It’s always wonderful having a house full of plants. It brightens up the atmosphere, adds a touch of life and nature to your decor, and gives the place an overall feeling of vibrancy. In the winter months these good feelings we get from plants are even more important. When everything is dark, cold, and grey outside it can be incredibly uplifting to watch as your indoor garden continues to thrive. However, plants require slightly different care during the cooler months and if you aren’t aware of their changing needs you could end up killing your favorite plants.
Most plants will typically grow much more slowly during the winter and may enter a dormant period. Not every species is the same though, so it’s always a good idea to know what your specific plants need so you don’t provide them with the incorrect care. Plants that can flower in the winter, such as Easter lilies, winter jasmine, and African violets, may not experience this dormant period and should be cared for accordingly. Supplying these types of plants with fertilizer and the right amount of light can produce gorgeous winter blooms, while doing the same for plants that have slowed their growth may actually kill them.
When the temperatures drop, your plants will typically require much less water. Not only are they not using as much water to grow, there is less heat and sun causing the excess water to evaporate away into the atmosphere. An overwatered plant may be sitting in it’s own stagnant water for up to a week, which is the number one way to cause root rot and fungus.
Now, this is not to say you should stop watering your plants. It’s possible you may not even need to slow down at all, depending on the other factors within your environment. If your plants are getting plenty of light, if you’re using grow lights, or if your atmosphere is overly hot and dry, your plants may still require their regular watering schedule. With the right conditions, they may still be actively growing well into the winter. Always check your plant’s soil before you water and don’t water until the soil is dry at least half an inch under the surface.
Water and humidity may seem like they’re the same thing, but in the winter, when you turn on the electric heat and there is almost no moisture in the air, your plants may need less water in their soil but still require additional moisture in the air around them. Grouping your plants around a humidifier can be a very convenient and effective way to provide this moisture.
You can also mist your plants but you may need to do this somewhat regularly as misting tends to provide only temporary relief. Placing your plants in the most humid areas of your house, such as your bathroom, your laundry room, or near your kitchen sink can help as well.
As winter approaches, the hours of daylight begin to dwindle away. The intensity of the light decreases and what sun is available is often hidden behind gloomy clouds. These reduced hours of sunlight can put your plants into a state of dormancy and slow growth. This is perfectly fine for your plants, but you’ll need to ensure they’re still getting enough light in order to produce the food they require through photosynthesis.
It may be necessary to move your plants to brighter, south facing windows in the winter, or even supplement their lighting with grow lights. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re moving your plants next to a window, temperatures near your windows could drop significantly at night. This may harm your plants if they’re allowed to get too cold at night and experience these drastic temperature changes on a regular basis..
Temperatures drop in the cooler months and this can affect your plants in a variety of ways. If your plants are in an area that you don’t heat, the environment might become much too cold for them. This is also true if they’re situated next to a window that experiences a chill permeating through the glass or when placed next to a door that opens to the outside, sending in cold drafts of air.
It’s also possible that your plants might get too hot in the winter, or become dried out, due to the electric heating, wood stoves, and fireplaces we use to keep our homes warm. As with cold drafts, plants should not be placed next to warm blasts of air, such as near a stove or a heating vent. Indoor heating can also reduce the humidity in your home and your plants will need a consistent source of moisture if this is the case.
Plants generally enjoy temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees during the day and between 60 and 70 degrees at night. They can handle warmer temperatures when they’re getting plenty of light, but if it’s too warm for them and they’re experiencing reduced lighting conditions, they may become spindly, leggy, weak, or yellowish.
As your plant’s growth slows down their nutrient requirements drop off as well. They will pull less minerals from the soil and they won’t require fertilizer when they aren’t growing quite as much. Fertilizing in the winter may actually lead to a buildup of salts in the soil and may cause fertilizer burn, turning your plant’s leaves yellow or brown.
This does not apply, of course, to plants that are still actively growing, blooming, and fruiting in the winter months. Plants that experience an active growth period during the winter can be fertilized as usual.
No one factor can be adjusted in order to properly care for your plants during the winter. It’s not a matter of simply watering them less, it’s more a balancing act of making sure your plants are getting the right combination of water, humidity, light, and tolerable temperatures. When one aspect of their environment changes, the others will need to be adjusted accordingly to maintain the perfect atmosphere for your indoor garden.