Winter Houseplant Care

One of the biggest advantages of houseplants is that they’re easier to care for than outdoor plants, which often require replanting every season or preventive care to protect them from winter weather. However, even in their cozy climate-controlled environments, houseplants notice seasons, too. Their needs will vary slightly throughout the year, especially depending on how much light your area gets. 

The most important universal rule of thumb about winter houseplant care is: water less. Plants get less sunlight during the day in the wintertime and therefore require less fuel to produce energy. Some plants will go completely dormant in winter while some maintain an active growth cycle year-round; regardless, they all need less water during the winter months. 

Succulents (like hoyas) should be watered once every 2 weeks at most. Other plants that are used to lower light, like calatheas, will still require more frequent watering than succulent or semi-succulent plants, but take care not to overwater. Overwatering leads to root rot and is the number one mistake many plant parents make this time of year. Calatheas really benefit from a moisture meter for exactly this reason.

The second thing to be mindful of in the winter is the humidity level in your home. If your heat is running a lot, that will dry out the air more than usual. Watch for crispy tips on the leaves of any tropical plants such as ferns, calatheas or triostars; this means they need more humidity. 

Fertilizing is another factor to consider as the days grow shorter. Some plant parents don’t fertilize their plants at all in the winter, while others do, but at a much less frequent rate. In general, fertilizing during the wintertime won’t hurt your houseplants, especially the ones we sell here at Plants for Pet Parents. However, we recommend considering how much natural sunlight you get during the winter before fertilizing regularly. You’ll get a lot more mileage out of feeding your houseplants in the winter with the amount of sunlight available in Phoenix as opposed to, say, Portland. 

Speaking of light, you may need to get creative, or bring in some reinforcements, to support some of your plant’s light needs during the winter. If, for example, your plant collection lives in a north-facing ground-floor apartment in Vancouver, then you’ll likely need to make some adjustments in the winter months to make sure your plants get enough light. If you can move plants closer to a window without exposing them to chilly air or drafts, that’s a good way to increase sun exposure. 

Some plants, especially more finicky semi-succulents like a Hoya Tricolor or a Peperomia Frost, simply may not be able to hang in low-light conditions for long, and may need to move to a window in your home with better light for the winter. Sometimes, when moving plants to another window with better light exposure isn’t an option, it’s a good idea to invest in a grow light.

Finally, wintertime is a great time to assess what your potting needs might be come spring. Do you have any plants that need re-potting? Most houseplants could stand to be re-potted after a year or two, and we recommend always sizing up no more than 1 inch in diameter at a time – for instance, go from a 5” to a 6” pot. This is a great time to donate or gift any planters that maybe no longer enhance the decor in your home and check out new ones that better fit your growing plants. And if you’ve got a slower-growing houseplant, it’s always a good idea to at least replace the soil once every couple of years, to give the plant fresh nutrients. 

With these seasonal adjustments to your plant care routine, your pet-safe plants will continue to bring joy to your home for many seasons to come!

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