Everyone who has ever owned a plant knows their needs change from season to season. Not as hardy as outdoor plants, the biting cold of Winter can make houseplants wither. So, while you might have your plant care routine perfected, it’ll fail if it doesn’t account for the chillier months.
Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to modify your plant care routine and keep your leafy house companions thriving.
Change your watering & feeding routine
Believe it or not, plants hibernate – kind of. Unlike animals, instead of stocking up on food and snuggling up for a few months of sleep, plants simply slow down. In other words, the drop in temperature triggers a dormant period.
What does that mean for plant owners? It means less watering and feeding.
Cutting back on nutrition during harsh weather conditions may sound counterintuitive, but since the plant’s system needs less, too much water or fertilizer could be damaging. Overwatering your plants when they’re dormant encourages growth that puts unnecessary strain on their system. Also, too much watering, and they’ll produce weak, limp growth or rot as water accumulates in their compost.
When is it time to water?
For most house plants, watering once every fortnight should be enough.
Still, surface soil tends to dry out more quickly during the winter months, so it’s best to check if your plant needs watering regularly. To do so, push your finger about 2-3 inches into the soil. If you notice the soil is dry beneath the surface, that’s when it’s time to bring out the watering can. You can also use a Plant Water Monitor to check the water levels.
Still, all plants are different. So while it’s best to stop watering cacti entirely, some winter-flowering plants such as Christmas Cacti and Poinsettias can be watered as usual.
Tip: Just like us, plants don’t like being covered in icy cold water. While it makes us shriek and shiver, it can potentially shock and kill their roots. So fill your watering can the day before and allow it to sit for several hours before use.
Adjust humidity levels
The humidity level of heated homes can drop to 10 to 20 percent in Winter. The lack of moisture can be detrimental to houseplants, considering most prefer humidity levels closer to 50%.
The simple solution is to use a Humidifier. However, there are alternative moisture-boosting methods:
Choose the right room
Some rooms are more humid than others. Think along the lines of bathrooms, kitchens, or anywhere else where moisture is a regular event. That’s where your plants want to be during Winter. So, scoop them up and transport them to the “wetter” rooms in the house for a moisture-filled winter break.
Plants naturally release water through their leaves through a process called transpiration. Grouping them will put that moisture to good use. So, no matter where your plants are in the home, be sure to keep them clustered together.
Another good option is the traditional trick of placing your plants on or near a tray of water. However, be sure not to put them directly in the water to avoid root rot.
Most house plants prefer a pleasant, cozy temperature of 55 – 85 Fahrenheit (12-18°C.) However, some plants can be particular about their ideal temperature, so be sure to do some research and keep a close eye on the thermostat.
Most plants strongly dislike significant temperature fluctuations. This means placing them on window sills or near open doors can be risky business during the colder months. Be sure to position them away from cold draughts and keep windows and doors closed when possible. If they’re on a windowsill, leave the curtains open to avoid trapping cold air at night.
Let the light in
Houseplants can benefit from increased light exposure during the dark and short winter days. So, if your plant is a fan of light, be sure to place them wherever they can catch the most rays.
Ideally, move them into a sunny conservatory, porch, or particularly sunny spot so they can enjoy the light from several directions. If you don’t have these, move your plants onto a west- or south-facing windowsill.
Clean their leaves
Even if your plant’s leaves look squeaky clean to you, usually, a small layer of dust, grime, and dirt build up over time. While this may seem harmless, on closer inspection, this build-up is blocking your plant’s surface, limiting the amount of sunlight it can absorb. As a result, your plant cannot manufacture food naturally and will begin to brown and wither.
To avoid this tragic fate, wipe down your plant’s leaves regularly using a damp cloth. If that sounds like too much work, gather your plants and place them in a lukewarm shower for 3-5 minutes.
Wash your windows
No, you haven’t accidentally clicked onto a Spring cleaning post; we’re really recommending that you give your home’s windows a thorough scrub this year for the good of your houseplants. You see, any grime, smudges, or dirt that’s build-up on your windows will prevent sunlight from reaching your plants, and that’s the last thing you want during the darker winter months.
Now’s the best time to spruce your houseplants up and ready them for the cold to come! First, trim your plants and remove dead or yellowing growth wherever you see it. Don’t prune healthy green growth, as pruning will trigger new growth that forces the plant to work when it’s trying to rest.
Watch Out for Pests
If winter pests find your plants, spreading from plant to plant is almost inevitable. Keep houseplants clean and watch for pests like mites. If you notice anything ‘off,’ isolate the plant and treat it immediately.
What not to do
Misting makes us feel like we’re plant-health connoisseurs who’re capable of nurturing our lovely leafy companions no matter the time of year. However, don’t be fooled. While it may feel good, in reality, it’s doing little for your plants, especially in heated homes. So, moral of the story, don’t rely on misting.
Hold off on repotting when the plant is actively growing. Fall and Winter aren’t good times to disturb the roots.
And there you have it!
You now know everything you need to keep your plants healthy and thriving this Winter! Be sure to plan ahead and have everything ready to avoid a last minute, potentially plant-damaging rush. Those chilly months always come faster than you think!