10 Tips to Help Your Houseplants Get Through the Winter

Larry Hodgson has published thousands of articles and 65 books over the course of his career, in both French and English. His son, Mathieu, has made it his mission to make his father’s writings available to the public. This article was originally published in the newspaper Le soleil on December 5, 1987.

You might think that, well wrapped up in our homes, sheltered from the snow and drying winds, houseplants would not suffer from winter. However, it’s quite the opposite. Most of them are tropical plants from regions where the daylight hours do not change from one season to the next and where the humidity remains constant.

How difficult it is for them to adapt to our winters! The result is often a loss of foliage, reduced growth or, on the contrary, excessive and unhealthy growth, and sometimes the loss of some more sensitive plants. If your plants aren’t looking as good as usual, here are some ways to help them get back on their feet:

artificial light on a houseplant
Turn on an artificial lamp from late afternoon until 8 p.m. every day to lengthen the days. Photo: Hotmilk400

1. Increase the Length of the Day

Hang a fluorescent or LED light over the plant and turn it on from late afternoon until 8:00 p.m. every day. On cloudy days, leave it on all day. While these lights may not fully meet the needs of your plants, in combination with even low levels of natural light, they do them a world of good.

watering a houseplant
Check the soil daily and water as needed. Photo: Dan Jones.

2. Watch the Watering

Some plants grow more slowly in winter and require less water, but at the same time, the dry air in our homes and the heating dry out the soil more quickly. In many cases, therefore, you will need to water more often in winter than in summer. The key is to check the soil daily and water as needed (i.e., as soon as the soil surface is dry), even if not at the same frequency as in the summer.

3. Reduce Fertilization

Plants that stop growing completely in winter (e.g., cacti) do not need any fertilizer during this period, while plants that are slow-growing will need to be fertilized at half or even a quarter of the normal concentration.

humidifier near house plants
Increasing the humidity is one of the most important factors. Photo: Dan Jones.

4. Increase Humidity

This is one of the most important factors. You should consider 50 percent humidity as the minimum level needed for growing plants. So keep your humidifier running (and, of course, full of water) and, in addition, group your plants together to create a more humid mini-environment.

A person repots a plant
Wait until the end of winter to repot. Photo: Gardening Solutions.

5. Avoid Major Work

Cutting, repotting, pruning, etc., during the winter stimulate weak growth that will never look good. Therefore, only do major work in case of an accident. Wait until mid-February or March.

Indoor plant near a sunny window.
Give your plants as much sun as possible in winter. Photo: Andy / Andrew Fogg.

6. Put Your Plants in the Sunniest Window

Le soleil hivernal n’est pas assez fort pour endommager les plantes et, si vous avez le choix, une fenêtre au sud convient mieux que toute autre durant l’hiver, même pour les « plantes d’ombre ». Évitez, si possible, les fenêtres au nord à moins d’y ajouter un éclairage supplémentaire.

red spiders on a houseplant leaf
With the harsh conditions in our homes, insect pests take advantage of the weakness of plants. Photo: Toby Young.

7. Beware of Insects

Some insects, especially the red spider mite, take advantage of the weakness of plants in winter to do damage. If new leaves turn yellow for no apparent reason, check your plant with a magnifying glass and treat with insecticidal soap if necessary.

Thermostat set to 16 degrees celcius
Houseplants like cool nights. Photo: Green Energy Futures.

8. Turn Down the Thermostat at Night

Tropical or not, indoor plants appreciate cool nights. Lowering the temperature to 15°-18°C at night does no harm and will often stimulate flowering in “difficult” plants.

Plant rack with lighting
With a good artificial lighting system, you can grow your houseplants in summer and winter. Photo:

9. Use Artificial Lighting

Artificial light kept on for 12 to 14 hours a day will induce the same growth and flowering as a well-lit window in the middle of summer. In this case, it’ll be necessary to water and fertilize as in summer, because your plants will remain in full growth.

Frozen window in winter
Watch out for the cold window! Photo:

10. Avoid Cold Windows

No part of a plant should touch cold windows directly, as it can freeze, especially at night.

By following these tips, you should be able to keep your houseplants in much better shape during the winter.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

2 comments on “10 Tips to Help Your Houseplants Get Through the Winter

  1. Winter, which is obviously milder here, is when we put some of the houseplants out to recover from being inside all year. They enjoy the rain for a while. I just do not leave them too exposed during frost.

  2. I have a large light shelf and in the winter a have a rotation so that all of the plants spend time ont he shelf for a few days every so often. It works really well.

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