How to Keep Ficus Houseplants Healthy in Winter

potted ficus plant

The Spruce / Kara Riley

Like many common types of houseplants, the ficus tree is a warm-weather plant that thrives during the spring and summer growing seasons. This species is native to tropical and subtropical regions—so while your ficus might be able to handle a little chill in the air from time to time, it can't withstand true winter weather.

When it comes to caring for your ficus tree in winter, bringing the plant indoors when the temperature drops might not be enough to guarantee its health. The ultimate goal when wintering ficus trees isn't growth, but rather survival. With the proper care routine during cold weather, you can minimize leaf drop and help your plant experience a healthy dormancy throughout the season.

Here, learn tips about ficus care in winter to help your tree survive until it resumes new growth in the springtime.

Start With a Healthy Ficus

This tip might seem obvious, but it's an important factor that shouldn't be overlooked. If your ficus tree is unhealthy when winter begins, it's more likely to experience leaf drop and other common growing problems in the off-season. Before the weather gets cold, utilize the proper care steps to ensure your plant is thriving during the warmer months.

Since this species is prone to root rot, the right watering conditions are essential to its health. Plant your ficus in a pot with rich soil and plenty of drainage holes. Keep the soil moisture even, but be careful not to overwater—if the soil feels soggy to the touch, it's time to cut back on watering. This plant will also benefit from monthly fertilization during the spring and summer, but every other month will suffice during the fall and winter.

If your ficus tree lives outside during the growing season, it's also important to check its foliage and pot for any pests or diseases before bringing it inside for the winter. Look for signs of disease like discolored leaves, red or brown spots, or fungus, and treat infestations of pests like mealybugs, thrips, and scale. Quarantine the plant until it is free from diseases or pests to prevent them from spreading to your other houseplants.

Choose the Right Indoor Location

Adequate light is one of the most important factors of ficus tree care during the winter. When choosing a place in your home to overwinter this species, look for a spot that gets plenty of sun. Saturate your plant with as much light as possible: Ficus trees grow in full sun in their native habitats, meaning they prefer at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Rotate your ficus with a one-quarter turn each week to make different parts of the plant to face the window. This allows the plant to continue growing evenly. If natural light is hard to find indoors, you can place a small plant grow light over your ficus. Remember to turn off the lamp at night to simulate the cycle of night and day.

Moreover, don't expose your ficus to drafts. This includes cold drafts from windows and doors along with hot, dry air from heating vents. These extreme temperature fluctuations can weaken and damage your plant. Dry air, in particular, can cause leaves to dry up and drop from ficus trees.

Prevent Leaf Drop

Leaf drop is common throughout the winter months. Don't overreact: It's normal for your plant to lose some leaves as the temperature drops and the air gets dry. This is a natural way for your plant to conserve energy.

Rather than responding to leaf drop with more frequent waterings, it's actually more beneficial to water your ficus less in the winter. What this tree really needs is more humidity. The ficus plant comes from tropical areas with distinct seasons—but instead of hot and cold, they change between rainy and dry. While the tropics experience less rain in the winter, humidity is a constant factor throughout the year. Maintain humid conditions for your plant with a humidifier, humidifying tray, or simply by misting the plant every other day. This will help keep your ficus tree healthy and minimize leaf drop.

Prepare for a New Season

Once the weather starts to warm back up and the daylight hours increase, it's safe to resume more frequent watering and fertilization. This is also the best time to repot your ficus if its roots are becoming too tightly bound in its existing pot: Repotting ultimately helps to perk up the foliage and maintain as many healthy leaves as possible. By starting your plant off with the right conditions as the growing season begins, you'll help it remain strong enough to survive the next winter.