If you live in a cold country as I do right now, caring for houseplants during winter can be a challenging task. Most of the houseplants we collect, prefer warmer temperatures, just like us! And when those endless dark days come to stay, the lack of natural daylight doesn’t help them at all.
Today, I’ve gathered some thoughts for fellow plant parents to consider over this time of the year. If you take additional steps or have come up with different ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
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Be mindful of the temperature
While most of us will keep our homes warm even during winter, heating up the place when it’s close to 0º outdoors, means turning the heating up to 20-22º, right? That’s the perfect temperature not only for people to feel comfortable but also for plants to be happy.
Remember to keep them away from extremes though…
- Avoid any cold drafts.
Do not place your plants close to windows or doors, especially if you are going to be using them often! Windows are equally harmful if the insulation is not absolutely perfect since the glass can become very cold too. It’s always a good idea to set your pots a few centimeters away.
- Avoid air vents.
Can you imagine how dry your own skin would get if you were to sit next to an air vent all day long? Yeah, your plant will feel it too.
Increase the humidity
Now, we were talking about dryness in the air. Do you feel the need to moisturize your skin through winter? I know I do! And your plants will also feel that dryness.
Humidity levels drop significantly, and it might be worth investing in a humidifier.
Consider the lighting
This is one of my biggest struggles here in The Netherlands! And if you are in the northern part of Europe, I am sure you can relate. Of course, when we lived in Spain or Portugal, this wasn’t too much of a big deal for the most part! But since there’s nothing that you can really do about it, you can help your plants by moving them closer to the windows.
Remember some plants don’t love to be moved! And I’m not saying you should be moving them around daily. But the day you start getting your plants ready for winter, re-arrange your home décor in a way that they can be placed closer to a light source.
Windowsills are great when windows are well insulated. But simply moving those larger vases a couple of meters, will help them already. Again, be mindful of potential drafts and ventilators.
Also, remember to keep your windows nice and clean! Believe it or not, those extra layers of dust are preventing the light from coming through. On the same note, wiping down your plants’ leaves will maximize their ability to photosensitize well.
And yet for a little extra help, perhaps consider investing in some grow lights. I know, those are not the most aesthetically pleasing items of décor. But again, in time of crisis, every little counts!
Improve air circulation
Having windows and doors closed all the time to avoid getting the cold in, also means that your home will lack air movement. Try to create some air circulation by using a portable fan for example.
Adjust your water & fertilizer routines
You have certainly noticed the difference in the growth of your houseplants throughout the year. Spring and summer provide them with ideal growing conditions, and it is wonderful to watch the growth rate of our indoor greenery during those periods. But in winter, many of your plants will go dormant! Meaning that less is more.
When it comes to fertilizer, since many plants will go through this so-called dormancy phase, they won’t need food simply because they won’t use it. I personally set my fertilizer aside from October to March or so.
Over-fertilizing your houseplants can lead to root or leaf burn. That being said, if you notice your plants still show you signs of active growth and you’d rather continue fertilizing them, just be mindful of the quantities used.
This is one of the most stressful actions we take towards our plants. And while it is beneficial and promotes plant growth, I would generally recommend that you wait until late winter/early spring before repotting your houseplants.
Unless it is absolutely necessary (for plants that are too root-bound or perhaps overwatered), note down that task on your agenda for a later date! Besides, you already know that growth is slow during this time of the year and that more soil equals more water retention, which can lead to root rot!
Plan ahead when buying plants
Buying plants over winter is yet another topic to be mindful of!
While you are probably safe to get a new plant from the nursery down the road, you might not want to experience traveling long distances with a plant when temperatures drop.
Get the plants inside the house
If you took a part of your collection to the terrace for the warmer months, before winter starts you’ll need to bring them back in.
Hopefully, there’s still space after all the shopping and growth, right?? Let’s assume there is… eheh
The process of relocating your plants from the outdoors should be slow and attentive. That’s a complete change of environment and naturally a very stressful practice.
- The first thing you want to do is to move your plants around, still outdoors. If they were getting direct sunlight for most of the day, keep them outdoors, but in a shadier area for a while.
- Eventually, bring them inside, now keeping them in the brightest spot possible. At this stage, they are adapting to having considerably less light available. You can then re-organize them as you please.
- Make sure to check that all the plants you are bringing inside are healthy and pest-free before joining the rest of the troupe! Otherwise, you will be risking a massive disaster…
I know this is a lot to think about and seems like a never-ending journey, but it is actually quite simple and will help you in the long run. Houseplants can really suffer during the cooler seasons and your job, as a plant parent, is to do your best to keep them alive.
Remember this is an exercise that only happens once a year. Well, let’s say twice a year since you’ll probably want to go through the reverse process as spring begins.
But, seriously, do take the opportunity to have a nice moment with your urban jungle and enjoy your time!