10 Tips to Help Your Houseplants Survive Fall & Winter

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

With end of Daylight Savings near, you’re not the only one anticipating (or rather dreading) the harshest months of the year. Pretty soon, your houseplants will be busy dodging drafts and soaking up every last ray of dwindling sunlight. To give your ferns and fiddle leaf figs a fighting chance at survival, follow these ten tips for winter plant care to get your plants through the worst of it.

1. Move plants away from vents, radiators or drafty windows. Most plants aren’t big fans of extreme temperature variations, so try to keep them away from spots that get either too chilly or heated. Position sun-loving, draft-avoiding plants on a side table near the window, but not directly on the windowsill.

2. Check the air humidity. Many houseplants thrive in 40-50% humidity, but when the heat’s blasting and the windows are closed, the moisture level in your home is likely much lower. The easiest solution is to buy a humidifier (here are 10 of our favorites). This may seem like a big investment to make for a few ferns, but the added moisture will help you breathe easier, too. Alternatively, pick up a mister bottle (how pretty is this pink glass one?) to spritz the plant leaves, particularly if they start to look dry or crunchy.

3. Maintain a steady temperature. While ideal temperature varies by species, most plants do well at a daytime temperature of 65 to 75 degrees fahrenheit and won’t mind a slight dip at night.

4. Give them a spin. To prevent your plants from growing unevenly, give them a quarter turn every time you water them. This will ensure that all sides get a chance to catch some rays.

5. Resist the urge to overwater. If you keep up with the same watering schedule that you followed in the summer, it’s likely you’ll end up flooding your plants. The best way to check the soil moisture is to poke your finger 2 inches below the surface, as the top of the soil dries out first. No matter the time of year, it’s always a smart idea to choose a planter with drainage holes, and don’t let the roots sit in excess water, which can cause rot.

6. Give your plants a bath. If the leaves of your houseplant look dusty, wipe them clean with a damp sponge or cloth. Just support the back of the leaf with your hand so you don’t accidentally rip it.

7. Cut down on fertilizer. Resist the urge to fertilize your houseplants during the winter months, when growth is naturally at its slowest. When the weather warms up and your plants start growing again, that’s your cue to resume feeding.

8. Keep cacti cool (surprise!). You may assume that cacti would appreciate a hot environment, but just as many deserts experience a drastic temperature drop at night, most varieties of cacti prefer a chilly (yet sunny) home during the winter.

9. Prune back leggy limbs. When plants don’t get enough light, their growth can start to get long and spindly, or “leggy.” Clipping off this growth, along with any dead leaves, clears the way for fresh springtime growth.

10. Look out for infestations. Keep an eye out for pests, especially if you transferred any outdoor plants inside for the season. Spider mites, one of the most common pests, is particularly dangerous in winter, when dry and dusty conditions drive them to seek moisture in the leaves of houseplants. Wiping the leaves with a solution of water and very mild dish soap can rescue infested plants. Or try making a homemade pesticide using ingredients from your kitchen.

Re-edited from a post originally published on 2.05.17 – AL