Taking Care of Houseplants

Whether you have plants in the house all year or you have a combination of houseplants and plants that ordinarily go outside in summer, the care you give them may be different in winter.

Outdoor Plants Overwintering Indoors

Your outdoor plants that are wintering over inside usually got frequent or daily watering outside.  However, in the house they aren’t submitted to drying wind and boiling sun, so they may need less water. The best way to determine if they need water and how much to give them, is to use a moisture meter and check them one to two times a week until you get a feel for how much water they use.  Using a large plastic glass as a measuring tool will tell you how many glasses full each plant needs each week.

If your outdoor plants were in the shade outside, you can place them near a window or glass doors where they get light, but not direct sun.  If they were in full sun, place them near windows that get the most direct sun in the winter.


Houseplants may also need to be moved closer to windows. For plants that grow near a sunny eastern or northern window in summer, may need a southern or western facing window in winter.  Your plants will tell you if they are getting enough light in the winter.

Clean windows to allow maximum light and keep the dust off their leaves so they can absorb the maximum amount of light.  If you can’t move them, consider placing them together under an LED shop light which gives plenty of light.


Most houseplants like a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees during the day and about 10 degrees cooler at night.  Avoid placing plants near cold drafts or heat sources (i.e., vents).  Don’t allow them to touch cold windows and pull shades or drapes on very cold nights.


Houseplants like between 40-50% humidity.  If the leaf tips turn brown or you see Spider Mites, you need to improve humidity around the plants.  A cold-water humidifier in the room works well and plants being given this treatment may need less water.  Or you can place a saucer filled with rocks and water under the plant. Keep the level of the water below the base of the pot.


Believe it or not, overwatering is the most common mistake people make with houseplants.  The thumb or finger in the dirt to determine moisture may work for you, but that method doesn’t measure the moisture at the root zone of most plants, especially those in large containers.  A moisture meter costs less than $12 most places and is well worth the cost so that you can accurately determine your plants’ needs.


Since plants aren’t actively growing in winter you don’t need to fertilize them.  Wait until plants outside wake up in spring to resume fertilizing.  Be sure to  follow the container directions closely and don’t give your plants too much fertilizer or too often.




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