Five Tips for Keeping Your Houseplants Alive in Winter

ReRoot offers a variety of plants.
ReRoot offers a variety of plants. Paige Briscoe
Household plants were a hot commodity during quarantine, and they're still trending. There's a plant out there for everyone, from people who think they'll kill a cactus to those who raise orchids and trim bonsais. But when winter hits, even advanced growers can get nervous that their hard work will be uprooted by the cold.

We spoke with ReRoot manager Pedro Galvez on how to keep your plants alive and well until you repot them in the spring:

Check Your Lighting

"The most important aspect of plant care in general is lighting," Galvez says. "Light in the sun will change in your window. If you have a west-facing window, you won't get as much light during the winter, so you may want to move your plants. If you have a south-facing window, you also have to be careful because you're going to get a lot of sun, and those plants might get scorched."

Some plants are more particular about lighting, such as tropicals and succulents. And Galvez advises that you keep all plants away from drafty doors and windows that let in cold air.

Change Up Your Watering

It's a basic rule of thumb to water your houseplants less in the winter, but Galvez notes an exception: "If your plants are near a heater, you may have to water more frequently." If your plants' leaves start to drop, that could be a sign that you need to water more.

And also watch for root rot, "if you see brown spots creeping up from the roots," Galvez says. While you should avoid repotting your plants in the winter, root rot is an emergency exception.

Stop Fertilizing

If you notice that your plant has stopped its growth spurts, it's time to stop adding fertilizer. "If your plant is still actively growing, you can still fertilize," Galvez says, "but even in the summer, if your plant isn't growing, you should stop adding fertilizer."

Watch Out for Pests

You should treat your plants for pests with a light systemic in the late summer or early fall to get them ready for winter, Galvez advises. In the winter, if you still catch bugs on your plants, you can treat them with neem oil. Keep up with the treatments for three weeks, and make sure dust doesn't collect on leaves. "There's a huge increase of pests in the winter — spider mites and mealy bugs love dry air," he warns.

Get a Humidifier

Colorado's dry climate gets drier in the winter. "I tell everyone who buys a plant here to buy a humidifier," Galvez says. "Your plants will appreciate it, but you will, too, mostly right now, with everyone turning their heaters on."

Moving your plants closer together can add to their humidity intake, as well. "The humidity just gets zapped out of the air from heaters. Plants that do well without a humidifier in the summer may not be so happy in the winter without one," he says.

Galvez, who owns over 500 plants, sometimes takes them into the bathroom to mist them down, give them a shower or let them soak up the humidity from his own shower. "Even in the summer, it's just a good thing to do to reconnect with your plants," he concludes.

ReRoot, 1218 34th Street, is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday (and closed Christmas).
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Emily Ferguson is Westword's Culture Editor, covering Denver's flourishing arts and music scene. Before landing this position, she worked as an editor at local and national political publications and held some odd jobs suited to her odd personality, including selling grilled cheese sandwiches at music festivals and performing with fire. Emily also writes on the arts for the Wall Street Journal and is an oil painter in her free time.
Contact: Emily Ferguson