Indoor Plant Care During Winter

Indoor Plant Care During Winter

indoor plants

Short days and cloudy weather are always hard on houseplants because of the lack of light, throw in some drier indoor air, drafts, and heaters, and your houseplants can start to look a little tired by this time of the year!

Keep those plants looking their best with just a few key tips and reminders from Nature Hills Nursery!

  • Winter Indoor Plant Care
    • Acclimating
    • Light
    • Pruning
    • Reduced Watering
    • Fertility
    • Repotting
    • Humidity
    • Drafts & Heaters
    • Pests
    • Warmth
  • Get Indoor Gardening Success This Winter!

pulling indoor plant

Remember that indoor plants experience the seasons too! Even the most tropical plant has a ‘dormancy’ period with reduced growth, even if they do not drop their leaves and go completely bare as outdoor deciduous plants do. These tropical evergreen plants shut down and take a rest during the cooler months.

Some even use this time to flower now that the brunt of the sun and heat are not taking its toll on their energies. Others are just getting done fruiting as is the case with Citrus.

Regardless, indoor plants typically use less moisture, grow less, and take just a bit of a breather at this time.

1. Prepping For The Move

If your houseplants are permanent indoor residents, you can skip this step.

Often plants are being brought indoors from porches, decks, and patios, so a gradual moving indoors is best to help them acclimate to indoor environments. Being brought inside permanently without doing it in stages will be a shock to their systems and you’ll end up fighting leaf drop and even plant death.

holding plant

In the autumn, just as night temperatures begin to get cooler, start moving these plants into slightly shadier locations, bringing them indoors for colder nights and setting them by a bright window. Then move them back out for the days that are warm enough. The goal is to move them inside for longer periods before finally keeping them inside. The acclimation process should take a few weeks and the plants ready for a permanent winter location before the real cold sets in.

Just before bringing in your plants for the year, give your plants a once over from top to bottom, checking under all the foliage and wiping down all surfaces. Give the soil a light spray of diluted vinegar/water to kill fungus gnat eggs or other pests (not enough to soak the soil completely, just wet the surface). This will help reduce any hitchhikers from being brought indoors.

2. Increased Light Needs

light

Less light and shorter daylight hours mean loss of color, vigor, and reduced or leggier growth as plants stretch out to reach for the sun! If you are not able to provide a brighter, sunnier window for your indoor plant pet, then consider adding some greenhouse lighting, or a simple LED grow lamps, and open those shades a bit more to let in the light.

Avoid direct sunlight for plants that are not used to it, if able - gradually move them into a brighter location. Those leaves can still get sunburnt and bleached out in the sun. Especially when pressed up against a window.

3. Winter Hair Cuts & Wash Their Locks

Time for some plant pampering! Some plants coming from outdoors to be a houseplant for the winter may benefit from being trimmed back to eliminate the dense lush growth they accumulated during the growing season.

trimming

This excess growth may be more difficult to acclimate and you may even not have room for it all inside! Removing this keeps the plant more space-saving, reduces the load on the roots, encourages branching if the plant is leggy, and saves you the heartbreak of watching the eventual leaf drop.

Deadhead any spent blooms or seed pods, remove dead leaves and leaf litter, cut back dead branching, and shorten all the leggy growth. Snip the stems back by no more than a third, making clean cuts right above a leaf node or branched notch. Many of these trimmings can be rooted and become gifts, or expand your own houseplant collection!

It's also a great idea to give your plants a shower in the sink or in your bathtub to wash off some of the dust from the winter months. Wipe down larger leaves with a soft cloth or paper towel and a tiny bit of vinegar in water to gently remove build-up and dust from the surfaces. (We’re talking a teaspoon of vinegar per gallon of water.)

4. Reduce Watering

During these short days of slow growth you will find less watering will be required. Less growth at this time also means less water is used. So always use a moisture meter or the Finger Test before watering in the winter months. Root rot will take its toll quickly on a pot-confined plant.

watering

Increase the frequency that you check your plants, and closely monitor how much water you are adding versus how much is being shed through drainage. This is a great time to make sure your pots have adequate drainage and the drain holes are not clogged or plugged up. 

Another great way to water, if your potted plants are small enough, is to set them into a bowl of water and let them soak up what they need before setting them somewhere to drain completely before setting them back into their usual locations.

5. Fertilizer

It's rarely a good time to fertilize houseplants in the fall or winter, because they grow less. Hold off until spring before adding any additional fertility. For plants that are blooming and still growing, you can add a touch of diluted fertilizer for flowering plants, or slow-release fertilizer to the soil.

Many times we are using water from the tap that can lead to calcium and other mineral build-up on the container edges and the top of the soil. Gently remove those crusty bits (so as not to disturb surface roots) and top off with a fresh layer of potting soil is more than enough to keep your plant's fertility levels in check.

6. Repotting

Now is a great time to check on pot-bound plants, repot some that are getting a bit too snug in the root area, or top off their soil. For many plants, spring is best to repot, but for smaller plants and those in desperate need, winter repotting will be fine. But since there is less top growth, roots will still be hard at work growing, allowing the plant to adjust to its new pot a bit easier. Be vigilant on watering and watering checks since roots can take time to readjust.

repotting

Haven’t repotted in a few years? Now is a great time to go up a size. Or just refresh depleted potting soil with fresh soil.

Double-check those drainage holes while you are at it! Avoid filling container bottoms with rocks for drainage, instead just provide a dribble tray to catch shed water, and ensure those drainage holes are open, abundant, and not blocked.

7. Humidity

Infographic

Our houses are much drier in the winter, thanks to heaters and most of the moisture being sequestered in frost, snow, and ice. Our sinuses are feeling it these months too! Do yourself and your plant pets a favor and increase ambient air humidity around your home or just around your plants if able, especially if you start noticing your leaves turning brown at the tips.

Set smaller plants onto a shallow tray of decorative glass pebbles or stones filled with water. Don’t let the pot sit in the water at all, it should be resting on top of the stones. This is just enough to evaporate and humidify the area without leading to root rot.

Larger plants and plants that tend to drop some leaves this time of year like Ficus and Citrus, appreciate a humidifier nearby. Check out all the indoor and outdoor Citrus Tree care in our Garden Blog!

Now is also a great time to keep a spray bottle handy and give your plants a mist once a day to a few times a week. Use soft water, not hard water from the tap to reduce calcium build-up. Read up on your type of plant first, because some with fuzzy leaves and other varieties may be damaged by the surface moisture.

Have smaller plants that are humidity-hungry? Consider using a terrarium!

8. Drafts & Heaters

Fireplaces are ablaze, heaters are running on max, and cold drafts are seeping into door and window cracks. Each time you open an exterior door, you are letting the winter chill inside. For more sensitive plants that are near these locations, it’s quite a shock to the system!

Consider moving your plant babies away from exterior doors, away from drafty windows, and keep them away from fireplaces, heaters, and heating vents that will dry them up faster than the summer sun.

Can’t move the plant? Add something to screen it from drafts or block the cold air.

9. Inspect For Pests!

Especially if you brought home a new plant, or brought an outside plant indoors, pests can occasionally get moved indoors too!

snake plant

Always inspect, wash off, and treat, or even quarantine new plants and those that were on the porch or patio all summer, whenever you bring them indoors. You can use a systemic treatment for usual troublemakers, and dab on Neem oil whenever you suspect there may be a pest problem too!

Check each leaf node, branch notch, leaf undersides, and all of the newest, freshest growth for pest invaders. Then spray the plant with insecticide or wipe down leaves and stems with diluted vinegar/water or diluted alcohol, in addition to the systemic and Neem oil. 

It;s important to first dentify the problem before providing treatment!

  • Fuzzy-looking white blobs in the branch and leaf notches? Might be Mealy Bugs
  • Spider webs covering the new growth? Check for Spider Mites
  • Tiny skinny bugs and stippling on the leaves? Maybe Thrips
  • White tiny bugs flying around? Look into treating Whiteflies
  • Flat, hard-shelled bumps and sticky residue? You may be fighting Scale
  • Plump little green or brown bugs might be Aphids
  • Little black gnats flying around may be Fungus Gnats.
  • Tiny reddish or black bugs and stippling? Look into identifying and treating Mites

As you inspect your plants, also a great idea to remove any yellow leaves that have dropped onto the soil. Fallen foliage can lead to fungal issues and disease spreading. It also gives pests a place to hide.

10. Warmth

Air temperatures are much cooler, further slowing down the growth of your indoor plants. Whenever possible, group your plants together closer (after you’ve ensured they are healthy and pest-free) to help keep them warmer and all share the increased humidity!

sun

It’s also a great time to ensure none of your plants that are near windows have foliage touching the glass … the leaves will bleach out from the greenhouse effect from the glass and get cold damage that is transferred through the window panes as well! If you have a window that tends to get frosty on those coldest nights, move any plants in the area away or cover that window in a plastic film to save on heating costs and keep the plants happier.

For plants in areas that are cooler, like a poorly heated enclosed porch or greenhouse, a spotlight with an incandescent light bulb or a warming mat for seedlings may help keep the area just warm enough for them to be happy.

Indoor Gardening Time!

As always, it’s best to read up on the care and particular needs of each of your indoor plant babies to ensure you are caring for them in the best way possible! Knowing their watering needs, light requirements, bloom time, fertility needs, humidity, and soil requirements. This way, you’ll always have success!

Enjoy your winters with some indoor gardening this year and these simple reminders and tips on keeping your houseplants happiest! Nature Hills is here to help keep your life full of greenery year-round!

Don’t have a plant pet yet? Check out all the amazing houseplants, unique succulents, and Kokedamas available today!

Happy Planting!

shop houseplants

← Previous Next →