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Winter Care for House Plants

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:53 pm

During the winter, don’t neglect those house plants, show them some tender loving attention and you will be brighten up those dreary, cloudy days with healthy plants.

With our furnaces and wood stoves at maximum output, and if you do not have a humidifier adding moisture to the air in the house, your plants will suffer. In Missouri, most house plants are tropical or sub-tropical in nature, and their origination was in the jungle or humid hot house. By placing a shallow pan of water near your house plants you will help them absorb moisture from the surrounding air to hydrate them.

It is also time to dust the leaves of your house plants so that they can utilize the most indoor or window lighting for their growth. Since our days are shorter in the winter months, maximizing the light source will be a huge benefit to your house plants. A simple feather duster will suffice, or a gentle rub with a soft towel will get the job done without damaging the surface of the leaves.

Watering the house plants can be challenging in the winter time, as the circulation of air in your home may not be as efficient as in the summer months when you have the windows open and fans running. Give the house plants a drink of water – preferably rain water or distilled water only when they are slightly dry. Too much water, the plants may develop root rot, and too little water, the plants will wither and die. If you have been watering with city water or deep well water, adjust your method to more plant friendly means. City water contains fluoride and chlorine while deep well water may contain an over abundance of natural salts and minerals. Both can have adverse effects on tropical plants and cacti.

Lastly, since we cannot garden outside, it is the perfect opportunity to re-pot root bound house plants during the winter. The rule to remember is: re-plant in a container one size larger than the original root bound plant. Use a good all-purpose potting soil from your garden center, and forget the rocks or shards in the bottom of the new pot. It is unnecessary to add volume to the bottom of the pot, it only collects mold and will make the pot heavier to move.

Show your house plants some extra care during the beginning of December, and when the guests visit during the holidays they will know a gardener lives within!

For questions or comments, please call the University of Missouri, Extension Troy office, 636-528-4613 or email us at If leaving a voice message please allow a Lincoln County Master Gardener a day or two to return your call as we are a volunteer organization.

(Submitted by: Desiree Rutherford, University of Missouri Extension, Lincoln County Master Gardener)

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