Seven Simple Tips for
Happy Winter Houseplants
Follow these seven simple tips to keep your houseplants healthy and attractive.
By Veronica Lorson Fowler
The Iowa Gardener
1) Keep them away from drafts from heat vents and open doors!
Almost like magic, tips of leaves for certain houseplants start turning brown in late fall when plants have to deal with blasts of cold air from opening doors and dry, damaging air flowing from heat vents.
As a very rough rule of thumb, keep houseplants at least 4 feet from any heat vent and around the corner or 10 feet away from any opening doors. (Helpful hint: You can put a heat deflector on some vents so they don’t blow directly onto your houseplants.)
2) Water sparingly but regularly.
Houseplants grow more slowly in the short days of winter. Keep soil evenly moist, but don’t let the soil dry out too much. Many plants will tolerate periods of neglect, but as a result, look straggly and struggling. Not your goal!
3) Give your houseplants some winter TLC.
Without the distractions of other plants growing outdoors, take a moment to focus on your houseplants. Repot or top off with fresh potting soil those plants that need it. Trim off spent leaves and cut off entire stems to shape your plant as desired or needed.
4) Avoid fertilizing in winter.
Plants are growing more slowly and don’t need it. Wait until March or so.
5) Don’t expect a long life from indoor flowering plants.
Things like cyclamen, azaleas, poinsettias, miniature roses, forced tulips and daffodils, and other plants sold to bloom indoors are not bred in such a way that they make particularly good plants after their bloom time, and getting them to rebloom can be difficult to impossible. They are considered disposable. If you want to hang on to them, good for you. But otherwise, pitch ‘em.
6) Recognize “negative ornamental value” (a.k.a. “ugly”).
The whole point of houseplants is for them to be beautiful, attractive, and for us to enjoy them. If you have a plant that’s not an heirloom, is struggling, and is, frankly, ugly, ask yourself why you’re keeping it. It may be wiser to just dispose of it and buy something new and beautiful. Shop around—especially in January and February there are great deals on houseplants!
7) Transport new plants with care.
If you do buy a houseplant, be sure that it is wrapped up well in the store so that no cold outdoor air touches it on the journey from the store to your home. Work with the 18-year-old store clerk to come up with a system of a box or taped or stapled plastic bags that will insulate it from cold outdoor air. Otherwise, in the next day or two, your brand-new plant might show signs of damage.