How to Prepare Your Houseplants for Winter

The majority of houseplant growth slows down in the winter months; they are taking a break. This fact means you get to take a break from fertilizing, pruning, and repotting this season as well. So, what do you do differently to prepare your houseplants for winter? How do you acclimate your precious ferns and African violets to indoor conditions before moving them inside? How do you get rid of pests before you bring your plants indoors? This guide covers water, light, fertilizing, repotting, temperature, humidity, pests, and cleaning. Let’s get started!

Transition to Indoors

When: It can be tricky to know when to bring your houseplants back inside after summer. It all depends on the temperature. You want to move all your tender plants inside before the temperature reaches 45°F at night. You will see many dead leaves and stems if it gets too cold.

Pest Removal: While your houseplants are basking in the sun and enjoying the great outdoors, many common bugs take this opportunity to move into the pot and start snacking on the foliage. You want to be sure to evict the bugs before you move your plants into the house. The first step is a thorough inspection, followed by a drench in insecticidal soap. If you suspect pests in the soil, mix a 32-ounce bottle of hydrogen peroxide with one gallon of water and thoroughly soak the plant. A strong blast with a garden house is suitable for knocking off many pests.

Acclimation: Let your houseplants get used to lower light levels by moving them into gradually shadier conditions a couple of weeks before the final move indoors. Give them a second pest treatment at this time and prune them back if needed.

Water: Gradually reduce watering amount and frequency during their last couple of weeks outdoors to prepare your houseplants for drier indoor conditions.


Frequency: Unless your home is sweltering, the soil of your houseplants will take longer to dry out in the winter months. Prepare your plants for this transition by feeling the soil with your finger before watering or using a water meter to determine if they need water. Some plants that needed water every seven days during the summer may only need water every 21 days or more in the winter. How often you water each houseplant depends on the plant type, pot size, soil, lighting, and temperature of your house.

Amount: Not only does the frequency of watering decrease, but the amount of water you give to each plant will also decrease. Most houseplants will need about 25 percent less water during the winter. This fact is especially true of plants in large pots. Winter is not a good time to soak plants or submerge the bottom of the pot in water. Provide just barely enough water, so a tiny bit trickles out the bottom of the pot, and then stop watering.

Water Temperature: Winter is an excellent time to use room temperature or slightly warm water on your houseplants. Plants that are up against cold windows benefit from a warm water bath when thirsty.


Location: Usually, quite a bit of shuffling around is necessary to prepare your plants for winter. Plants often need to be moved to a different place where they will receive the right amount of light during this darker season.

Artificial Lights: Your sun-loving tropical houseplants may benefit from an artificial light source at this time of year. Your houseplants are resting this season but still need bright indirect light to survive. Supplementing inexpensive plant grow lights can provide your houseplants with ideal indoor conditions.

Rotate: Since less light comes in through the windows, it is wise to turn your plants every month so they get even light.


Dormant plants aren’t hungry. Prepare your houseplants for winter by easing back on fertilizing this month. Wait to resume feeding until the spring rolls around.


There are better times to repot most houseplants than fall. Spring and summer are the optimal times to move plants into new pots so that their roots have time to recover before the winter dormancy period.


Heat: If you have heat vents or ducts, move your houseplants a few feet away. It is also a good idea to keep houseplants away from heaters and fireplaces. Plants aren’t a fan of hot, dry air.

Cold: Most houseplants are tender tropical plants that cannot withstand placement against cold window glass, open doors, windows, or other drafts.

Night: Most houseplants enjoy a cooler nighttime temperature. You can set your thermostat as low as 64°F at night.


Humidifier: You don’t have to worry if you live in a naturally humid area. If you live in a drier climate, your houseplants will benefit from an extra dose of moisture in the air. Small humidifiers or pebble trays help keep the air around your plant humid.

Misting: Lightly misting can slightly increase humidity for your houseplants, but a humidifier is a better option. Be sure water doesn’t stay on the foliage for too long, or fungal diseases can be a problem.


Hot air furnaces can blow around a lot of dust. In the fall, you can prepare your houseplants for winter by washing the leaves with a damp cloth or providing one last shower in the bathtub. Regularly inspect houseplant leaves for dust; they need clean leaves to breathe!


A few types of pests love the dry, warm air inside your house during fall and winter. Spider mites and mealy bugs are big fans of these conditions, and populations can explode as the heating season kicks in. Inspect your plants often for any evidence of pests so you can control the outbreak early. The best defense against spider mites and mealy bugs is early action.

Extra Tip

Did you know that many perennials, shrubs, and vines can be kept alive in the house over winter and brought back outside in the spring to enjoy another summer season? Here is a list of a few of them:

  • Angel’s trumpet
  • Pentas
  • Rosemary
  • Mandevilla
  • Impatiens
  • Geranium
  • Coleus
  • Lemon
  • Calamondin
  • Kumquat
  • Begonia
  • Passionflower
  • Hibiscus

Winter is a nice quiet season in the outside garden, and it is no different indoors. There are fewer gardening chores to do, and you and your houseplants can hunker down and enjoy a period of rest. With slight adjustments in how you care for your houseplants, you can keep them healthy and happy for many seasons to come.