How to care for your plants in winter

How to care for your plants in winter

As warm blooded South Africans we're lucky to live in a sub-tropical climate. When it comes to plants, virtually everything from around the world can be grown here, not to mention our unique and bountiful indigenous flora! Here at The Atrium, as much as we love the idea of making snow angels, we’re also responsible plant parents and thankful that our climate makes caring for plant babies that much easier!  

But, our brooding Cape Atlantic winds and Highveld frosts can have a nasty bite. (If you’re in the Lowveld or Durbz, consider yourself lucky!)

Most indoor plants come from tropical jungles like the Amazon, where the average annual temperature is around 26°C!

Of course, modern specimens have been hybridised over years to withstand much cooler conditions, but there are a few changes that urban plant parents should be aware of:

how to care for your plants in winter

  1. Water less

As a rule of thumb, you can cut your watering schedule in half during winter, and remember to poke your finger into the soil to make sure it’s dry-ish around the root area before watering. Cooler temperatures mean less evaporation, and overwatering will stress out your plant & lead to soggy roots.

Use tepid/room temperature water. Freezing water out the taps is detrimental to roots and can shock your plant, resulting in leaf drop. 

  1. Let the light in

Haven’t seen a bright green leaf unfurl on your Fiddle Leaf Fig for a while? Don’t worry, it will put out new shoots when it warms. Plants need energy from the sun to produce new growth. In winter when the sun is weaker, there’s less energy for the plant. That’s why the leaves on the trees outside turn brown, because chlorophyll (the green stuff in a plants’ leaves) needs light.

Now is the time to move your houseplants closer to the window if necessary so they can get the maximum amount of light possible.

Sun also means warmth, and most houseplants prefer minimum temperatures above 15°C (at least above 10°C).

Beware of cool draughts and open windows.

Wipe those leaves with water and a cotton pad. Ensuring they are free of dust means they can absorb more light.

Also note how the angle of the sun changes in your home. Winter sun sits lower in the sky, and can become more direct through a window, which could burn leaves that aren’t used to it – especially afternoon sun. 

  1. Mulch

benefits of mulching

Adding bark chips, peat moss or straw to the top of the soil will keep your plants’ roots warm. This is called ‘mulching’ and can increase the temperature of the soil by about 3 - 5 degrees °C. Think of a forest floor that is covered in decaying plant matter, leaves, moss and bark. This is natural mulch, which protects the plant roots under the soil. Note: mulch also prevents evaporation and holds in water, making it more necessary to cut down watering.

  1. Humidity

Humidity levels drop in winter, meaning leaves could start getting brown tips. Time to invest in a humidifier. Raising humidity levels in winter is also great for your health too, as germs spread quicker in dry air. Read more about how to up the humidity levels in our plant care section.

  1. Reduce fertilising

As plants aren’t actively growing, fertilising will only lead to a build-up of salts in the soil. Rather wait until spring.