Wondering how to care for your houseplants over the winter? Indoor plant care can be challenging when the temperatures drop inside and you can no longer rely on Mother Nature to help you. Here are my tips for how to care for houseplants over the winter so they make it to spring!
How to care for houseplants over the winter
Hey all—today I have a post I have been wanting to write for a while! I have been seeing a lot of people post memes lately with things like “brace yourselves, winter is coming,” and “everyone thinks they’re a green thumb in the spring and summer.”
And, to be honest—it’s true! Caring for houseplants over the fall and winter indoors can be challenging. It isn’t hard, really…it’s just that you might need to make some changes to accommodate the changes in temperature, humidity, light, etc. So here are my tips!
1. Scale way back on watering
If you take anything away from this post, it’s this: scale back your plant watering! And yes, I’m yelling. It’s that important. 🙂 The number one killer of houseplants is overwatering, and here’s what happens: You get into a watering schedule when it’s super warm and sunny.
Then you keep that same watering schedule as the temperatures drop and the days become shorter. This can quickly lead to your plant’s death via root rot. That’s because when it’s cooler and the plant is getting less light, it needs much less water.
Many of my plants only get water once a month over the winter. Hoyas, snake plants, succulents, and even some pothos plants—once a month is generally enough. You basically want to keep them alive through the winter, and since they aren’t growing much, they don’t need much water.
Some people recommend misting plants over the fall and winter instead of watering them, but I worry about that dampening the top layer of soil and inviting fungus gnats in. So I prefer to water thoroughly but rarely.
2. Consider adding grow lights
Grow lights sound like an intimidating prospect for many new plant owners, but they don’t have to be! There are tons of grow lights on the market that are designed specifically for us houseplant hobbyists. You can even get them in yellow/white tones instead of the pinks/purples you might associate with grow lights.
If you’re new to grow lights, I wrote a grow lights 101 post to describe the different grow lights available to you and what the different types of light do. Note that you don’t necessarily NEED grow lights…they are just nice for those of us with less light! Here’s the TL;DR on my grow lights, though.
First, I try to group my plants in the sunniest areas of my home. Everything right by a window or hanging in a window typically will not get any additional grow light help. Once I have everything situated, I look at where I might need some extra help.
What grow lights should I use for houseplants?
In the past, I’ve used single GE grow light bulbs, which are really nice because they screw into regular lamp sockets! I still have one of those hanging above my big Thai constellation monstera and will put an additional one hanging in a darker corner in the kitchen for a hanging plant.
I recently invested in a grow light stand with four adjustable grow light heads so I can move them around for the perfect angle. This is great because it allows me to cover the entire far side of my plant bar cart, plus a little extra angled to the greenhouse cabinet.
This grow light is great because you can put it on a timer, adjust the intensity of the lights, or turn off some of the adjustable heads if you need to. You’ll need to play around with the settings to figure out what works best for you.
I mentioned my Ikea greenhouse cabinet—in there I also have a few strip grow lights. They work really well for my needs! I have two strips that light the top shelf right now, and that’s where I have my little baby Thai constellation. I then have another one that lights the bottom, where I currently have my monstera Peru.
These come equipped with built-in timers, so I don’t need to add a smart plug or anything to put a timer on. There are a zillion of these to choose from online, but here are the ones I have:
- Mosthink Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light Strips
- GE Full-Spectrum, 9-Watt LED Grow Light Bulb
- Sondiko Full-Spectrum LED Grow Light Strip
- Four-Head Double-Row 100W Lights with Stand, R&B&IR&UV Spectrum
Here are a few more great options with high reviews that might work for your situation:
- Clip-on LED Grow Lights for Indoor Plants Full Spectrum
- Grow Lights with Stand, Full Spectrum Tri-Head 60W LED
- Indoor Full Spectrum Grow Lamp with Display Timer, with Desk Clip
- GrowLED Umbrella Plant Grow Light, Height Adjustable, Automatic Timer
3. Think about humidity needs
Even indoors, humidity levels are generally higher in the summer (depending on where you live, of course). You might be in a dry climate where you need a humidifier all year long. I’m in an area where it gets super humid in the summer.
This benefits my plants indoors, and I move a lot of plants out to my covered patio to soak up the warm temps and amazing humidity. It does WONDERS! Indoors, I generally don’t mess with humidifiers. They are annoying, and I hate cleaning them.
Because of this, I try not to have plants that absolutely need the added humidity of a humidifier. Instead, my higher humidity plants—I try to keep in my greenhouse cabinet where the ambient humidity levels stay just a tad higher than the room humidity.
The moisture from the plants, plus a few jars of LECA with water in them, helps keep things a tad damper. You can also consider misting your plants, but that only very temporarily increases humidity levels.
4. Watch for pests on your houseplants indoors
I treat everything I bring indoors for the fall and winter with insecticide first. Outdoors there are spiders and other beneficial insects to help keep pest invasions under control. I LOVE seeing spiders make webs on my houseplants outside!
You want to avoid bringing anything inside because an infestation can spread VERY quickly indoors where there is nothing to stop it. Therefore, I spray all of my plants down thoroughly with a ready-to-use over-the-counter insecticide spray.
I also treat a lot of my plants with Bonide Systemic Granules because I have had a thrips problem in the past, and I am not playing around these days. My collection is too big. However, systemic granules may not be for you, so make sure you read the bottle and understand what you’re using.
One pest I want to flag for the fall and winter is the spider mite. Spider mites can quickly destroy a plant and generally once you see their very fine webbing, the leaf they’re on is a goner 🙁 (Read more about how to get rid of spider mites.)
Spider mites absolutely thrive in warm, dry conditions. So imagine their delight when they find a plant in a dry home that is running a heater! Some plants are more susceptible for spider mites than others. This is why I don’t keep hardly elephant ears indoors. My house is just too dry and I don’t want to deal with a humidifier.
Although I don’t think misting plants helps much with long-term humidity, misting foliage occasionally with cool water can help keep them less hospitable to spider mites. Just make sure you watch to make sure water isn’t sitting for too long on leaves and leading to fungus or discoloration.
5. Monitor temperature indoors
Depending on what plants you have, you may need to adjust the temperature indoors. I generally just accept that my plants will go dormant over the winter because we like to keep our house on the colder side. (I have this gauge and it also monitors humidity!)
This is fine with me! But if you want to keep your plants growing year-round and you don’t live in an area with a year-round growing season, you gotta fool them by adding grow lights, humidity, and a heat source. I would recommend looking for something designed for plants and reading the instructions to make sure it’s something you can use indoors.
And those are my tips about how to care for houseplants over the winter!
It isn’t rocket science, and everyone’s situation will be different based on where you live, your home, and the plants you have. But these general tips are a really good place to start 🙂