Winter Houseplant Care

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In North Carolina, houseplant can mean one of two things:  a plant that remains indoors all day or tropical plant that lives on our porch in the summer while residing indoors for the winter. Regardless of which houseplant you have, they are all responsive to the environmental changes that winter brings.

For plants brought in from outdoors, monitor them as they adjust to the new environment. Homes are darker and drier than the outdoors and experiencing these changes can cause a plant to become yellow and lose leaves over the first few weeks inside. If leaves continue to drop and the plant looks unhealthy, check for symptoms of disease (spots, lesions, distortions) or the presence of insects (holes, bites, frays or tears).

For plants that remain indoors, they will transition as the season does. Plants will slow down growth as the angle of light falls lower and the light grows weaker. With growth creeping along, less water and no fertilizer is needed. One of the biggest culprits of plant death is overwatering. In the winter, allow potting media to get as dry as possible without becoming bone dry before watering again. Instead of watering the top of the pot, try setting the pot in a tray or pan of water so the plants can pull it up from the roots. Remove the pot once the top of the media is damp.

Another critical aspect to monitor for houseplants is humidity. While some sources recommend spritzing the plants daily to keep humidity high, this doesn’t actually do much. Try grouping plants together or placing individual plants on pebble-lined trays filled with water. In both scenarios, evaporating water will surround the plant leaves, which keeps the plants healthy and happy.

One final tip is to keep plants away from areas or surfaces with extreme temperatures. Avoid keeping plants near air vents or radiators. Do not let leaves touch windowpanes as the temperatures bringing winter frosts and freezes can injure the plant.

For more information on houseplant care, visit your local extension office.

Selena McKoy is Horticulture Agent at North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Harnett County.