7 Tips to Keep Your Houseplants Healthy During Winter
Because of the lower light levels, dry air and temperature fluctuations that go along with the winter months, it can be one of the easiest times to accidentally kill your houseplants. Use these tips to switch up your care routine and help them stay thriving.
1. Water Them Less
With a few exceptions, most houseplants go dormant during the winter months and require much less water than they do the remainder of the year. Depending on the type of plant, temperature and dryness of the indoor environment, how often you need to water them will vary.
A general rule for dormant plants is to let the top 2 inches of soil dry out between waterings. That means the pot will feel relatively light when lifted, as opposed to it having heavy, water-logged soil at the bottom. In some instances, you may be able to go two weeks up to a month between waterings.
Two common exceptions to this rule are indoor citrus plants and lucky bamboo, which require consistent moisture during the winter. In these cases, it is important to never let the soil dry out completely.
2. Rearrange Plants to Maximize Light
Although houseplants may have been thriving in one spot throughout the year, with fewer daylight hours and less intense ultraviolet during winter months, they may need a new location closer to windows in order to receive more light. In addition, consider washing all your windows — inside and out — to really brighten your home and maximize the light coming inside during the darkest time of the year.
3. Rinse the Dust off Leaves
Houseplants with broad leaves, such as ficus, palms, rubber plants, and bird of paradise trees, might have an issue with collecting dust, which cuts down on their ability to take in light. Give them a helping hand by taking small potted plants into the shower and spraying the dust off leaves with cool water. (While you’re there, don’t forget their monthly or bi-monthly watering.) For large potted plants, simply wipe the leaves down with a damp cloth.
4. Distance Plants From Heaters
As we crank the heat up during winter, don’t forget that it can have negative effects on houseplants, especially those in close proximity to heating units. Eliminate all risk of toasting leaves and roots by moving houseplants a good distance from radiators. For those who keep their home on the warm side during winter, check often to make sure the soil in pots never gets bone-dry (the pot will be very light when lifted).
5. Hold the Fertilizer
Because most plants are dormant in winter, they don’t need to be fertilized. Chances are the fertilizer will just be wasted and washed out of the pot. However, there’s a possibility that the fertilizer can build up in the potted soil to levels that are harmful to the plant. To be safe, it’s best to just hold off feeding your houseplants until spring.
6. Repot When Needed
There are two things to watch out for when it comes to plants needing repotted: the pot not holding much water (which means there isn’t room for soil due to pot-bound roots) and yellowing leaves. Luckily, winter is actually an ideal time to upgrade your plants to larger homes before they hit their spring growth spurt. To repot, simply give the plant a gentle tug, loosening any root-bound roots. Then place the plant in its new pot with fresh potting soil.
7. Get a Humidifier
For those living in an arid climate or who turn the heat on in the winter, a humidifier is a huge help in keeping tropical houseplants healthy in dry indoor environments. If a humidifier is out of the question, be sure to frequently hand-mist plants that appreciate more humidity, like orchids, ferns and bromeliads.