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How to Take Care of Houseplants During the Winter

Updated on November 3, 2021
Kenna McHugh profile image

Kenna loves helping others take care of plants, both indoors and out. She wrote an orchid care booklet—a companion piece for workshops.


Ideal Home for Plants

The temperatures for indoor plants depend on the comfort of humans living or working indoors. Most plants and people are comfortable at the same temperatures. Humans find a suitable temperature range of 60-80 degrees warm.

These temperatures are similar to the tropical areas where our indoor plants are native. Although some plants can manage at 50 degrees, they will suffer the consequence if it gets below or too high above the comfort zone.



Even though the temperature is seldom an issue with our indoor environment, we must be aware of the subtle difference in temperatures throughout the indoor areas during the winter.

Large rooms, hallways, and different exposures along with the doors and windows can affect the temperature of your “microclimate.” Indoor areas are colder or warmer than other areas in a home or office. Even within a room, some areas are colder or warmer than the rest of the room.

When placing a plant or warming a room, be aware of the different temperatures throughout the indoor area. Keeping an area around 72 degrees is ideal for most indoor plants.

Office buildings sometimes have the temperature turned down on weekends and, most of the time, causes chilling, which harms the plants.

Drafts Harm Plants

Drafts are a problem for plants as well. The can be too cold or too warm can cause the dropping of leaves, flowers, or flower buds. As a rule, plants are prone to be damaged if they end up in the corner where heat gets trapped.

Temperature adversely affects the plants in several ways. If a plant has all the factors needed for maximum growth, but the temperature is too cold, it will grow more slowly than it should or cause some noticeable problems.

Cold temperature problems generally show up slowly – unless you are a dracaena, ming aralia, kentia palm, snake plant, or aglaonema (silver queen). Even some orchids show signs of being too cold right away.


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Winter Damage and Injury

Cold damage and chilling injury occur near window sills in winter, especially when plants are behind closed drapes. The temperature of the air around the plant drops rapidly. It is difficult to know if your plants are getting damaged by cold temperatures unbeknownst to you.

It is hard to notice at first. Severe damage will surface on a plant as downward curled leaves and mottling--irregular coloring, blotching of the leaves.

Chilling injury occurs when the temperature is as low as 45 degrees. When the outside weather is cold and windy, the window sill temperature gets low enough to cause injury to the plant.

Although most plants recover from cold damage, plants exposed to chilling injury will not improve if there is a long exposure to low temperatures.

When the glass temperature is below freezing, plant parts that contact the glass will be frosted. In an extreme case, plants turn gushy yellow or blackish and disintegrate, rot or melt.

To ensure your plant is not open to cold damage or chilling injury, you can touch the leaves and feel the cold they bear.


Winter Season

Office buildings sometimes have the temperature turned down on weekends and can cause chilling.

Since winter comes but once a year, we may only think of cold being a problem during the winter season. We can face heat problems as well. The heat from heating vents or people moving the shades to get as direct light as possible can cause heat stress.

Leaves may turn yellow because glass from the windows magnifies the heat and burn the leaves. The tips and edges can become dry, as well as spindly or stop growth.

But, the winter sun is weak, and if positioned correctly, plants actually like the sun during the winter.

Internal Problem

Keep in mind that leaves exposed to sunlight may be several degrees warmer than the surrounding air. In this instance, the high-temperature problem is internal to the plant. The most common symptom is wilting.

If the temperature is high enough, plants growing in moist soil will wilt. It leads to an inexperienced gardener overwatering a plant that drooped because of high temperatures.

Move the Plant

Sometimes the only remedy for the cold and hot problem is simple – move the plant. Find a better location that makes the plant happy.

When plants move to a new home during the winter, it may mean a trip outside. Always cover the plant with a plastic or paper bag and warm up the vehicle before putting the plant in it.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings.

In general, be aware of your plant and its surroundings. If you feel a draft, so does your plant, and take the necessary precautions to keep everyone happy.

For example, if you leave your office on Friday, returning on Monday to see drooping plants, you know the heat in the office goes down on weekends and is detrimental to the indoor plants.

Like a houseplant, you lower your indoor temperature when you leave for work and turn up the heat when you return. After a couple of days, you notice your houseplants are drooping.

It is time to keep the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, minimally, throughout the day. Though, turning it down lower at night works as long as you keep it at seventy during the day.

© 2018 Kenna McHugh


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