Winter is a difficult season for all living things. Just as we take out our pullovers, jackets, gloves, woolen socks to protect us from the cold, our indoor plants also need some special pampering during this season.
Winter care of my plants is a lot different from my summer care. I live in Germany and we have pretty strong winters, strong enough that no plants can be grown outdoors.
The extend of winter care really depends on which part of the world you are residing in. Now that you know where I am, scale up or scale down the tips mentioned here according to the weather conditions where you are.
This season poses several challenges for the plants to grow.
Mainly they need more of the below factors:
- Air Flow
- Ambient Temperature
- Pest Control
Sunlight is essential for a plant to perform photosynthesis and in winter there is hardly any light available. I get around 2-3 hours of sunlight on a day and that too not on all days. It depends on whether it is raining or snowing.
But most of our plants are tropical foliage plants which require at least 5-6 hours of bright indirect light. Here are some things I do to ensure that my plants receive an adequate amount of light.
I keep the plants in a room where it gets the maximum amount of light. Also try to keep them closer to the windows when the sun is shining, but not touching the window pane. If you have many plants, take turns to bring them close to the window.
I have also taken down most of my hanging plants because the sun shines at an angle and hanging plants might be above this area which is darker.
It is necessary to rotate plants a quarter inch on their watering days. This will ensure uniform growth of the plants on all sides.
Make sure to clean the foliage of the plants as well the clean the windows so that it is not a hindrance in light absorption for the plants to photosynthesize.
Since I have quite a number of plants, I invested in grow light. They work amazingly well and my plants love them. More about grow lights in my upcoming video/post.
I moved all my humidity loving tropical plants to my plant shelf which is mounted with grow lights underneath each rack. This makes sure they get enough light. All my low light tolerant plants like ZZ, Sansevieria are kept in my living room which gets 2-3 hours of bright indirect light even during winters.
I keep the grow lights running for 9-10 hours every day in winter. The existing bulbs could be replaced by a compatible grow light bulb so that no additional light fixture is required to mount them.
If investing in grow light is not an option, move the plants closer to daylight led bulbs. This need not be as strong as grow lights but they work. This helps in increasing the ambient light around the plants and plants get something which is better than nothing.
The second essential that is lacking in winter is humidity. Most of our indoor plants are from the tropics where the humidity is much higher. Humidity is nothing but the water vapor content in the air. During winters, the air is generally dry outside and inside. Also with heaters on, the air gets much drier. So it is important to give them the humidity that they want.
For this purpose, I use a humidifier in my plant room. I let it run for around an hour every day.
Generally, plants need at least 40% humidity. Humidity meters allow us to understand the humidity conditions in the room. But make sure the humidity does not increase more than 60 % in the room. This can lead to the development of mold due to a lack of airflow.
If investing in a humidifier is not an option, there are still ways to increase the humidity around plants.
- Group the plants together, so that they increase the humidity and warmth around them. The plants transpire and create an environment of higher humidity. You can imagine this by being in the air-conditioned room alone, you might feel colder than being in the same room with 10 people if that makes sense :).
- Additionally, you can keep the plants on a tray of pebble with water or place open jars of water close to the plants. When the water evaporates from the containers the humidity around the plant is increases.
- Don’t keep your plants close to a heater as this area will be dry and your plant will surely not appreciate that.
- I also give them occasional showers, they really enjoy it and can also get rid of pests and increase the humidity around them.
- One more thing I do is to keep my humidity loving plants like Calatheas, Ferns in the kitchen as the humidity is higher in the kitchen than elsewhere in my apartment. Since I follow an Indian kitchen there is a lot of cooking involved. So move your plants to a place in your home where the humidity is higher, like the kitchen or the bathroom.
More Air Flow
The next essential factor that is required for plant growth is the airflow. In winters, when the temperature outside is lower than 10 degrees, we turn on our heaters and tend to cozy up inside. And you can literally count the number of times you opened that window in winter because we do it less to maintain the temperature inside the house. And if at all you open the window, the humidity and the temperature inside will drop. But this will result in a lack of airflow inside. The wind is required to make plants grow strong. This will help to dislodge the pests and also prevent root rot. Both these are quite common in winters.
I prefer opening the window on the days when the sun is shining to get some airflow inside the house. But if you cannot do this, you could turn on the fan facing the plants.
Higher Ambient Temperature
The next thing that is lacking in winter is the ambient temperature. It goes without saying that the temperatures are low in winter. So it important to give your plants the ambient temperature conditions inside your home. This point is usually covered as we keep our home warm with the heaters on during winter and this is beneficial for the plants as long as they are not close to the heater.
Also when you keep your plants close to the window to give them good light, make sure they are not too close to the windowpane and this can be freezing cold and your plants can suffer under the cold.
More Pest Control
If you used to think like me, that all animals will be hibernating in winter, the same should be the case with the pests and insects, you are wrong. Winter is the time they are found in abundance. Pests like thrips and spider mites thrive when the environment is dry. Therefore it is important to increase the humidity around plants.
Such pests can affect the growth of the plant. Keep a close watch on the leaves of your plants, especially underneath a leaf, that is where you find most of the pests.
Less is More
Till now we covered all the essentials that we need to provide more in winter. However, there are certain things that need to provide less in this season, so that the plants don’t die.
– Cut back on watering:
Most of the plants are in a dormant state in winter. They don’t need as much water that they needed in summer. If you were watering your plant, once a week in summer, you can reduce it to once in two weeks in winter or much less.
This also depends on where your plant is located. For example, if the plant is under grow light, they might not even notice it is winter outside, so they will need water just as in summers. It is a good idea to check the moisture in the soil with your fingers or with a moisture meter, in order to avoid overwatering.
– Cut back on fertilizing:
Since the plants don’t receive much sunlight in winter, they won’t need nutrients to grow. What I usually do is, I fertilize my plants in winter only when I see new growth, then I know the plant is still growing. Otherwise, I do not fertilize my plants at all. Too much fertilizer can burn the roots of your plant.
– Less of propagation and repotting
I would not say you cannot propagate your plants in winter but the time it takes to form roots is much more than in summer. So wait if you can till the spring to propagate and repot your plants.
Finally, let nature decide!
It is common for the plants to shed a few leaves, for the leaves to turn yellow or brown, and to be attacked by pests. One or two of your plants might also die. If you need proof, just look outside the window and notice what is happening there.
We can try our best to care for our plants, the plants will also try from their part and the rest is upon nature. So appreciate and enjoy this process of taking care of plants.
Happy gardening 🙂