How To Keep Your Houseplants Alive Through The Winter

If your plants have been looking sad lately, it's probably because they are. Unfortunately, we're not the only living things that suffer through seasonal depression. Our plants get just as sun-starved as we do during the long, cold, dark winter months.

Advertisement

Especially if you've just had a luscious summer with a lot of new growth from your plants, seeing leaves drop or turning brown can be very distressing. But, according to Erin Marino, director of marketing at The Sill, this is completely normal. "You are going to see your plants look a little less happy, and it's going to be obvious because you just came out of this wonderful summer growing season," she told The Strategist. Winter isn't the time when plants have to thrive; it's their season of rest and dormancy.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when taking care of an indoor plant is treating all plants the same. Some plants may do better in colder, drier air — like succulents, which go dormant in the winter and need less moisture as a result, per Garden Therapy. Most plants don't need fertilizer in the winter for this reason, though The Spruce says vining climbers or trailers, which can skip dormant seasons, might benefit from the extra food.

Advertisement

While it's best to look up the specific care instructions for each of your plants, there are general guidelines that you can follow to keep your house plants alive and healthy through the winter.

Regulating the humidity in your house helps you and your plants

If your skin feels drier in the winter, it's not just in your head. The air is drier. When temperatures start to drop, the air starts to lose its ability to hold moisture, which causes the humidity to drop (via CBS News). According to Dr. Brent Bauer, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine specialist, as the air dries out, so does the body, making you more susceptible to colds and the flu.

Advertisement

Soil in indoor plants will also dry out during the winter if the humidity in your house is low. A study conducted by Indiana University in 2016 found that dry air can actually stress your plants more than not being watered enough (via Science Daily). Unfortunately, when the heat kicks on, the air inside our homes dries out even more.

Ideally, your house would be as humid as your plants need it to be, set at a percentage based on their specific care instructions. However, you shouldn't let your home become a tropical rainforest, either, because mold and bacteria can grow (via Environmental Protection Agency). Between 30% and 50% humidity is the ideal range.

To track humidity in your house, you can get a hygrometer like the ThermoPro TP55 Digital Hygrometer Indoor Thermometer Humidity Guage, available through Amazon.

Advertisement

Easy ways to add humidity to your home during the winter

In order to keep the humidity in your home higher during the winter, there are a few different things you can try. The most obvious might be to get a humidifier, of which there is a wide variety.

You can also start by simply grouping your plants together. Since water transpires out of plant leaves, the air around plants is naturally higher, and, if you place plants next to one another, it can create a micro-climate where the air is more humid (via University of Nebraska Extension). Pro-tip: The more plants grouped together, the better. If you use this as an excuse to add more plants to your collection, we won't judge.

Advertisement

Besides grouping plants, you can also put glasses or bowls of water in sunny windows or on heating vents or radiators. Boiling water on the stove or in a crock pot can also help add humidity to the air. If you follow different simmer pot recipes, like Williams Sonoma's Holiday Stovetop Simmer Pot, your homemade humidifier can also double as a diffuser.

For another aesthetically pleasing way to add humidity to your home, you can build a humidity tray by placing rocks, pebbles, and water in a tray near where you've grouped your plants or under a single plant.

Don't overwater indoor plants during the winter

Despite the fact that the air in your house might be drier in the winter, your plants probably won't require extra water. That's because, as The Spruce explains, many plants grow slower during the winter months, with some even going completely dormant. While surface soil may look dry, it's possible your plant is still moist, so it's best to check before you water.

Advertisement

Checking, thankfully, is easy. You can always stick a finger into the potting mix about an inch or two to feel the soil. Or you can invest in a soil moisture meter, which can give you an exact reading of your plant's moisture levels. Either way, The Sill recommends physically checking whether or not your plant actually needs to be watered rather than sticking to a set schedule to avoid overwatering your houseplant during the winter.

If you have been accidentally watering your plant too much, you might not see new growth — although, this could just be a sign that your plant goes dormant in the winter, so be sure to read up on the specific care instructions for your plant. Other clues that you need to put down the watering can include yellowing leaves, fungus gnats, or unpleasant odors from rotting roots (via Better Homes & Gardens).

Advertisement

When it is time to water your indoor plants during the winter, let water sit at room temperature before using it on your plants. Water that's too cold can shock a plant's roots.

Move your houseplants to the windows with the best sunlight

While your plants may need less water during the winter, they will need more sunlight. Shorter days and changing angles mean spots in your home that used to get a ton of sunlight may be full of shadows during the winter months. To help get your plants the light they need, you have a few different options.

Advertisement

If there are spots in your home that get more sunshine during the winter, try shifting your plants there for a few months. According to The Spruce, south- or west-facing windows will probably get the best all-day sunshine. Just make sure not to place plants too close to cold windows or by drafts; long exposure to cold temperatures can be harmful to their health.

But, if your sunny spots are limited and your plants need more light than is naturally available during the winter, Christan Summers, CEO and founder of Tula Plants & Design, recommends looking into grow lights as a substitute (via The Strategist). Traditional grow lights can be bulky and hard to place, but you can use a full-spectrum bulb and get the same effect. These bulbs, like the Hydrofarm Agrobrite FLC32D Compact, available through Amazon, screw into light fixtures like normal light bulbs, but the light is closer to natural daylight than normal lightbulbs.

Advertisement

Avoid putting plants in spaces with major temperature fluctuations

When considering where to put your plants during the winter, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not only do you need to ensure they're getting enough humidity and light and aren't being overwatered, but you also need to make sure they're warm enough.

Advertisement

Ideally, houseplants are kept in temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit with little fluctuations. Like we said above, you don't want plants too close to cold windows or by drafts because the cold can shock your plant's root system. But, according to The Spruce, placing plants by doors, heaters, fireplaces, or ovens — anywhere with major temperature fluctuations, even if they're temporary — can be equally as harmful.

If you're limited on spaces that are safe and sunny for your plants, Christan Summers recommends adding insulation either around draft windows or around the plants themselves (via Refinery 29). You can use burlap, bubble wrap, or sweaters — the latter of which, while Summers cannot attest to how well it works, may be one of the more stylish ways to keep your plants warm during the winter.

Advertisement

Bigger pots can also keep your plants warm, but experts don't recommend repotting during the winter. This should be done at the end of summer or the beginning of the spring to avoid stressing your plant. 

Recommended

Advertisement