Have you taken a good look at your houseplants lately? Have you noticed any yellowing leaves, brown leaf tips or leaf drop? If so, your plants are trying to tell you something.

Healthy leaf

Houseplants benefit from regularly dusting with a soft, lightly moistened cloth. Layers of dust, dirt or grime inhibit a plant’s ability to photosynthesize and can affect its growth.

Photo Credit: Jodi Torpey

African violet

African violets are a fairly common houseplant – probably because they thrive in winter with just a little extra attention.

Photo Credit: Jodi Torpey

Yellowing leaves

Dark green leaves (shown in center) are the sign of a healthy houseplant. When leaves turn yellow, your plant could be receiving too much or too little water.

Photo Credit: Jodi Torpey

Healthy houseplant

Good winter plant care means providing the right combination of indoor temperature, humidity, light, water, fertilizer and TLC.

Photo Credit: Jodi Torpey

Many houseplants, like palms, ferns and philodendrons, are tropical in nature. They don’t like cold weather any more than we do. Winter’s low light levels, fluctuating temperatures and dry air mean these beauties need special plant care during the cold season.

Since indoor plants do so much to help get us through winter’s dark days, don’t they deserve a little extra TLC? Here’s how to keep your winter houseplants healthy all season long by adjusting the temperature, humidity, lighting, water and fertilizer over winter.

Temperature and humidity

Houseplants prefer a consistently temperate indoor climate. In general, houseplants do best when daytime temps are 65-70 degrees F and nighttime temperatures are 60-65 degrees F. To help keep your plants in this range, don’t place them near entry doors or chilly windows. Some plants may even need to be moved to a warmer spot on especially cold nights – but not near hot air vents, fireplaces or radiators. (It’s not good for the plants, plus it can become an instant fire hazard.)

In wintertime, both plants and people benefit from a little extra humidity. Experts recommend an indoor humidity level between 30-40 percent during the cold season. While some homes are equipped with a whole-house humidifier, a portable room humidifier can also do a good job of raising levels sufficiently.


Light levels change during winter, and some plants may need to be moved to a sunnier window. Because plants grow toward the light source, be sure to turn your houseplants every so often to prevent them from becoming leggy or misshapen.

If you have blooming houseplants – like begonias, fuchsias or African violets – consider supplementing natural light with fluorescent or grow lights. Artificial lighting is usually placed 1 foot above plants. Most houseplants could use about 16 hours of such light each day.


Because plants aren’t actively growing in winter, they require less water. In fact, overwatering is the reason most houseplants meet an untimely demise. Instead of watering on a regular schedule, adapt your irrigation habits to match your plants’ needs. Some houseplants need consistently moist soil; others need soil that dries out between waterings. If you’re not sure when to water, allow at least the top inch of soil to dry before watering again. Discard any excess water that drains into the saucer.


Hold back on the fertilizer during winter. When plant growth resumes in spring, begin fertilizing using an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer or a plant-specific fertilizer.

A little extra TLC

Give your winter houseplants some extra care and show them how much you appreciate them by dusting their leaves regularly with a soft, moist cloth. Not only will they shine, but this extra care will allow you to catch any plant health problems early so you can nip them in the bud.

With just a little extra winter plant care, your houseplants will be able to get through this toughest time of the year. Chances are they’ll thank you for it with healthy beauty all season long – and beyond.