Simple tips to keep your indoor plants happy in winter

Simple tips to keep your indoor plants happy in winter
  • PublishedJune 26, 2024

Whether your house is cosy or cold, winter can be a tough time for our indoor plants.

Horticulturist and Gardening Australia presenter Sophie Thomson says many indoor plants are from the tropics so need care in colder climates.

This includes the temperamental fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata)devil’s ivy (Pothos) and Monstera (or Swiss cheese plant).

Here are a few simple things you can do to help them stay healthy — including a couple of jobs you can remove from your to-do list.

A close up of a Monstera leaf to show what it can look like alongside a different plant, style tips for home.
Many of our favourite indoor plants, like monsteras or Swiss cheese plants are actually rainforest plants so cold winters are not their ideal conditions. (ABC Life: Matt Garrow)

Make sure your plants have light but not too much sun

“From mid-autumn to mid-spring the sun is lower in the sky, which means the angle that the sun comes into your house from a window may change, and the sun might come further into a room,” says Sophie.

Make sure plants that are in the shade over summer don’t get too much sun and scorch their foliage as a result.”

Move them out of warm and cold draughts

Expert gardener and author Jennifer Stackhouse says hot air blowing over some plants “can be a death sentence … particularly ferns”.

Cold air can be problematic too.

“Windows often get really cold overnight, says Jennifer. “You might suddenly find your plants are getting burnt and the leaves die back, but it’s cold damage.”

She says moving plants a little bit away from windows is a good idea and if you don’t have enough light elsewhere, try bubble wrap on your windows which will insulate against the cold but let the light through.

Gardening Australia researcher Patrick Honan recommends draught-proofing where you can.

He says sealing tape can be used for window and door gaps (it’s removable if you’re renting). You can also try shoving pillows in unused fireplaces and covering old vents.

a woman with a dog watering indoor pot plants
You should always check the moisture levels in your potted plants before adding more water and make sure they are not left sitting in water.(Drobot Dean, Adobe stock)

Ease off with your watering

Don’t assume your plants need watering as often as they did before winter.

Jennifer explains that plants may not do as much growing over winter, and the soil might not dry out as quickly as other seasons.

Adjust your watering regime and check the plant actually needs to be watered,” she says.

Never, ever let your indoor plants sit in water. Always water and let the water drain out of the pot thoroughly and then put the plants back into their normal position.”

Also make sure leaves are clean and check for pest problems like scale.

A young woman with long hair stands behind a pot plant adding some soil to the top of the pot.
Even if your plants look like they need a bigger pot, resist the urge to repot them until the weather is warmer when they will grow more quickly into the new soil.(Supplied: Darlene Ladio)

The jobs to avoid in winter

If you feel a motivation boost coming on, it’s best not to direct it to your indoor plants right now.

Resist the temptation of [re-potting] when the weather is cold,” says Sophie, “even if plants look overgrown or overcrowded in the pot.”

She explains that in winter, they won’t put on enough new growth to cope with the extra soil around their roots in a larger pot, meaning the soil will stay wetter for longer, increasing the risk of roots rotting and dying.

She says to save that job until the weather warms up.

And if you are concerned your humidity-loving plants might need some water sprayed on their leaves, you can relax.

Melbourne horticulturist Julia Monk says misting isn’t necessary and might even increase the risk of a fungal issue or fungus gnats.

She suggests grouping plants together as the water vapour they release from their leaves will form a microclimate with higher humidity.


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