Winter Indoor Plant Care

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Winter can be stressful for many plants. Outdoor container plants that are susceptible to freezing weather will lose foliage and should be brought indoors. Indoor plants may suffer due to lower light conditions. Both indoor houseplants and outdoor container plants that are brought indoors require special care before winter sets in.

Select an Indoor Location

Outdoor container plants will take up space in the home and will need conditions that are similar to the plant’s outdoor environment.

  • Sun loving plants will prefer to be near a sunny window. The light should be bright and indirect. Use a sheer curtain or blinds to control light intensity.
  • Shade plants can be placed near a north facing window.
  • Flowering plants thrive near an east-facing window that provides indirect light throughout the day and a cooler temperature.
  • Give plants more light by washing the windows. Wash both the inside and outside of the windows to let in the most light.
  • Place plants away from air vents, heat sources and drafty areas. Avoid extreme hot and cold temperatures.
  • Protect plants from pets and kids. Some plants may be toxic and rambunctious play can damage plants.

Clean Plants and Pots

Both indoor and outdoor container plants can benefit from a little clean up before the winter months.

  • Leave plants in the same container. Wait until spring to replant into larger containers.
  • Inspect plants for pests and diseases. Resolve these problems before moving infected plants indoors.
  • Remove damaged leaves and dead stems. Do not prune healthy parts of the plant.
  • Wash plant leaves and containers. Scrub dirt from the outside of containers. For large leaf plants, wipe the top and underside of each leaf. Small leaf plants can be sprayed with a hose. Allow plants and containers to air dry completely before moving indoors.

Maintain an Indoor Plant Environment

Plants will need a gradual adjustment to the indoors which may take up to two weeks. For the first few days, move the plants to the indoor location for 2 or 3 hours. After a couple of days, increase the amount of time to 3 or 4 hours. If it is difficult to move the plants back and forth between indoors and outdoors, move plants to a shaded location in the yard to acclimate plants to the lower light conditions.

The indoor conditions should match the needs of each plant. Adjustments to light intensity, temperature and humidity may be needed.

  • Maintain a room temperature of at least 55 degrees. Ideal daytime temperatures should be between 65 and 75 degrees. Nighttime temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees.
  • Plants that are located on a window sill may need to be moved on those nights when temperature drops to freezing.
  • Plants may stretch toward a light source indicating a need for more light. Either move the plants or use fluorescent grow lights to supplement the natural light.
  • Do not over-water plants. The soil should be watered thoroughly to wet all of the soil in the container and to leach away excel fertilizer salts. Then, allow the soil to become almost dry before watering again.
  • If the air is dry, either mist the plant or place a tray of gravel filled with water under the plant. Another way to create humidity is to group plants together.
  • Many plants go dormant during the winter. Fertilizer should not be applied during the winter months.

Every plant has different needs. Before moving outdoor plants to an indoor location, understand each plant’s needs and prepare indoor locations that best match those same light, temperature and other environmental conditions.

Last Updated: November 4, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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