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How to care for your houseplants in winter

Published on July 20th 2021
Indoor plants, just like your plant growing outdoors, enter a period of rest during winter, called dormancy. During this time plants are not actively growing but rather, in response to shorter days and cooler temperatures, they press pause until conditions allow for them to resume growth.
It is crucial during this time of dormancy to adjust your care routine according to the prevailing conditions and what the plant needs during this season. If you need a little guidance, dig in to the quick care guide below!
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Photo by Severin Candrian on Unsplash

Adjust your watering schedule

First things first, reduce the amount and frequency of watering. Because the plants are not actively growing, they do not need as much water as during the warmer months. With temperatures being colder and the amount of water plants use during dormancy is less, the water retains water for longer. Be sure not to overwater during this time as it could lead to root rot and other fungal infections.
Before watering, do the finger test* to determine whether the soil is still saturated or whether it has dried out enough to justify giving it another drink. Be consistent in your watering to ensure that your plants more easily adapt to the indoor conditions.
What is the finger test?: To test the soil moisture, push your index finger into the soil up to about the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, your finger will come out clean. If the soil around your fingertip is still moist, avoid watering.
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Adjust light exposure

Even though your plants are not in an active growth phase during winter, they still need plenty of bright, indirect light to be able to produce food for themselves (photosynthesize). One way of doing this includes rotating your plants to allow them even access to light on all sides, which will also prevent lopsided growth.
If your home does not receive enough light, especially more so during winter, consider getting a grow light or two to ensure your plants are getting optimal amounts of light.
A vase of flowers on a plant

Be mindful of temperature

Most indoor plants are adapted to warmer, tropical climates where there is not a large difference between the minimum and maximum temperatures. Although some plants can handle it when temperatures drop below the minimum, many can not withstand sudden drops in temperature.
To prevent these sudden changes in temperature, move your plants to an area where it is not exposed to winds, freezing windows, or even heaters.
A close up of a flower pot


A sure sign of winter in the South African home is the fan, oil or gas heater that makes its way to every possible room. These heaters however have a major effect on the ambient humidity, causing all moisture to be drawn from the air. Most indoor plants ideally need medium to high humidity to thrive so be sure to place your plants on a pebble tray with water to increase the local humidity or add a room humidifier to keep the ambient moisture levels at an ideal level.
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Fertilizing? No can do.

During the dormant stage, most indoor plants are not actively growing and therefore do not need any additional macroelements. Fertilizing during this dormant phase could lead to excess build-up of nutrients in the soil, which could actually do more harm than good.
Come spring you can fertilise to your plant's desire! To learn more about macroelements and fertilising, dig into the article below.
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N P K, what is it anyway?


A close up of a plant

Do a pest-check

Remember to inspect your plants regularly for pests like scale, mealy bugs, and aphids. These little buggers can be quite sneaky hiding on the undersides of leaves or sheaths, or even in the soil.
A good hygiene tip is to remove any dead or diseased leaves or stems and discard them in the bin. If you want to be extra cautious, spray preventatively with an organic pesticide like Bioneem or Pyrol.

Have houseplant care tips to share? Leave them in the comments below!

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