How to look after house plants in winter

Keeping your houseplants alive over winter can be a worrisome endeavour. With weak growth and soil that never dries, what your plant requires is very different to summer - here's what you need to know.
Watering your house plants | Prickle Plants

Houseplants in winter is the peak time plant parents find that their favourite pricks die. Your leafy friend needs totally different care in winter, from less watering to a sunnier spot. While we all hope you plants live a long time, many see indoor plants struggling to live through to spring. That's where we step in, with a little know-how, you can make sure your plants stay as cosy and comfortable as you from late November to early March.

Follow our seven tips for house plants below. With a little extra care and knowledge, you can keep your indoor garden healthy and vibrant all year round.

What happens to indoor plants during the winter months?

It's not just humans that feel a difference when the cold weather hits. During the cooler months of the year, several things happen inside your home:

  • Natural light levels recude in both intensity and frequency, as the days are shorter and the sun's rays are weaker.

  • Heated homes add extra warmth and dry out the air, drastically reducing humidity in your home.

  • Cold draughts are more common and some rooms which are heated less frequently may experience rapid highs and lows in temperature.

Light, humidity and temperature are three key care points for most plants. As the winter months change these factors, your houseplants slows growth and may show sad signs such as dropped leaves and little growth.

Winter care is important to learn about. Find our expert tips that help most houseplants stay happy over winter below.

Dormant plants at Prickle

Even when you perfect the light levels, recreate humid conditions, and remember that less water is key, you're unlikely to see new growth over winter. In fact, you might see yellow leaves that drop instead.

It is very common in winter for houseplants to become dormant. Much like animals go into hibernation, this is how some houseplants choose to survive through winter. It may appear that your leafy friend has dropped all (or most of) its leaves, but it is perfectly healthy!

You can easily differentiate between a dead plant and a dormant one by checking for:

  • Stems - if they are shrivelled and brittle, they will snap. If the stem or branch is brown all the way through, it is a dead branch. If the branch has green in the middle, it is dormant.

  • Roots - examine the base of the plant pot, or gently dig a little top soil to reveal roots. If they are shrivelling, brown or have a bad odour, they are dead. If the roots are white and strong, the plant is dormant.

One of our most popular dormant plants here at Prickle is the Lil' Chinese Evergreen, aka the Aglaonema commutatum. Although it looks small and delicate, this prickle will go dormant over winter and is surprisingly hardy. Needing little water, just a bright spot on a windowsill, it will stop growing during the cooler months but pick back up again in spring with a little plant feed.

Another favourite that is winter hardy (but doesn't look it) is the Aloe Vera, aka the Aloe barbadensis miller. So long as you kept a healthy watering schedule in summer and autumn, this leafy friend can go all winter with out a drink as it hunkers down to wait for springtime.

Lil' Chinese Evergreen | Prickle Plants

7 Tips for helping houseplants in winter

Caring for your houseplants in winter is essential to keep them thriving for spring. Follow these 7 tips and you'll be all set.

1. Reduce watering

Reduce your watering routine in winter - it has never been more important to only water when the soil feel dry to the touch. With less growth from the lower light levels in winter, your houseplants don't need as much to drink. One of the most common ways house plants die is from over watering, it can lead to root rot and many plant pests including spider mites.

The key is to let your plant dry out approximately 50% before watering - the top half of the soil should feel dry. In comparison, it's best to stick with just 25% before watering in the summer. From November to March, your plants won't require much water at all, so avoid the temptation to water them unnecessarily. It's far easier to revive a dehydrated plant than a rotting one!

 Watering House Plants | Prickle Plants

2. Move closer to windows

During winter, the sun is lower against the horizon and shines for fewer hours each day. This results in less natural light throughout the day, and perhaps some direct sunlight where it wasn't present before.

Moving all the plants in your home a little closer to the window is a good way to help them soak up the winter sun and get some extra rays. However, more sunlight won't result in a new growing season. Once winter is over and spring starts, remember to move those plants back to their spot, although they may enjoy bright lights in winter, many prefer indirect light.

Plants like the Cast Iron Plant, aka the Aspidistra elatior, prefer shade in the summer and bright indirect light in the winter - not direct sunlight. As a rule of thumb, move your shade-loving plants a few metres closer to the window and place your sun-loving plants directly on the windowsill if possible.

Cast Iron Plant | Prickle Plants

3. Misting plants is essential

With the central heating on to counteract the chillier months, heat sources around your home are creating dry air. You might notice your lips cracking and your hands feeling dry during the winter - these are signs that the air in your home is beginning to dry out and lose humidity.

With lower humidity levels, foliage can really suffer. Lack of humidity and an increase in heat can cause curled leaves with brown edges. Misting your plants with tepid water rather than cold water will improve humidity without shocking the leaves. This is a good way to restore some moisture and life to your plants without over-watering the soil.

Watering Plants | Prickle Plants

4. Avoid cold air drafts

Colder months bring cold drafts. Between heat sources, around windows and doors, cold draughts can bring the temperature down. Move plant pots away from these low temperature zones and place them somewhere the temperature is warmer.

The Fiddle Leaf Fig, aka the Ficus lyrata, hate a chilly breeze, once you find the perfect draft free spot for plants like these, avoid moving them again until summer as many hate being moved around too often.

Fiddle Leaf Fig | Prickle Plants

5. Create a mini eco-system

With most houseplants craving more natural light, warmth and humidity at this time of year, grouping them together to create an indoor garden is actually a great idea. Moving plants together creates a mini eco-system of sorts. Arranging plants around a tray of water and pebbles can create a humid microclimate to raise the humidity level for all plants at once.

Before creating your mini eco-system, thoroughly check each plant for pests. Having many plants in close proximity can allow any unfriendly pests to jump from one to the other and do more harm than good. Any plants with pests should be isolated, regardless of whether it's winter, spring, summer or autumn. Eradicate pests before bringing your pots together.

Pebble Tray | Prickle Plants

6. Avoid plant feed

When houseplants slow down or enter a dormant period, stop feeding them. Even if you have flowering plants or actively growing plants, the rate of growth in winter will be naturally slower. Plants that entire hibernation may not need feeding at all.

Adding too many nutrients to the soil can lead to nutrient burn, also called nutrient toxicity. This occurs when the prickle has too much of one nutrient. Signs of over-feeding your plant include yellow leaves and weak stems (similar to overwatering) or black leaves.

7. Dust with a damp cloth

Tropical plants often grow with unusual plant leaves. Many of these varieties, like the iconic Swiss Cheese Plant, aka the Monstera delicious, have grown large leaves to enable the plant to absorb as much light as possible from the rainforest floor.

With limited direct sunlight in the winter months and windows firmly shut for weeks on end, dust that gathers on the leaves can block out that all-important light. Simply swiping a damp cloth over the leaves of most house plants is enough to clean away the dust and keep your plants healthy.

Lil Swiss Cheese Plant | Prickle Plants

Care for houseplants with Prickle

From watering to dusting, keeping your indoor plants in tip-top shape doesn't need to be a drag. Slow down, take some time to nourish and care for your prickly friends, and they will reward you with new growth, flowers, and cheery foliage come springtime.

Just remember to limit watering, increase light exposure, and keep an eye on those leaves. Look out for signs of too much water, not enough humidity, and pests.

Oh, and if you think that your plants don't get enough light all year round, even in the summer months, read our article 10 House Plants that Love Shade next. These are fantastic prickles for dark homes and north-facing rooms!

For more gardening expert tips to help you through the darker months of the year, why not follow us on social? Find us at @prickplantsuk and reach out to us via email for extra advice on keeping your beloved prickles happy over winter - send your love letters to contact@prickleplants.co.uk.

Basics
Next article