Put down the watering can, and slowly back away.
As the seasons change, so your houseplants. The days have become ridiculously short. Frosts decorate the hills and our power bills are going back up. Your houseplants know it, and as Jon Snow would say, winter is coming. Well, actually, winter is here. Let's make sure your houseplants survive it.
Indoor plants, whether they are houseplants year-round or plants you brought indoors just for the frosty months, can be affected by factors such as temperatures that fluctuate from daytime heat to evening chill, dry air, short days, and limited light.
Keep your houseplants thriving by modifying their care during the cooler months of the year.
Remember, pretty much all of our houseplants in little old New Zealand have a tropical heritage that probably doesn't dip below 18 degrees or 60% humidity and a ton of bright filtered sunlight trickling down from the jungle canopy. Show us a house that has that in Lyttelton and we'll move in ASAP.
Our green babies know they need to take advantage of every bit of light they can get. You might have already noticed them slowing down, growing less, or even not at all in order to minimize metabolic activity and conserve energy. When it comes to winter care for your houseplants, just try to remember they are likely hibernating.
So for successful winter houseplant care, stop fussing with your houseplants. All of this stimulation requires energy on the plant’s part to adjust and take in resources.
DO give more light
Make sure your houseplants are getting enough light during this time. Depending on your home, you might need to move your plants around to the best light source. If plants are leaning towards the window, rotating them every few days will help straighten them out. If plants have spindly new growth, move them closer to the sunlight.
Consider investing in full-spectrum LED growlights that are particularly made for houseplants to keep them happy and growing throughout these dark months. We generally keep ours on for 16 hours a day, especially when we have little babies or cuttings we are looking after.
Because your plants are not actively growing, they don't need any fertilizer. Feeding them now will just upset their natural cycle, so stop feeding until early spring. When you start to see signs of new growth or the existing leaves appear to be greening up, resume fertilizing to give them a boost for the growing season.
DO cut back on watering
Indoor plants need less water during the winter. And we mean A LOT LESS.
While it's true that winter air is drier, our indoor plants generally grow much slower in winter, if not stopping entirely. Therefore, they need less water. Remember, most people kill houseplants by overwatering which leads to root rot. Some plants can go quite a long time without water in winter. Some of our cactus we forget about entirely!
Water more sparingly in winter. We find that most plants will prefer about half as much as they would in spring and summer. If you find yourself to be a chronic over-waterer, consider investing in some Sustee Aquameters that let you know when it's time for water.
Pro tip: do not use cold water to water your houseplants. Use water that is about room temperature to avoid shocking the plant's roots and water first thing in the morning so they have the daytime to dry out a bit and not sit soggy and freezing overnight.
We know that cute new pot you got from us is beautiful, but try not to shock your plant any more than you need to. And remember, many plants like to get rootbound, so wait til spring to repot if you can. They can take a bit of neglect.
DO add humidity
We know what you're thinking. It's winter so we need to keep our houseplants warm, a heck of a lot warmer than outside, so let's crank the heat pump, heater, and fireplace. Just remember that all of these seriously dry out your home.
Low humidity levels can be the biggest hurdle that houseplants must overcome during winter. The humidity level in heated homes can drop to 10 to 20 percent in winter, and plants humidity over 60%. Start by clustering your plants in groups. Plants naturally release water through their leaves by transpiring, so grouping them together will put that moisture to good use. Consider investing in a humidifier and grouping your houseplants near it.
If you have a humidifier in your home, move your plants to a spot where they will enjoy their benefits. If you do not have a humidifier, raise the humidity level by other means like pebble trays and a shit ton of spritzing.
Ok, if we're honest here, we still propagate in winter.
But at NODE HQ, we have an INTENSE houseplant set up that includes all of the fixins' from heat pats to propagation boxes and grow lights. But we leave our dormant plants alone all winter. Don't shock a hibernating plant even more by chopping it up, and understand it can be much harder to get cuttings to root successfully in winter.
DO keep steady temperatures
Most houseplants are sensitive to cold air and hate drafts. Consider moving your plants away from drafty windows or doorways. If you can feel a draft, they can too. But don't put them by the fire or heatpump and cook them either.
DON'T fret about dropped leaves
In wintertime, many plant parents make the grave mistake of thinking that their plants are declining for other reasons and ramp up the care regimen. Uh oh.
Some houseplants appear to suffer no matter how much you dote on them, losing leaves or going dull and droopy. Don’t fret too much! Plants drop their leaves in winter to compensate for the lack of light and in turn, the lack of food. This slowing down isn’t just normal; it’s necessary. This natural process is called dormancy and almost every plant on Earth needs it at some point in order to live their best life.
If your plant grew in the warmer months but now looks like it's doing the opposite, don't worry. It’s just adjusting to the changes in seasons. If your plant is overgrown, feel free to trim off a few leaves, as this can prevent further leaf loss. Plus it keeps your plant looking fuller and bushier.
Understanding dormancy is key to winter houseplant care.
Have any houseplant tips to share? What did we miss? Disagree?