Winter has an effect not only on container plants left outdoors, but also on potted plants indoors. There are five important key factors that affect your plants in the winter months. With a little care and a watchful eye you can keep those plants healthy throughout the winter months.

1. Proper lighting is the very first element to consider. In winter natural light is not as strong. Place your plants closer to the windows, and rotate them regularly so all the leaves receive enough light. (Check any windows you place plants by for drafts. If outdoor air is blowing on your plant it will suffer.)

Choose the location for your container plants by taking into account the following:

North: Does not receive direct sunlight, but it is a good source of light for your plants. Most convenient in summer. African violets do best in a northern window, they like the low defused light.

South: it receives the most sunlight. Very convenient in winter. Best for plants that like every ounce of sunlight they can get such as tropical plants.

East: it allows early sunlight. This is very important for excellent growth of your plants. If you have a mix of east and west sunlight, your plants will do very well.

West: it receives much sunlight. This lighting is best for tropical plants and those that really like sun. These plants will also require more water or a humid climate.

* If your house lacks natural lighting add grow lights and use to lengthen the light your plants receive.

2. Temperature is another key factor to consider because in the winter we increase the temperature of the room via heaters, fireplaces and other heating devices. When the temperature of the room increases, the water of your plants evaporates quickly. It may be necessary to increase the amount of water they receive. As always, the exact amount of water will depend on the type of plant you have.

A solution to this is to place containers on a pebble tray. The tray catches extra water and keeps it away from the roots but also emits humidity, which will keep the leaves and plant cooler. The leaves will absorb the water by transpiration.

I also mist plants in the winter. It keeps the leaves clean and supplies extra water to the leaves.

3. Watering your plants in winter is important for the reason listed above. To water your plants properly, do so with abundant water fewer times, rather than with less water and very often.

The reason for this is because the water needs to reach all the roots of the plant, including the deepest ones. When you use abundant water, the plant does not need more water for a while, so you can space the watering.

If not watered properly, the plant may die, even though the surface of the soil may appear wet.

Two tips that will help your indoor plants.

  • Water from below, never on top of the soil. This will stop disease and make sure the roots are getting enough water, not the top of the soil.
  • Use pebbles or a mulch on top of your soil. This will help prevent soil diseases.

4. Ventilation is a key factor since some indoor plants need air moving around them occasionally. Air movement keeps plant stems and leaves strong.

Although they do not need a continuous flow of air, the truth is that they get exactly what they need under “friendly” weather conditions, that is early autumn, spring or summer, when we naturally open doors and windows and allow breeze to flow.

But in winter we keep windows closed for longer periods of time, therefore preventing air flows. Again you should ensure that your specific plant is receptive to air flows (not all indoor plants are).

I occasionally use a fan on low to circulate air in the room. It benefits the plant and also the people who live in the home.

5. Some plants may undergo a period of hibernation during winter. Hibernation is just a “sleeping period” some plants need. The plant may stop growing or even appear weak and loose their leaves. Consequently, the owner believes (wrongly) that the plant is dying or dead and ends up throwing it away.

The thing is, while plants hibernate, they don’t need so much water or fertilizer. If you doubt whether your plant is hibernating or actually dead, just leave it where it is and water it occasionally, and you might just see it alive again in spring.

A perfect example of a plant that needs an occasional hibernation period is the Shamrock plant.

By watching for these 5 key factors in plant care, you can grow healthy container plants all winter long. And in the spring, when it warms up you may want to set them outdoors.