By Erik J. Martin
The growing season may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean indoor houseplants can’t survive and thrive during the colder and less sunny winter months. But it’s going to take a little extra TLC to give your inside foliage the best odds of survival at this time of year, the experts concur.
“The good news is that most houseplants will be okay indoors in the winter. The main thing you need to be concerned about with indoor plants is to keep them back from cold windows and doors and move them to areas that don’t get drafts,” says George Tandt, a tropical houseplant collector.
Alex Tinsman, the owner of HowToHouseplant.com and an avid gardener, says many plants in the house struggle around the turn of the year with the drop in temperatures and lower levels of light.
“The cold temperatures and more draughty conditions are big ones – especially if you live in a very cold climate. A big drop in sunlight can also be problematic, as many houseplants like quite bright conditions,” he says. “A frost can kill a plant when the water inside the plant cells expand while freezing, breaking the cell walls and rendering the plant unable to function efficiently.”
These aren’t the only risks facing indoor vegetation.
“There is increased heat over the winter from your HVAC system and a rise in humidity when humidifiers are used. These may combine to promote pests, including spider mites, fungus gnats, and mealy bugs. You’ll want to keep an eye out for these unwanted critters on your plants and take steps to get rid of them if you spot any,” recommends Trevor Lively, president of Blue Jay Irrigation.
Be aware that many indoor plants are native to tropical areas.
“They can be picky about the temperatures they desire. Keep an eye on the thermostat in your home and make sure you are aware of the optimal temperature for any plants you have,” Lively suggests. “The ideal temperature range for tropical plants is typically between 55°F and 85°F, although this might change based on the variety of plants you own.”
Tinsman says it’s crucial to consider the proper placement of houseplants.
“I like to move certain plants into rooms that get the most sunlight. That means they are not north-facing. Moving plants around and rearranging your furnishings to accommodate might be required here,” he says.
For some delicate houseplants, think about using a horticultural fleece that can cover the plant, which might be more appropriate overnight when temperatures drop.
“If you have any especially sensitive plant species, you can also opt for an indoor propagator, which will allow you to set and maintain a specific temperature – heating the plant from its base. This can be worthwhile, especially if you are trying to grow some kind of seedlings that may get planted outside later in spring,” adds Tinsman.
Above all, relocate any fussier tropical plant away from windows, cold drafts, and external doors advises Tandt.
“Keep them away from heaters and radiators, too. And give any outdoor plants you bring indoors a good spray with an all-purpose insecticide across the leaves, stems, and soil surface before bringing them inside,” Tandt notes.
Not every outdoor plant will adapt well to indoor environments, but some species are sturdier than others.
“If you have any jasmines or geraniums, they would be good options to bring inside, as they are quite delicate when it comes to hard frosts. Citrus plants, like a lemon growing in a pot, would also need to be brought inside to protect from the cold. Cactus is another must, as most of them won’t be able to handle the temperatures outdoors during nighttime,” says Tinsman.
If you’re shopping now for a hardy indoor plant that can weather the seasons, consider monsteras and snake plants.
“The bigger the plant, the more likely it can handle extremes of temperatures,” says Tandt.
Lively is a fan of corn plants and jade plants.
“A corn plant’s reluctance to sunlight and less watering requirements makes it a good indoor plant for the winter season, and attraction to low-light environments has made the jade plant suitable for indoor winters, too.
Another option is a ZZ plant, also called an arum fern.
“This plant looks amazing and is very adaptable, meaning it can handle the cold and low light levels,” says Tinsman.