Knowing about plant care for fall and winter is essential to keeping all your green friends happy. After carefully looking after your plants in the warmer months, the last thing you want to do is neglect them when the weather turns cold. With that said, plant care looks a bit different in the cooler months than it does in the spring and summer.
Whether you’re caring for an outdoor garden or indoor houseplants, you’ll need to make a few adjustments as the seasons change. In general, plants require less water and nutrients as the days turn darker. They may also require some protection from the cold or a boost in humidity. By following these tips, you’ll help your plants survive the colder and darker months.
Cooler Weather Plant Care Basics
There’s no doubt that fall and winter are much different than spring and summer. Colder temperatures, drier air, and shorter days all mean your plants will require season-specific care. Just like you need to think carefully about vacation plant care, you also need to spend some time planning your fall and winter plant care.
While your plant care routine will vary depending on your location and type of plant, some general care tips apply to everyone.
On the same note, there are also some common problems plant owners face in the fall and winter. If you’ve ever done any of the following, know you’re not alone.
- Watering indoor plants too often
- Fertilizing plants too much
- Allowing the air to dry out
- Failing to protect plants from cold temperatures
While these problems are common, they are avoidable! Keep reading to learn how to properly care for your plants during the fall and winter.
Outdoor Plant Care for Fall and Winter
Whether you’ve been caring for a garden all year or just added new plants outdoors, don’t think fall is the time to slack off on plant care! By taking a few extra steps, you’ll help your plants survive the fall and winter so they come back in full force next spring.
Establish New Plantings
Fall is a great time to add new plants to your garden so you end up with gorgeous blooms next spring. Without the stress of drought, intense heat, and pesky insects, perennial plants such as coneflowers and roses can build a strong root system. Plus, you won’t have to water as often.
While the perfect time to add new plants will depend on where you live, September is often a safe month to put new plants in the ground. After you plant, make sure to water well so the plants can send down deep roots. It’s good practice to water these new plants deeply once a week until the first frost arrives. If you receive lots of rain, you can skip this step.
Prepare Plants for Cold and Snow
While many plants can survive cold winters and remerge just fine the next spring, some need a bit of help. If you’ve just planted new transplants, it’s a good idea to mulch them with a few inches of straw, leaves, or wood chips. This will act as a bit of a blanket and protect their roots from the cold.
If you’re aiming to protect cold-hardy vegetable plants like kale and collards from frost, cover them with a frost blanket. This lightweight material will make the plants a bit warmer and protect them from light frost. Even if your plants have frozen overnight, don’t assume they’re dead! Once temperatures rise, many hardy greens will thaw and be just fine.
Care for Plants During Winter Droughts
While plant’s don’t need as much water in the winter as they do in the summer, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t irrigate at all. Winter air and wind can quickly dry the soil if there isn’t a layer of snow on the ground.
According to Colorado State University, newly planted trees, shrubs, and perennials are the most susceptible to injury from winter drought. To keep these plants’ root systems healthy, water twice a month during dry periods. Aim to water mid-day and only water when temperatures are above 40ºF.
When you water, make sure you apply enough water to soak all of the plant’s roots. This will encourage the plant to develop an expansive root system.
Indoor Plant Care for Fall and Winter
Even if you keep your thermostat at 70ºF all year long, houseplants require specific care as daylight fades and cooler days arrive. Just as you switch up your wardrobe as the seasons change, you’ll also need to adjust your houseplant care routine.
We’ve compiled some of the most important care practices as well as common mistakes to avoid. Don’t forget to share these tips with friends after you send them one of our favorite plants to gift for the holidays.
While you may think dry air means you need to water your indoor plants more in the winter, this isn’t always the case. The truth is that you should water your plants less in the fall and winter than you do in the spring and summer.
During warmer months, plants are constantly losing water through a process known as transpiration. They pull up water from the soil and then lose it through leaf pores called stomata. Plants complete transpiration to both cool themselves and as a result of photosynthesis.
When days get shorter, plants decrease their photosynthesis activity. Some even enter full dormancy. This means they release less water, so the soil stays moist for a longer period of time than it does in the summer. The takeaway? You won’t need to water your plants as often.
One thing to avoid is watering your plants based on the moisture level of the soil surface. While dry winter air can remove moisture from the top of the soil, this isn’t always an indicator that your plant needs more water. If you poke your finger an inch below the soil surface, you might find the soil is still moist! When the top one to two inches of soil is dry, it’s time to water again.
Another thing to keep in mind is the temperature of your water. Avoid both cold water and hot water; room temperature is just right.
Look Out for Hot and Cold Spots
If you’re like most people, you keep your house at a temperature that is fine for plants. As long as the temperature stays above 55ºF during the night, your houseplants should be fine.
Even if your heat is set at a comfortable 75ºF, you should still watch out for cold drafts. Poorly insulated windows and exterior doors can lead to cold spots that may cause plants to suffer. So, avoid placing your plants near any of these cold drafts.
You should also watch out for extra hot spots. While houseplants like it warm, they don’t like it hot. While sitting next to the fire or cozying up right by the radiator might feel nice to you, it can quickly scorch plants.
With all this said, keep your plants in places that maintain a consistent temperature.
Watch the Humidity
If you’ve cranked up the heat to counter chilly outdoor temperatures, chances are good that your house is quite dry. While cacti and succulents don’t mind dry air, the majority of houseplants like medium to high humidity. That makes sense when you realize that plants like monsteras and calatheas are native to tropical forests.
If the humidity drops too low, your plants will let you know. Some common signs of low humidity are brown or yellow leaf edges as well as entire discolored leaves.
To keep the humidity high during the fall and winter, you have numerous options.
- Place your potted plants on top of a tray with pebbles and an inch of water. Make sure the pots aren’t sitting in water. As the water evaporates, the humidity around your plants will increase.
- Mist your plants with water each day. Don’t go too wild with misting or your plants may develop fungal issues.
- Utilize a humidifier. This will also help humans deal with issues caused by dry air such as cracked lips and dry throats.
- Place your plant in a humid part of your home. Bathroom plants are a great idea in the winter.
Hold Off On Fertilizer
Most plants benefit from fertilizer applications, but fall and winter aren’t the best times to apply nutrients. Since plants aren’t putting on new growth during the darker months, they don’t need any fertilizer.
Applying fertilizer in the winter can actually harm plants by causing fertilizer burn. So put away that fertilizer until spring arrives.
Provide Enough Light
As you’ve likely already noticed, the arrival of fall means shorter days and fewer opportunities to soak up the sun. While plants are naturally accustomed to this change in day length, they will suffer if you dramatically cut the amount of light they receive.
Spend some time observing how much light your plant receives. While the interior of a room may have been the perfect location in the summer, this may be too dark in the winter. If that’s the case, move your plant to a brighter area such as near a south-facing window.
If your home or office turns super dark in the winter, you can always utilize a grow light. If you opt for a grow light, make sure to introduce the light slowly since a sudden increase in the number of hours of light or light intensity can shock a plant.
Give Your Plants the Care They Deserve
Now that you know how to adjust your plant care in the fall and winter, you have no excuses for letting your plants down. But if you happen to let things slip, don’t worry. You can always order plants online if you lose a plant.Shop All