When Canadian fall hits, people begin to migrate indoors — and this goes for our plants too. We let our gardens and flower beds wither away while rescuing our potted favourites by moving them inside. Houseplants are a popular home addition these days, as they freshen the air and liven up any space. You might think that since your plants are indoors, seasonal changes don’t affect them. However, the truth is that your plants are still very aware of the seasons, and they require different care throughout the year. Let’s walk through some of the best tips and tricks for caring for tropical houseplants indoors.
How to Care for Houseplants Throughout the Winter
FAQ: How do I move my plants from outdoors to indoors?
This transition is possible, but plants are sensitive so it can’t be done in one day. Start by bringing your outdoor plants inside gradually. You don’t want to shock them, so bring your plants inside for a few hours each day before returning them to their original environment. Do this for a few weeks, increasing their time inside each day slightly. This process is called ‘hardening off,’ as you help your plants adjust to a new environment.
FAQ: How should I prepare my plants before bringing them indoors?
After an entire summer outside, your plants could probably use a makeover. Cut off dead leaves and trim branches so your plants don’t waste any energy and can focus on new growth.
Next, wash your plants before bringing them indoors. Leaves accumulate dirt and grime so give them a good rinse before the transition. This keeps your home clean and allows your plant to produce as much energy as possible throughout the cooler months ahead.
Leaf cleaning should also be done regularly for indoor plants, as dust can build up and block sunlight, limiting your plants’ energy production. They already struggle in the winter with fewer hours of sunlight, so they need all the help they can get. Gently dust or wipe the leaves once a month so your plants can produce at maximum capacity again. Pro tip: Wash your windows while you’re at it so your plants receive maximum sunlight through the glass.
FAQ: What temperature should I keep my plants at?
Most plants are very sensitive to cold air. So, it’s your job to make sure they are warm, but not too warm. Windowsills or tall plant stands close to the window are popular homes for plants as they provide maximum sunlight. However, it’s important to watch for cold drafts seeping through the window panes or even a light breeze if you crack the window. Always feel the temperature of the window to make sure you’re not freezing your plant, and consider window insulation if this is where you want your plant to live (this can help lower your energy bill too!).
Just as cold can zap the life out of your plant, so can excess heat. Be aware of plants close to heating vents, stoves, fireplaces and space heaters, as they may need to be relocated during the winter months when you require more heat circulating in your home. Plant stands can be a great alternative to having your pots directly on the mantel or the floor by heating vents. As a general rule of thumb, houseplants should be kept between 18-24 degrees Celsius during the day, and above 10 degrees Celsius at night.
FAQ: How much should I water and feed my plants throughout the winter?
Just like people require different amounts of water based on their activity level, so do plants. Most plants go dormant in the winter, so they require less food and water to survive and maintain their daily activities. You should still water your plants once per week, but we recommend cutting back to 25-50% and reducing, if not eliminating, fertilizer if your plants look healthy.
There is one exception to this rule: going on vacation. If you’ll be gone for over a week, give your plants more water to make up for your time away. If you’re not sure when to water your houseplants, stick your finger into the dirt and see if the soil is wet or dry one inch down. The last thing you want is to overwater your plant babies and cause root rot. You also want to be aware of oversaturation. If your pot doesn’t have proper drainage, make sure you don’t over-water and leave them sitting in a sloppy mess while you’re away.
FAQ: Should I use a humidifier?
Yes! Most plants like around 50-60% humidity, so plug in your humidifier close by to give them proper moisture. If you don’t own a humidifier, consider leaving open water around your plants to evaporate into the air. Some people leave glasses of water nearby while others fill a tray and place it underneath their pots. If your pots have drainage holes on the bottom, consider adding rocks to the tray and placing your pots on top so the soil does not get oversaturated.
FAQ: How much light do my plants need in the winter?
Lots! Plants require sunlight all year round, but particularly in the winter as Canada experiences fewer hours of sunlight. Therefore, it’s important to rotate your plants so the whole pot is receiving light.
To help your plants receive more natural sunlight, fashion a window box so they can soak in as much as possible without risking the cool draft from the windowsill. Ensure you are safely and appropriately installing your window boxes to avoid any damage, and to keep your plants safe from collapsing. A poorly hung windowbox could also cause injury to yourself, your children, or your pets. Alternatively, consider buying grow lights so your plants can maintain a healthy amount of sunlight in lieu of natural rays. The colour of these lights affects how your plants grow, so do your research before purchasing.
If owning and caring for houseplants is a long-term plan for you, consider dedicating your sunniest room to plants. This way, your plants have a temperature-controlled area to live in year-round with plenty of sun and room to grow.
FAQ: When should I repot my plants?
Since most plants hibernate in the winter, you won’t see a ton of growth over the cooler months. Rehoming a plant requires a lot of energy as they adapt to their new surroundings, so they need all the help they can get. Plants start wake up again in the spring with ample energy to adjust to a new environment, so this is when you should repot.
Please keep in mind that every plant variety requires different amounts of light, water and attention, so look up home care for your specific plant to ensure its winter success.