How to Overwinter Indoor Plants

Correctly overwintering indoor plants keeps them healthy during the colder months, when they enter an inactive phase and stop growing. Winter also brings environmental stress to houseplants, including less sunlight and drier air, often coupled with temperature extremes inside the home. The special care required to overwinter indoor plants will help your plants survive their winter rest and emerge thriving in the spring.


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    Keep houseplants away from rapid temperature changes or temperature extremes. Don't expose plants to radiators, space heaters, hot air vents, open doors, or cold drafts. Don't let foliage touch frigid window panes.
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    Water less often. You should water the majority of houseplants when the dirt is barely damp or nearly dry to touch. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however.
    • Wait until the dirt is totally dry before watering cacti and succulents.
    • Water ferns frequently because they like soil that is evenly damp.
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    Avoid fertilizing indoor plants during winter. If you choose to feed as part of winter plant care, cut the fertilizer's strength by at least 50 percent. Resume normal feeding in the spring when the plants show new growth.
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    Refrain from repotting indoor plants when they are in the resting phase. They can be repotted when new growth appears in spring.
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    Consider adding fluorescent lights to keep your overwintering houseplants healthy. Plants receive less sunlight during winter months when the days are shorter and the sun is less intense.
    • Place plants between 6 inches (15 cm) to 15 inches (38 cm) beneath the fluorescent tubing. Turn the lights on for up to 16 hours per day.
    • Rotate overwintering houseplants on a regular schedule when using fluorescent lights. The light tends to be weaker at the ends of fluorescent tubing.
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    Clean the dust and grease which has gathered on leaves because this accumulation can hinder plant growth and breathing. Cleaning leaves as part of winter plant care will also improve appearance and control bugs.
    • Gently wash the leaves of large-leaved plants with a sponge or cloth dampened with water. Place your hand beneath the leaf for support while you wipe the upper side clean.
    • Dust off hairy-leaved plants, such as African violets, with a dry cotton swab or watercolor paint brush.
    • Set potted plants in the shower and turn on the spray for a gentle cleansing. Use lukewarm water.
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    Increase the relative humidity in your home during winter months, when indoor air becomes very dry. There are numerous ways to raise air moisture for indoor plants during winter.
    • Put a cool vaporizer inside rooms with plants.
    • Place potted plants on a tray filled with wet pebbles or gravel. Don't let the bottoms of the pots stand below water.
    • Huddle indoor plants together in one area. This raises the humidity in the immediate vicinity of these houseplants because water evaporates from the dirt and moisture escapes via the foliage.
    • Set water-filled pans near heat registers.
    • Take overwintering plants into the bathroom when you take a shower so the plants can soak up some steam.

Things You'll Need

  • Fluorescent lights
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Cotton swabs or watercolor paint brush
  • Vaporizer
  • Trays
  • Pebbles or gravel
  • Pans

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Indoor and Patio Plants