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Houseplants in Winter: Do’s and Don’ts

Though it may be more subtle than outdoor seasonal changes, our indoor environment (light, humidity, temperature) changes and so your houseplant care regimen should also change.  Here are a few tips to help your houseplant survive winter.


  • Give plants more light. With the sun lower in the sky, there is significantly less sunlight entering your home.  Plants may need to be moved nearer a window, to a window with more prolonged light (like a south-facing window) or placed under a grow light.  How can you tell?  If growth becomes leggy (i.e. the stems elongate with fewer leaves), it probably needs more light.
  • Wipe dust off leaves. Besides being unattractive, dust can prevent light getting to the leaves, thus impeding photosynthesis.
  • Monitor humidity. Most homes tend to be drier in winter (though with all the rain/snow recently, this might not currently be the case).  Most houseplants like humidity levels around 40% or more.  Use a cheap electronic temperature/humidity gauge to keep an eye on levels around your plants.  If humidity is particularly low, you might want to consider using a humidifier.


  • Don’t water so often. Overwatering is probably the number one houseplant killer and it’s even easier to do in winter.  With lower light levels and lower temperatures, the plant won’t be growing as quickly and won’t need as much water.  (The exception is citrus plants, which need to be kept moist no matter the time of year.)
  • Likewise, fertilizer. Cut back on fertilizer use, or even don’t fertilize at all.  Wait until spring to resume normal fertilizer rates.
  • Don’t repot. Most houseplants have slowed root growth in winter and won’t be able to fill out a larger pot.  Wait until spring or summer when they are actively growing.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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