How to Keep Plants Alive in the Dead of Winter

houseplants winter

Alena Kravchenko / EyeEm / Getty Images

With temperatures dropping outside, it means they’re rising inside. The heating has been switched on and with it getting darker earlier, it’s no wonder if you’ve noticed some of your plants suffering. In fact, it can actually be a bit hard to keep plants alive in the dead of winter. Think about it — all of the conditions in your home change. It gets hotter and drier, there’s less light and more drafts. Your entire schedule for caring for your plants has to transform during the winter months to adequately care for your plant babies. And it should.

When the seasons change, plant care needs to change, which is what plant expert Justin Hancock, a horticulturist from Costa Farms, said about keeping plants alive during the winter months. Here are his top tips.

Change Your Watering Schedule

watering plants

Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images

“Some people who are used to watering on a strict schedule (they give their plants the same amount of water with the same frequency) find they may be over- or under-watering their plants in winter,” says Hancock. “The more plants grow, the more water they use, so factors like light and temperature influence how much you need to water. You might find your houseplants grow a lot more slowly in winter because the days are shorter and the sun is less intense.” 

However, it’s always important to use tips as guidelines and not rules. Your conditions could be totally different than someone else’s. “In my home office, for example, there’s a big oak tree outside the window. It’s a relatively low-light situation in summer, but there’s actually more light in winter because the oak drops its leaves and the sun can pour in,” says Hancock. So instead of following tips/rules blindly, be sure to continue to check your plant’s soil before grabbing your watering can. You can use a moisture meter or your finger to assess if your plant needs a drink. 

Grab Some Grow Lights

grow light

Katrin Sauerwein / EyeEm ./ Getty Images

“If you don’t want to see your plants slow down as much over winter, one relatively easy way to keep them growing is to augment them with artificial lights,” notes Hancock. “It can be as simple as hanging an inexpensive LED shop light over the window to give the plants the extra boost they need.” Grow lights are an excellent way to supplement light and they come in a variety of styles and price points so there’s definitely one out there for your situation. If you have some plants that love getting a lot of light, a grow light is a great investment and will leave your plant happy.

Move Plants Out of Drafty Areas

move your plants

FreshSplash / Getty Images

“In nature, plants aren’t usually subjected to drafts of air that are substantially warmer or colder than the ambient temperature. As such, being too near a drafty door or window, or near a heating vent, may cause the plant’s leaves to develop brown, crispy tips or edges,” says Hancock. “The thinner the leaf texture, the more susceptible a plant is to this effect — so you may not notice it on plants like sansevieria or ZZ, but you could on calatheas and ferns.”

The best thing to do is keep an eye out. If you start to see your plants crisping up, move them. It’s okay to move your plants around as long as you aren’t doing it every single day. Find it a spot away from a window or vent and it will look a lot better come springtime. 

Manually Raise Humidity


Dmitry Marchenko / EyeEm / Getty Images

“If you have to heat your home to keep it cozy over the winter, you may find that your furnace, fireplace, etc. drive down relative humidity levels," says Hancock. "While the majority of common houseplants do fine in average humidity levels (40 to 50% relative humidity), turning up the heat can make the air desert dry."

A good rule of thumb is that if your skin is getting dry and itchy or you find yourself reaching for your chapstick more frequently than usual, your plants are probably feeling it as well. This is when you need to manually increase the humidity in your space. You can do this with a humidifier, placing plants inside a plant case, or grouping them together.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Pests

clean plants

FreshSplash / Getty Images

“Unfortunately, some pests (including spider mites) love warm, dry conditions — so regularly checking your plants for signs of an infestation can make dealing with any pests easier," says Hancock. "It’s less of a task to knock back spider mites in the beginning, rather than after they’ve gained a foothold." Dust your plants off with a microfiber cloth so you can properly see pests. Removing the dust will also ensure your plant is getting as much sunlight as it possibly can!