Winter care tips

It's not a glamourous season for plants, but it's the perfect time to check what's happening with each plant, plan for spring, and get any last-minute bulbs in that you forgot (I've been there).

On the list

  1. How to water your plants
  2. Check and treat each plant for bugs, damaged leaves, dust them off
  3. Lift the plant from its pot and check for root rot or rootbound signs
  4. Look up each plants light requirements and maximise your winter light
  5. Decide what you want to gift away, and what you want to buy in the spring

Some plants like Utricularia (bladderworts) need care specific to that plant type

Watering

Care might differ if you have a dry winter instead of a rainy one, but the general guide remains the same. Plants go dormant in winter and giving them water will stop them from resting and instead they'll produce weak growth.

Be it summer or winter, always try to water your plants deeply and not with sporadic small doses of water. The reason for this is because deep watering encourages the roots to grow and search for a source, which ultimately ensures the health of your plant. In addition, soggy plants tend to attract unwanted pests and root rot.

Generally: Water less often, and allow the soil to dry out one to two knuckles down before watering again. Less is more.

Exceptions: Calatheas, most carnivorous plants (flytraps, bladderworts), and other high-maintenance plants will have their own needs. For example, Calatheas hate being too wet but need constant humidity, and flytraps need to hibernate totally, in the cold and dark.

Bugs and damaged leaves

Pests can attack your plants in the winter, but if they aren't causing too much hassle and you keep an eye on them you can keep them around for the beneficial insects that'll need them in early spring. Sure, you might want to separate these plants from the population but in general, if the pests aren't arriving in droves and your plant is surviving then you're giving it a chance to boost its immune system.

Trim off dead and damaged leaves, and those that look sickly.

Consider trimming or pruning your plant now to encourage growth in spring. If your plant is 'woody' and can handle a pruning session, have a go at that. Other plants can wait until later winter/early spring.

Dust off your leaves. They are of huge importance to the health of your plant and you don't want dirt to suffocate your plant or to block out any of those precious winter sun rays.

Further reading

The Garden Website: Bugs in the Garden

The Spruce: How to Prune Houseplants

Smart Garden Guide: How Do You Clean Indoor Plant Leaves?

Roots

We all overwater sometimes, so there's no shame in checking each plant's roots and making sure they're healthy and not covered in slime and smelling rotten. Stick a label or a dot on each plant that looks like it's getting rootbound so you know come spring where to start.

Further reading

Gardening Know How: Drying Wet Soil – How To Fix Waterlogged Plant Soil
Who needs a repot this spring?

Positioning

Drafts and cold, the sun swinging in different windows, take all this into account. Sensitive plants like Calatheas will not forgive you for exposing them to drafts, and your succulents will be unrecognisably leggy if you don't give them the maximum sun possible.

Read up on each plant, gather like-minded plants together, and create a winter huddle for each temperament.

  • Avoid placing plants near cold drafts or heat sources.
  • Keep plants several inches away from exterior windows.
  • Consider buying a grow lamp for long days.
  • Consider buying a humidifier for dry air.

Further reading

The Spruce: Tips on Caring for Houseplants in the Winter
Give your succulents as much sun as possible

Gift what you don't want / need

If you've landed up with duplicate plants, or you've gone off one in your collection, or you can see that your trim has given you a few potential cuttings, decide now what's going and what's staying

Houseplants as a hobby can get out of control really fast. Contact friends and tag plants and cuttings with their names so you know who's going where once spring hits. If you feel generous, cart them all to the pavement once it's warm outside and have a 'free plants' stand for passers-by!