Winter cuddles for houseplants
Updated: May 8
My house, as you would imagine, is full of plants. It’s the biggest perk of owning a plant shop. I’m constantly moving my babies around, always making sure their needs are met. In autumn and spring, I think of each plant's needs for the coming months. In summer, only sun-loving plants sit in my west-facing bay windows and under my east- facing skylights. In winter, I move most of my plants closer to the windows.
With lower light levels in winter, houseplants don’t produce enough food to invest in new growth, and most will enter a dormant phase. Dormant plants don’t use as much water or nutrients as growing plants, and overwatering can result in root rot. My watering schedule is much less frequent in winter than summer.
If you follow the suggestions below, your houseplants will survive winter. When you see new growth in spring, that’s your cue to start watering and fertilising more often.
Let your plants rest over winter
For tropical plants, let the top 2 inches of soil dry out before watering, and fertilise only once every 2 or 3 months. Only winter-flowering plants like Christmas cacti and poinsettias need to stay moist over winter. For cacti, lay off watering entirely until spring, unless the plant is close to a radiator. Succulents like aloes and echeverias, will need water half as often as they do in summer.
Keep your plants comfortable
Keep all but the most hardy desert plants away from radiators. Very few houseplants, with the exception of Ivy and Aspidistra, will tolerate a cold draught. Cacti appreciate a cooler spot in winter. When the heating comes on, ferns and tropicals may react to low the humidity. If the air is too dry, consider using a wet pebble tray or relocating to the bathroom.
Maximise available light
Move your plants to a brighter spot. Only the most delicate of ferns (like the mother of all divas, the maidenhair fern) won’t cope with a south or west-facing window over winter. Dirty leaves reduce a plant’s ability to absorb light, so give them a clean at least once a month.