As the seasons change, life on earth changes too. If you’re a bear, that means doubling your bodyweight by eating 90 lbs of food per day. For humans, it means digging out your best sweaters from the tote under your bed and sipping on a seasonally appropriate latte. If you’re a plant, the approach of winter means that you’re about to enter a long stretch of dormancy. New growth will come to a near-stop, and energy conservation will become the new norm.
As a plant parent, it’s important to be prepared for the changing seasons and aware of your plants’ needs. Of course, individual plants will respond differently to the changing seasons, depending on the kind of plant and its original habitat. Your goal should always be to recreate the seasonal conditions of your plants’ native environments as well as you can, which sometimes means doing the research to see if any of your plants have specific needs. Here, we’ve compiled some of our favorite tips and tricks for winter plant care across the board, which we hope help you feel winter-ready.
The biggest change you and your plants will most likely experience is the shortening of the days and the decrease in accessible sunlight. Your plants will need as much light as they can possibly get in order to accommodate with these changes, which means you may need to reposition them closer to any available windows. Make this transition slowly, because some plants can go into shock if they’re moved too dramatically, especially if the temperature conditions change drastically from one area of your living space to the next.
If you notice that your plants are leaning greedily toward the light, rotate your plants gently whenever you tend to them. This will keep help your plants stay straight and tall and they will have access to even more light in the future.
If your window access is already crowded and you’re worried that not all your plants will have adequate light, or if you live in an area with especially reduced sunlight, consider adding artificial light to your setup. Artificial lights come in a variety of shapes and styles depending on your needs, but most are affordable and easy to find, including energy-efficient LED’s. For more about artificial lighting methods, check out our article on Grow Lights from earlier this year!
Water & Food
Because plants depend on solar energy to take in and distribute water, they won’t be able to take in as much in the winter. To avoid overwatering, which increases the risk of rot and disease, let your soil dry out in between waterings even more than you might during high-growth months. Water your plants less frequently, or simply give them less water each time you do.
Pay attention to the temperature of the water you use. In many places, tap-water can drop significantly in temperature in the winter, and cold water can shock the roots of your plant. To avoid this, fill your watering can a few hours before you use it to allow the water to rise to room-temperature.
If you have your plants on a regular fertilizer schedule, put it on hold for the winter. Most plants can’t focus on taking in new nutrients during their dormant season, and adding fertilizer or plant-food can cause an interruption in their natural cycle.
Drafts & Windows: While you may enjoy a healthy breeze year round, your plants probably won’t. When the temperature begins to drop, and especially once it nears freezing, make sure to keep your plants away from any drafts or open windows. A drastic temperature change can send your plants into shock, which can cause significant loss of foliage, or worse. Remember, the vast majority of houseplants are from tropic and sub-tropic regions!
Temperature Check: If you’re cold, they’re cold. But chances are, even if you’re not, your plants might be. Think about that friend you have who’s always wearing three sweatshirts, and pretend your plants are that person. Most houseplants prefer daytime temperatures between 65-75°F, and should be kept above 50°F at night.
Heaters & Humidifiers: While you want them to stay warm, you don’t want to place your plants too close to your heater, radiator, or hearth. In some rare cases this can cause burns, but it is more likely to make the air excessively dry, which can damage your humidity-loving houseplants. To counteract this (and to show your own skin a little love, as well), run a humidifier near your plants, or give them a gentle consistent mist. If you have kitchen or bathroom with lots of natural light, consider congregating your plants there so they can soak up the ambient humidity.
Dusting: Another important step in keeping your plants healthy is remembering to dust and clean the leaves. With less circulation from open windows and ceiling fans, dust can accrue rapidly in the winter, which impacts your plants’ ability to photosynthesize. Make sure you carve out time to keep your plants clean and happy.
Travel Tips: If you’re planning to do any holiday traveling, don’t forget to give your plants a little attention first. Leave your blinds open and your heater on to make sure that your plants are still comfy and cozy back home.
Take it Easy!
The winter can be a long and grueling time, with reduced sunlight affecting not only our little green friends but ourselves! Remember to show extra compassion to all the living things that share your home and to take it easy on yourself when you notice your plants shedding some foliage. It’s perfectly normal for plants to drop a few leaves in the winter and to show no signs of new growth. Remember that this long pause is just a build-up of energy for spring when your plant will wake up and shake itself off.
Thanks for reading, and good luck on hunkering down with your little green friends through the winter months. Share your plant-loving journey with us @houseofplantlovers and a happy and safe holiday season to you all!