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How to care for houseplants in the winter

Houseplants, like people, behave differently based on the time of year. During the colder months of the year, the plants will enter a dormant state; they will go to sleep for a few months. This means you'll need to give your plants different care, but how do you do this? In this guide, we'll go over everything you should know about plant care in the winter. At the end of this guide, you'll know how to care for your plants during the autumn (fall) and winter months.

Together we'll go over these aspects of caring for houseplants in the winter:

  1. Watering your houseplants
  2. Extra sunlight in the winter
  3. Fertilizing your plants in the winter
  4. Adjusting the humidity levels during the winter

Let's get right into the steps to take care of your plants in the winter.

Watering your houseplants

Back to top Watering your plants in the winter is one of the most difficult adjustments you'll need to make. In the spring and summer, your plants are growing quickly, some more than others of course, but this is not the case during the winter. In the winter, your plants will go to sleep. Plants do this to recover from the months of rapid growth. It's much like when you're sprinting: at some point, you'll need to stop to catch your breath. What this means for plants is this: they'll slow down growth and some plants will even stop growing during the cold months. This also means they're not using as much energy and won't need as much water.

Sign saying are you dry yet Check if the soil is dry before watering

During the colder months, it's that much more important to check if the soil is dry before watering your plant because it's really easy to overwater your plant during this time. It won't be as thirsty, so the soil will likely stay moist for much longer. This also means that you won't need to water your plants as often. There is no exact science to this, but it's roughly like this: If you water your plant once per week in the spring and summer, you'll only need to water it once every two weeks. To be sure that you're not overwatering your plants, always check the soil first.

Extra sunlight in the winter

Back to top After watering, sunlight is the most important part of plant care. During the autumn (fall) and winter, the sun will be less present and its strength will also be much less. For your sun-loving plants, this won't be a big change, because these plants will most likely already be in a windowsill, so they get all the sunlight the sun still shines down. However, for your plants that usually only get bright indirect light or low light, you'll need to take some action.

Dracaena close to a window Dracaena close to a window in the winter

The sun is much weaker in the winter compared to the summer, so you'll need to move your plants in darker places towards a window. The light that's too strong for these plants in the summer is all of a sudden perfect in the Winter. As an example, a Dracaena thrives in bright indirect to low light situations in the summer, but during the winter you can move this plant closer to a south-facing (or north-facing window if you're in the southern hemisphere) window. This light would be far too bright in the summer, but it's perfect in the winter.

If you can't move your plants towards the light, you can also give them additional artificial light through growing lights. When you're using growing lights, you won't have to move your plants at all and can help them in the same place you've kept them during the spring and summer.

Fertilizing your plants in the winter

Back to top As we've seen in the watering section, plants use a lot less energy in the winter because they don't grow (as fast). This also means that you should stop fertilizing your plants during the autumn and winter. The plants won't need the fertilizer during the winter, so if you keep fertilizing them anyway, you could be overdoing it. This often results in a harsh living environment, because the soil will be too acidic and this could kill the plant. The best thing to do is, stop fertilizing as soon as it's autumn and pick it back up when it's officially spring.

Adjusting the humidity levels during the winter

Back to top The winter months don't just mean your plants get less sunlight, but it also gets colder outside. When it's colder outside, you're probably also turning on radiators and heating systems throughout your house to keep you and your plants warm. Keeping your plants at the right temperature is important, don't let them freeze, but most plants are also tougher than you'd expect them to be. The real issue here is humidity.

Alocasia Zebrina leaf with water drops Alocasia Zebrina leaf with water drops

Your central heating system makes it nice and warm inside, but it also makes the air dry. If you've ever taken care of a Calathea you know what dry air does to a plant. Some plants, like the Calathea, require a lot of humidity, but others, like cacti, don't mind being in dry air. To help your plants stay healthy during the winter, you'll need to take some measures to raise the humidity in your house. You most likely won't be able to achieve the perfect humidity levels you had in the spring and summer, but as long as you do your best to raise the humidity, your plants will get through the winter much better.

To make it a little easier on yourself, you can put the plants that need a higher humidity level together and mist them occasionally.


Plants care changes with the seasons. The spring and summer are quite easy, but the autumn (fall) and winter are a different story. Your plants go into their dormancy period and require different care than what you've given them in the spring and summer. The most important changes are watering your plants less often, moving them closer to windows to compensate for weaker sunlight, stopping all fertilizing until the spring, and raising the humidity levels to compensate for the dry air and central heating systems in your house.

Your plants won't grow as quickly and some plants won't grow at all. You might also lose leaves during the winter. Don't be afraid of this though, as these leaves will come back in the spring.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope it helps you to keep your plants healthy and beautiful! If you're looking for more guides on specific plants, you can always request a plant guide to get a guide for the plant you have trouble with.

Tags: winter, humidity, water, sun-loving

Posted on: Oct 10, 2020 Last updated on: Nov 11, 2020

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Frequently asked questions

Should I fertilize my plants in the winter?
No, your plant is in a dormant state during the winter, so adding fertilizer is not a good idea. You plant won't absorb the nutrients as quickly, so if too much fertilizer stays behind in the soil, it could make the soil acidic. This will kill the plant. It's best to stop fertilizing your plants until the spring.
How often do I water my plants in the winter?
You should water your plant less than you water it in the summer. If you watered your plant once per week in the summer, you should water it once every two weeks in the winter. Your plant won't absorb the water as quickly, so watering it the same as in the summer will overwater your plant in the winter.

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