Gardening Tips and Highlights

Winter houseplant care

by Christine Yesko


Winter is here, and winter plant care can sometimes be drastically different than summer care. As a rule, plants this time of the year tend to be overwatered, over-fertilized, and essentially over-pampered. Indoor plants, whether they are year-round houseplants or plants you brought inside to over-winter, face several challenges.

Temperatures that fluctuate from daytime heat to evening chill, dry air, short days and limited light are less than ideal growing conditions. It may sound counter-intuitive, but indoor plants need less water during the winter. While it’s true that winter air is drier, plants experience a slower rate of growth during the cold weather. Some even go completely dormant.

Less water is needed to keep them hydrated and overdoing it can lead to root rot. The soil on the surface will dry quickly, but that’s not a good indicator that the plants need water. Poke your finger into the soil and check to see if it is dry an inch or two below the surface. That’s when it’s time to pull out the watering can. Try to use water that is about the same temperature as the air, to avoid shocking the plant’s roots.

Low humidity is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome during winter. It can drop to 10 to 20 percent in heated homes, where plants prefer a level of 50 percent. Move plants in groups and if possible use a humidifier to add necessary moisture. Bathrooms are a good place to congregate your plants

Not only is there less sunlight during winter, but it also comes in at a lower angle. You may need to relocate your houseplants to a brighter spot or even add supplemental light.  A good spot would be south or west-facing window that remains sunny all day. Don’t forget to rotate plants so that all sides of the plant get some sun and to keep plants growing evenly, rather than stretching to reach the light.


Don’t fertilize your plants; wait until spring when they will need it to wake up their growth cycle. Just consider winter an offseason for your houseplants and let them rest.