplement the natural light buy turning it on from 5pm till about 9 each evening. 


In winter the air inside a house becomes drier which makes us think our plants need watered more often. That is not always the case. Actually, most plants need less water in winter since they are not in the growing season. Don't water on a schedule in winter. Instead use the finger test. Stick your finger down into the soil about an inch. If it's still moist down that far, the plant does not need watered yet.

The reason being that arid winter air dries out the top layer of soil quickly. If you water every time the top of the soil looks or feels dry you'll overwater your plant. This can lead to root rot, fungus and a whole host of other problems. Test before watering, especially in winter and always use room temperature water.

It can also help to improve the humidity in the air around the plant. If you have the space, try putting a layer of rocks or marbles in a shallow plate. Add water till the rocks are almost covered with water and set your houseplant containers on top of the rocks. Instant humidity. If you don't have space for a humidity tray, set out some decorative vases filled with water near by or run a small humidifier.

Caring for houseplants during winter


Winter is usually a resting period for your plants, so you should stop the fertilizer for a couple of months. Trim off any yellowing leaves and deadhead as usual. You'll go back to a regular fertilizer schedule when the days get longer. I usually start again in March.


While you shouldn't acquire any new plant pests in winter...weirder things have happened. Like the time one of my plants suddenly got aphids in January! Make sure to check your plants over for pests very well at least  once a month. Give them a glance over whenever you're caring for them. The sooner you spot an infestation of spider  mites or other pest the easier it will be to get rid of them!

If your houseplants spend any time outside in summer make sure you clean and debug them before bringing them back inside for winter. 


Plants need cleaned. I know that seems sort of weird, but they do. If you have a broad leafed plant like an orchid you can actually see the dust when it accumulates on the leaves. Dust these off every few weeks. Plants with small leaves are harder to dust but you can rinse them off in the shower if you notice them getting too dusty. 

By paying attention to these 5 small things your houseplants are guaranteed to make it through winter just as healthy as when it started!

Want more posts on indoor gardening? Click here for my other posts on houseplants and their care.


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