How to Prepare Indoor Tropical Plants for the Cold Weather

tropical houseplants on the window sill in the winter

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Do houseplants die in the winter?

That’s the million-dollar question that’s on everyone’s mind when temperatures start to drop. 

No, houseplants indoors do not die in the winter. But you will need to provide the right essential care to prevent your indoor plants from dying in the winter.

How to provide winter care for houseplants: The key to how to prepare indoor tropical plants for the cold weather is to control the situation. You will still need to provide sufficient lighting while only watering your plant when it’s telling you it’s thirsty. Stop fertilizing your houseplants and increase the humidity level (this helps in keeping plants warm in winter) while controlling the daytime temperature inside the house as well as the nighttime temperatures. Oh and definitely remember to clean the leaves and check for diseases and pests!

grouping plants together

Everyone loves plants because of their beauty. It’s visually appealing and yet so soothing. From its beautiful leaves to their beautiful flowers, each plant has its own unique characteristics. Not only will plants make you do a double-take when you come across one, but they’re also just as beneficial to purify your air as well as beautify your house.

Who knew plants were a triple threat!

Plants are so much easier to care for in the summer than in the winter.

Because of their origin, tropical plants will only thrive in a sunny and warm atmosphere.

It’s a bit contradicting for us plant parents since we tend to enjoy the weather when it gets a little cooler but for our plants, that may be a different story. 

Plants are not very fond of the cold and may start to wither away when the temperature drops. 

So when you start to feel a slight breeze or notice the temperature starting to drop, it’s time to bring your tropical plants indoors. 

Tropical plants are exceptionally delicate, and they need proper care to stay beautiful. Especially when it comes to the temperature and humidity level. These plants thrive much better in a humid and warm climate than in the winter when the weather is cold and dry. So, don’t let your plant babies die due to the coldness!

Related: 36 BEST Indoor Plants for the First Time Plant Parent {aka Beginners}

Tips to Care for Indoor Tropical Houseplants in Winter

When the weather starts to become dry and cold, you will need to find a way to keep your indoor garden alive in the winter. This will usually require you a little more care than usual.

Let’s determine the best method on how to take care of indoor plants in the winter:

Do plants need sun in winter?

Yes, tropical houseplants will always need sun, especially in the winter. 

So, keep them near the window where the direct sunlight comes. It is best to place your plants on a rolling stand so that you can easily adjust their position toward sunlight. Plants need sunlight to make their food and to photosynthesis, which is the most vital process for plants. Sunlight allows tropical plants to flourish.

Some tropical plants come from forests where they are accustomed to live under the shade of a tree. These plants do not need much light, and they can easily live inside the house, without sunshine.

plants being placed in front of w window for natural lighting

A little sunshine is enough for such plants to get their energy, but these plants, which typically do not like direct sunlight, are also looking for some radiance due to the cold in winter. So it would be best to keep your window glass clean and keep such plants a little away from the window.

Remember that there tends to be less sunlight during the winter. Shorter days and longer nights. So you may need some grow lights to help balance your sunlight level. 

Should I water indoor plants in winter?

YES! You will need to water indoor plants in the winter, but less often than you did in the summer. Only water your houseplants when they’re thirsty. Or when their soil is dry (do the bamboo test to determine their dryness level).

Most houseplants require a high level of watering than other plants, but not in the colder months. People tend to think that plants require more watering sessions in the winter due to the lack of moisture and humidity, but its not true. Their soil takes less time to dry up from the lack of warmth in the air and thus needing less water,

using a glass to water plants that look droopy

You can reduce your watering frequency but don’t reduce it too much that they become too dry. If your plants do not get sufficient water, their leaves will become dry and will develop brown tips on the edges and will eventually fall off. And because they are dehydrated, their growth will stop as well. But if they get too much water, that may lead to their roots rotting or their leaves turning yellow. 

The STRUGGLE is real with this one! 

TIP: I find that the best method to determine when your plant is thirsty is to use the knuckle test or a bamboo skewer. I prefer the bamboo method because I find it so much easier and quicker. Stick your bamboo skewer and inch or two into the soil. And if it comes out clean, then it’s safe to water it. But if there are speckles of dirt on the skewer, check again tomorrow. 

Do indoor plants need misting in the winter?

Yes, misting houseplants in the winter can help your plants survive. 

In winter, the environment is already cold and dry, and when you try to increase the temperature by heat sources, it removes all the moisture from the air, which can lead to plants being stressed, which is definitely not suitable for any plants.

watering indoor plants with a watering can

Misting will help to add moisture to the surrounding air of the plant. It’s great for plants, especially for those who are accustomed to living in humid places. Mist your plants in the morning so that they can dry out before nighttime.

Tropical house plants that live in forests love when their humidity level is between 30 and 40 percent humid.

Whether or not your plants are getting adequate moisture, you can check this by looking at all the signs: leaves turning yellow, leaves curling, or even the tips of the leaves start paling.

TIP: Mist your plants early in the morning so that the water will have plenty of time to evaporate throughout the day. 

How do I keep my indoor plants humid in the winter?

If you see your tropical houseplants looking sick, especially in winter, it may be due to a loss of moisture in the air.

The air temperature within a home tends to become drier while the humidity level is being reduced due to the cold air. Since many potted plants are tropical, they often require the atmosphere to be more humid, especially in the cooler months. Low humidity dries up the soil of tropical house plants.

Related: How to Increase Humidity in a Room for Indoor Plants

But just because your plants need more the air to be moist, it doesn’t mean that you should crank up the heater.

Rule of thumb is to never ever place your plant near any heat sources, cold drafts, or anything else that can immediately change the temperature of the room. 

One of the easiest ways to increase humidity is to group plants together. This will increase the humidity level around them and make them happy. Grouping plants together can also be helpful for the maintenance of plants. Humidity issues can also be resolved by placing the houseplants in the bathroom or kitchen.

Use a humidifier to retain humidity high and moisturize your plants directly. Most plants need a moisture level of 50 to 60 percent, to thrive. In a home, the humidity level can go below 35%, but for indoor plants, the ideal humidity level is 60% -80%, which can be difficult to maintain. Imagine your electricity bill!

plants on a windowsill in the winter

Making a humidity tray with pebbles is another option. This will also help provide moisture to your plants. But be careful to not leave your plant in sitting water for a long period of time. It helps to move your plant that has a humidity tray to a sunny spot so that the water can evaporate throughout the day. And don’t overfill the water either. Only fill it to the height of the pebbles or a bit lower. 

Related: How to Keep Moss Pole Moist {5 simple strategies}

Provide Fall cleaning for the leaves

While spring cleaning is the best time to dust and organize your house, fall cleaning is the best time to dust and clean your plants. I mean you should do it on a monthly basis, but if you happen to forget to do so, fall is a good time as ever to start. It is so important that you clean your plant’s leaves. 

If the leaves get dusty, it can clog the pores on your plants. If the dust thickens, it can hinder photosynthesis and prevent transpiration. Which is not good at all. 

And also, dust on the plant can also make it look dull and who would want that?

cleaning houseplant leaves with a damp cloth

Even though larger plants that have smooth leaves have fewer chances of being clogged, it’s still important to dust the plants on a monthly basis. Clean the leaves of plants with a damp cloth that’s mixed with dish soap and water. When dusting, it helps to hold the leaf carefully to prevent it from breaking.

Give your plants a bathe

It helps to give your plants a bath every now and then to help keep them dust-free. You can either do them all at once in the showers or separate your smaller and bigger plants. I find it easier to bathe my smaller plants in the sink to better control the water pressure and my larger plants in the bathtub since they can handle the shower pressure better.

I just rinse them all over with warm shower water and then dry their leaves with a microfiber towel afterward. Then ill let them sit there for a few hours to dry (so it won’t drip) before bringing them back to their original location. 

multiple plants in the bathtub

Before bathing the plants, check that if there are any rotten leaves. And if there are, you will need to cut them first with a sterilized blade. 

It is optional to clean the leaves with an insecticidal soap during their bath. This will help kill insects or bugs during the process. 

Should I fertilize indoor plants in winter?

No, you should not fertilize indoor plants in the winter.  

In the winter months, your indoor garden will go dormant. That means it will either stop growing or will grow at a slower rate. Because of this, fertilizing houseplants should be stopped and only resume when their active growth period starts, which is in the spring. 

Tropical plants are most sensitive in the cooler months and should not be treated with any chemicals or fertilizers, especially in the winter months when they are already having difficulty flourishing. 

What temperature is too cold for houseplants?

The lowest temperature that houseplants can tolerate is around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit.  Anything lower than that, and your houseplant will be stressed and fighting for survival.

When providing your plant with your winter care routine, you will need to keep an eye out for the temperature. 

It is ideal to keep your daytime temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and during the night, it can be as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything lower than that, and your plant may struggle to survive.  

Tropical plants do not like temperatures that are too high or too low. 

Remember to avoid your plants being anywhere near an area that will allow them to catch a brief of air that has a different temperature. Even being on a window ledge where the windows can get too cold can cause stress on your plants or near an area with a doorway that you open and close often.

I find that using grow lights for houseplants in the winter help regulate the temperature to my plant’s liking. And it helps with providing the right light levels for indoor plants as well. It’s a double-win situation!

Get rid of bugs on your houseplants

One of the things I dread the most about winter is the plant bugs! Especially for the tropical plants that I have to bring indoors. 

This is why I always have cleaning products on hand, especially Neem oil. They’re a lifesaver when it comes to houseplant pests.

using a sticky trap to attract fungus gnats on house

I also use sticky traps to try and catch those little irritating fungus gnats. They work just as well in my opinion.

An Organic solution that I learned that will help get rid of bugs is to bury a garlic clove in the soil. The smell repels the bugs. I also heard that apple cider vinegar will do the same thing. 

I’ve also heard that spraying vegetable oil also helps to get rid of insects.

The best way to determine if your plants have bugs is to do an inspection. It’s so much easier to control these pests early rather than after they populate or spread to other plants. 

To help avoid forgetting to check for bugs, I got into a habit of checking for insects every time I water them. It’s been working so far.

Conclusion for keeping your tropical houseplants alive in the winter

Plants will look great all year round if proper care is provided. It’s important to remember that winter care looks different than summer care. As long as you understand how much light, water, humidity, and the temperature level is needed during the winter and summer months, your plants will continue to thrive no matter the weather. 

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