How to Care for Your Plants During the Winter Months

How to Care for Your Plants During the Winter Months

The cold winter months are a time of dormancy and hibernation in the living world.  From hibernating bears to naked trees, it seems as though life almost comes to a standstill during the winter.  During these cold months, leaves have fallen from trees and there are no flowers in sight, but all is not lost.  Yes, the cold may be harsh for plants, even indoor plants, but there are ways to care for them that allows your plants to continue to thrive even as the temperatures outside drop.

Watering Houseplants in Winter

All plants require water at some point, even if it is only a small amount once a month or so.  In winter, the amount of water many of your plants need changes.  Follow these tips to ensure your plants receive the right amount of water to keep them thriving in the winter.

Frequency of Watering

Since many indoor plants are dormant during winter, it may not be necessary to water them as frequently as you do in other seasons.  The air in the winter is drier than usual, and while that may seem like your plants will need more water during the winter months, that is not true.  The rate of growth for plants in the winter slows down, for some to the point of dormancy.  So before watering your plants in the winter, do a finger test to see if the soil is dry.

While the top portion of the soil may dry out, that is not a great indicator of the moisture levels in the rest of the soil.  If you are relying on the finger test to figure out your plants’ watering needs, make sure you push your finger down about two inches into the soil to get a feel for how dry the soil may be.  If the finger test is unappealing, offers the perfect solution for you.  Their Soil Sleuth is essentially a probe that is inserted into the soil that takes the guesswork out of deciding if your plant’s soil is wet or dry.

Room Temperature Water

 Tropical plants are popular indoor plants.  These plants take particular exception to cold climates.  They do not like the cold and need extra help during the winter months.  One way to ensure the cold does not damage your plants is to use room temperature water for your plant babies.  Often times in the winter, cold water is made even colder when coming out of a faucet.  Using this cold tap water will shock your tropical plants, potentially causing irreversible damage to them.  If you are choosing to use tap water, make sure to let it get to room temperature before adding it to your plants.

Don’t Get Saucer Saturation

 One sure way to damage your plants in the winter months is to overwater them.  Overwatering plants or letting plants sit in a pool of water will cause root rot in your plants.  Root rot develops when the plants are provided with too much water causing the roots to literally rot.  Healthy roots are light colored.  Roots exhibiting symptoms of rot are brown or black.  Indications that your plant may be overwater include mushy leaves, brown leaves, yellow, wilting leaves, and soil that never dries out. Make sure your planters have drainage holes allowing excess water to filter through the plant and out of the planter itself to promote a healthier plant.

For many new plant parents, the watering process can be overwhelming. offers a great option to make sure your plants are getting the right amount of water and are not in danger of being overwatered.  The PlantAssure Sub-Irrigation System extends watering intervals by creating a reservoir from which the plant may draw water when it needs it through a series of wicks.

Exposure to Light

Plants need access to some form of light in order for photosynthesis to occur so plants can survive.  Sunlight in the winter is limited, and plants need to capitalize on as much sunlight as they can.

Keep Them Moving

 Moving your plants closer to windows to ensure they get more light will help them stay healthy.  To ensure they grow evenly, rotate your plant one quarter of a turn when you water your plants to ensure all of the plant receives an equal amount of light, helping them to grow evenly.  This will also help keep your plants from stretching and getting leggy trying to reach for extra sunlight.

Fertilization Feeding

 As growth slows during the winter with some plants going completely dormant, the amount of food your plant needs to thrive reduces as well.  Overfeeding plants during the winter can damage them.

Slow Down on Fertilization in the Winter

 Resist the urge to fertilize your plants during the winter.  It’s best to let your plants be during the winter and wait until spring to continue feeding your plants.  Fertilizing in the winter as the plant’s growth slows can lead to brown leaves.

Considering Transplant or Repotting

 During the winter people in some areas may see themselves spending more and more time inside as they avoid frigid temperatures.  Many times, this extra time indoors leads to redecorating.  If you’re considering transplanting or repotting your plants in the winter, don’t do it.

Hold Off

Seriously.  Don’t do it.  Transplanting or repotting plants is best done in the summer when the plant has thick growth and strong roots.  Repotting during the winter can send your plant into shock which will damage and sometimes kill your plant.  If you’re desperate to repot, remember spring isn’t too far away.  Wait for those warmer months to reduce damage to your plants.

Thermal Check

Dry air and artificial heat used in winter can cause damage to your plants.  Follow these tips to ensure your plants adjust well to the drier air.

Keep Houseplants Away from Direct Heat Sources

Plants don’t appreciate extreme temperature fluctuations.  Whether your heating unit is a central unit, stove, or fireplace, make sure your plants are far away from the heating unit.

Keep Away from Cold Drafts

Avoiding extreme temperature fluctuations isn’t only important when it comes to heat.  It is just as important for plants to avoid cold drafts indoors.  Keep plants away from doors and drafty windows.  If you are trying to ensure your plants get enough sunlight and move them to a window, set them near the window, but not directly on the windowsill.  This will help keep your plants from freezing.

Humidity Boost

Dry winter air can be hazardous to the health of your indoor tropical plants.  They thrive in humidity.  One way to provide that much needed humidity for your plants is to purchase a humidifier and keep your plants near it.  If investing in a humidifier for your plants is too costly, frequently misting your plants with room temperature water will help them battle the effects of the dry winter air.

Winter Cleaning Routine

Winters can be harsh on plants with its reduced humidity and lack of sunlight.  One way to help your plants with winter photosynthesis is to keep their leaves clean.

Winter Cleaning Routine

 Dust is a part of not only human lives, but also plant lives.  As dust and other debris accumulates on the leaves of your plants, the leaves are not able to absorb as much sunlight as normal.  Adequate sunlight is vital to the photosynthesis process.  Without it, plants will have issues feeding themselves, stunting their growth.  Cleaning your plants is an easy task that allows you special time to bond with your plant baby.  This process is easily completed with a moist cloth. Gently wipe the leaves of your plants to remove any dust and debris.  Areas that receive higher traffic or exposure to the outdoors may need their leaves cleaned more often.  Best practice is to rub your finger over a leaf or two.  If there is dust, clean the leaves.  Your plants will thank you!


As stated above, winters are a time of slow growth for plants.  The drier air and lack of sunlight takes a toll on the plants causing them to be less strong than in the spring or summer.  Weakened plants are great targets for invaders.  These pests are looking for warm, cozy places to set up a new home.  It’s always better to get ahead of the problem when plant pests are involved.

Keep Your Eyes Open

Use your winter cleaning routine to inspect your plants for any sort of infestation.  Check for any unusual spots or other odd leaf markings.  Common pests in household plants include fungus gnats, whiteflies, mites, and mealy bugs.  If you notice multi-legged pals living in your plants, quarantine the plant to avoid any spread of the infestation.  If there are only a few pests, you can pick them off by hand.  However, you run the risk of not getting all of the little buggers.  It’s best to wipe down the plant with a soapy, wet rag.

Decorative Covering

Many plant parents add decorative features to their plant pots to help blend with interior décor.  Coverings such as moss, river rocks, shells, and stones or marbles are increasingly common and give a decorative flair to your plants.  But are they beneficial to your plants in the winter?

Push Back or Remove

It is best practice to push back or remove the coverings in the winter.  The primary reason for this is so that the soil is open to the air, allowing it to dry out better in between waterings.  The coverings allow the soil to remain moist for longer periods of time which can cause significant harm to your plants.

Winter F.A.Q.s

Get quick quick answers on how to protect your plants in the winter:

  1. Is cold air good for my plants? Most indoor plants prefer consistent temperatures that fall between 65° and 75°.  Keeping your home in that range is the best option for your plants.  If the temperature inside takes a large drop below 50°, your plants will be at risk of serious damage.
  2. Can I water my plants in the winter? Yes, but water them less often.
  3. Can I repot my plants during the winter? This is not advised.  Best practice is to wait until the spring/summer to repot your plants.
  4. Do my indoor plants need more humidity indoors during the winter?   Mist your plants to ensure humidity levels stay high and to help your plants survive the drier weather.
  5. Why is my plant by my front door dying? Your plant is probably dying due to the effects of cold weather.  Plants near doors, especially frequently used doors, face extreme temperature changes and are susceptible to drafts.
  6. Should I fertilize my plant in the winter? It’s best if you allow your plant to rest during the winter.  The need to replenish depleted nutrients is not as high in the winter because the plants are in a dormant or semi-dormant state and are not using much energy.
  7. How can I make sure my plants get enough sunlight? If you are not using any grow lights in your house, make sure your plants leaves are clean of dust and debris and set them near a window, but not on the windowsill in order to protect them from any drafts.