Kathy’s Home & Garden Tips – Winter Rules for Houseplants

The growth of your houseplants will slow during the winter months. The light coming in through the windows is down an average of 50%, especially in colder climates. You might have to move plants that need bright light to get the maximum amount of light. Move them closer to the windows, but not too close. Fluorescent lights can provide good light without heat or excessive energy use. Position 4-12 inches away. Temperatures near windows can be 10 degrees lower. Most plants like temps around 65-70 degrees during the day and around 10 degrees less at night. Temps below 50 can cause problems. Some plants might need to be moved away from the window at night for warmth and moved closer in the morning for light.

Plants need less water during the winter months. I see more houseplants die from over care than under care. Most will survive and thrive with a thorough watering every two weeks. Signs of overwatering are yellowing leaves, dropping of leaves, soft stems, and spots on leaves. The plants in my house are lucky to get watered twice a month and they are doing fine. Check to make sure soil is dry an inch or so down. Pick up the plant, if it feels light it’s dry. Weight is a great indicator, so feel the weight after watering.

With forced air heat, humidity in the house can drop by 10% during the winter. Plants do best in 40-50% humidity. You can increase the humidity by using a room humidifier or leave out shallow trays with pebbles and water near the plants. Even with humidifiers on the furnace, we need extra moisture. It’s good for your skin too! It can also help to group plants together away from heat registers.

If you live in a colder climate with low sunlight, stop fertilizing until plants outside start growing in spring. In milder climates, keep fertilizing but use a weaker mix. Many flowering plants don’t flower as much in winter with the lower light and temperatures. I have had luck with my violets this year in the garden window. They get light all day and are blooming like crazy! It’s a blessing if you have one of those. With careful watering and care, our houseplants will come through the winter with flying colors.