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How do you keep indoor plants alive in the winter?

Wondering what to do with all those potted plants in the cold months? Here’s the best tips on how to keep indoor plants alive in the winter!

I love collecting potted plants – hello, I dedicated an entire website to them!

However, winter can be… problematic for houseplants and outdoors plants alike.

Most houseplants are tropical and not suited for cold temperatures.

You don’t want to put your time and money to waste – not to mention you love your plants and want to see them thrive – not die!

Here are my best tips for keeping house plants alive in the winter.

how to keep indoor plants alive in the winter

How do you keep indoor plants alive in the winter?

Here are a few of the best tips to follow when over wintering indoor plants:

  • Keep plants away from drafty doors or windows.
  • Modify your watering schedule – monitor soil. Most plants only need to be watered when the top 2 inches of soil feel dry to the touch.
  • If the air is dry from running the heat, a humidifier can help.
  • Plants that need bright light might need an added grow light or to be moved to a south-facing window to make the most out of lower amount of lighting.
  • Consider cleaning your houseplant leaves to give them the best and cleanest leaf surface area to make the most photosynthesis even from less light!
  • Remember to rotate your plants to avoid them getting lopsided or uneven growth.
  • Prune your plants regularly, cutting back dead plant leaves to make way for new growth!
plants in a window next to a chair

How often should you water indoor plants in the winter?

You typically want to water your plants less in the winter compared to warmer months. Less heat means that the soil will dry out more slowly and a watering will last longer.

You also may want to water your plants less quantity of water each time. This will again help to prevent pooling water sitting too long in the pot, which could lead to root rot.

The exception to this rule is if you run the heat very warm in your home. This dry heat can dry out plants.

As always, touch your actual soil and monitor your actual plants. If they seem dry, water them more.

Should you mist indoor plants in winter?

Misting plants can help to improve humidity if your winter air is dry (like from running the heat). However, a humidifier might be better at providing consistent relief from the dry air.

How long can houseplants go without water in winter?

Indoor plants can usually go a little bit longer without water in colder months. That being said, most house plants should be watered every 7-10 days or they will start looking limp and sad, and then start getting crispy brown.

potted plants on a shelf

Fertilizing indoor plants in winter

Fertilizer should only be applied to plants that are actively growing. Most plants do not actively grow in winter and therefore you should not fertilize in the winter.

Repotting houseplants in winter

In general, you want to avoid repotting houseplants in winter. Repotting often causes stress to plants, and winter is a stressful time already. Unless it’s an emergency, let it wait until spring.

potted plants outdoors

Can you leave potted plants out in the winter?

You can leave potted plants outside in the winter, depending on where you live and how the climate is.

We live in Charleston, South Carolina and have very mild winters. I leave most of my potted plants outdoors and only bring them in when we have overnight temperatures below 45 degrees.

I also have a small greenhouse with a grow light to help keep them warm on mildly cool nights. The greenhouse only adds about 5 degrees to the external temperature (though it keeps great humidity levels).

In general, potted plants are more likely to freeze than plants planted in the ground because their roots are more exposed and vulnerable.

What to do with potted plants in winter?

If you plan to leave potted plants out during the winter, move them to the sunniest spot possible so they can get heat during the day.

If it is going to frost, it is best to cover them with sheets or towels. Otherwise, all you can do is hope for the best.

rack of potted plants

Can potted plants survive winter in garage?

Garages can offer a variety of winter temperatures which may or may not protect plants in the winter. For example, our old home had an insulated garage. If you added a space heater, it was quite warm and perfect for winter plant care.

However, our current garage has slatted walls and is essentially the same temperature as outdoors – cold drafts and all.

You will need to assess your garage situation. Consider placing a thermometer in there and outdoors for a few nights to monitor the temperature difference compared to outside.

How do you keep indoor plants warm in winter?

The best way to keep indoor plants warm in the winter is to put them in a warm space that gets plenty of light. This could mean that you have to use a grow light or heating mat to keep them warm.

box of potted plants packed to move

What types of potted plants can survive winter outdoors?

The types of plants that will survive the cold completely depends on where you live and how cold it gets. The winter months here in coastal South Carolina are way more mild than those even in the mountains 3 hours away.

In general, most houseplants are natively tropical and will not survive in sustained temperatures below 40 degrees (and some, 50 degrees!)

It’s best to consult with a local plant shop to ask for recommendations of plants that can live out doors in your climate.

Any more questions about how to keep plants alive in winter?

Thanks for reading!

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