Just when we finally figured out how to keep our cactus alive, the arrival of cooler weather is threatening to undo all our hard work. Fall and winter, we have some news for you: Our plant babies will thrive through the coldest months of the year and come out better and stronger on the other side. And guess what? We don’t even need a green thumb to do so. It’s all about what kind of plants we add to our collection and where we place them in our house. Like these 13 winter houseplants that can withstand everything from cool windowsills to thermostat wars and even minimal sunlight. (And, to ensure they thrive, we’re bringing you five expert tips on how to care for them)
13 Winter Houseplants That Can Survive (and Thrive) Through the Coldest Months
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BEST FOR DRAFTY SPACES
If you have a chilly room that doesn’t get a ton of sunlight, this flowering plant could be the perfect match. Its blooms, which range from pale orange to vibrant red, actually prefer chilly temps, because it’s what allows the flowers to emerge. Not only will Clivia actually grow flowers during the winter, but it will do so nearly all year round with little to no effort on your part. They do like to be kept on the dry side, so you also don’t have to worry about sticking to a strict watering schedule.
2. Jade Plant
The Jade Plant (a succulent that looks more like a mini tree) is ideal if you live in an apartment building where you’re unable to control your own heat. Why? Because it doesn’t mind drastic temperature variations and can even survive near an open window in the winter, for those times when you need to throw it open to cool down a sweltering space. It also doesn’t need to be watered very often—a little hydration every three weeks should keep it happy.
3. Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus got its name thanks to those beautiful red and pink year-round blooms. But this succulent also has another thing in common with the holiday season: It thrives in cooler weather. It’s also one of the most low-maintenance houseplants, handling neglect, indoor temperature fluctuations and low light rooms like a champ.
BEST FOR LOW-LIGHT ROOMS
4. Snake Plant
You might have heard this resilient plant referred to as either a Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law’s Tongue thanks to its tall upward-growing leaves that have a pointy, serpent-like look. It’s probably also one of the first indoor plants you ever acquired, due to its ability to survive in nearly any condition—even the long, dark days of winter. Snake Plants come in a few different color variations (from solid green to leaves with splashes of yellow or white) and only need to be watered every four weeks, with the ability to grow up to eight feet tall.
5. ZZ Plant
Need to brighten up a dark corner of your home or a windowless bathroom? The ZZ Plant has got you covered. While it can survive with access to nearly any type of light, its ability to thrive in dimly lit areas means it will stick around through the winter months. The key is not to overwater it—just make sure the soil is completely parched before giving it a tiny drink of H20 every few weeks. And if your home tends to be on drier side (thanks, forced hot air), this leafy plant will be a growing machine.
6. Kimberly Queen Fern
In nature, ferns grow on dark forest floors that are completely shadowed by the trees above. But they do require high levels of humidity and frequent mistings to maintain their lush status. Unlike some of the other plants on this list that like to dry out between watering, the Kimberly Queen Fern takes a bit more attention because you need to keep its soil damp at all times. It will be super happy next to a steam heater (you know, the ones with loud pipes that can be found in a fifth-floor NYC walkup).
7. Chinese Evergreen
Also known as an aglaonema, this plant can handle low light levels, while still maintaining its bright green hue. You just need to monitor your watering schedule, because it doesn’t like to be drenched. A rule of thumb for most houseplants: Scale back your watering habits in the winter when temps are cooler and the plants are in more of a dormant state.
If we had to pick a plant that could survive anyone’s gardening skills (or lack thereof), it would be the Pothos. Its viney leaves grow super long with minimal care and light and can handle fluctuating indoor temperatures (even the PureWow offices, which are freezing even in July). Fair warning: The vines have to be trimmed often if you don’t want it to overtake your space. But once they’ve been snipped, the clippings can be placed in water, propagated and replanted once they grow roots. It’s like having a never-ending supply of birthday gifts to dole out to your friends. Just be sure to stock up on some cute planters and soil.
Best for Overactive Heaters
Known for their ability to thrive in lower-light situations, a maiden hair fern might just be the ticket to keeping your greenery alive this winter. It requires very warm, humid air (so you won’t need to worry about overheating) and they’re one of the few plants you can’t overwater. They love to be consistently moist at all times (and the easiest way to achieve this is by investing in a self-watering pot).
We love succulents for their supposed easy-care instructions but, heads up, they do need a bit of natural light to survive. (If you’ve ever placed yours in a dim corner and watched it slowly turn to mush, you understand). The best location for a succulent is on a windowsill next to a heating vent that uses forced hot air, which tends to create drier heat than old-school steam radiators. They need to be kept super parched in the winter months, so you can get away with not watering them at all…until spring.
11. Monstera Deliciosa
Unlike succulents, the Monstera (with its gorgeous swiss cheese-like leaf patterns) prefers humid conditions. So, if you live in an old building with steam heat, this is the green guy for you. Monstera are native to Central America, so think of the steamy conditions of Costa Rica or Belize and try to create that environment in your home. The experts at The Sill suggest keeping it close to a window that gets medium to bright indirect sunlight. And while it’s not suited for intense, direct light, it can be acclimated to it, if you just have to place your monstera in a sunny spot.
If you live in a home with an overactive heating system, you’re bound to see your cacti babies flourish in the dry, hot conditions. On the other end of the spectrum, many deserts are known to get chilly when the sun goes down, so cacti can usually survive some exposure to the cold. But the same succulent warning goes for these guys, too: Halt watering during winter when the plants go dormant and pick it back up in spring when they’re ready to grow.
13. Wax Plant
If you and your partner are on the same page about keeping the house nice and toasty all winter long, then the wax plant (aka hoya) is a great addition to your indoor garden. It thrives in hot temps and its thick, waxy leaves and rope-like stems store water, allowing it to survive even an unexpected dry spell...like when you go on vacation for two weeks and totally forget to ask your neighbor to water your plants.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR HOUSEPLANTS IN THE WINTER
So now that you’ve added your fave plants to cart, there’s only one thing left to do: Figure out how to care for them. Below, find five expert tips from The Sill on how to best keep your plant babies alive during the colder months.
- Increase Light: While most plants will adjust to the seasonal changes in their current spot, others might need to be relocated to a closer light source (i.e., a window or skylight). “If plants are visibly leaning towards the window, gradually rotate them every few days to help them straighten out. If plants have spindly new growth, move them closer to the sill,” they say. Otherwise, you can always add a grow light if you’re strapped for space on your windowsill.
- Be Mindful of Temperature: “Keep your plants away from open windows and front doors, as well as heating units and radiators (which can quickly dry them out),” The Sill advises. While most common houseplants prefer temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, some plants are more sensitive to the cold than others. As a result, be mindful of drafty areas in your home that might cause plants (that are used to more stable conditions) to stress out.
- Change How Much You’re Watering Them: “Since plants only take up water based on the amount of light they receive, this will change how much you should water [them],” they explain. “For most plants, you will want to wait until the potting soil has dried out complete before watering again. You can also wait for visible signs of thirst to show, like wrinkling leaves for succulents or drooping stems for tropicals, paired with bone-dry soil.”
- Dust Off Leaves: It’s no secret that closed windows can cause an increase in dust and indoor pollution during the colder months. As a result, you want to make sure you’re mindful of the dust and dirt build up on your plant’s leaves (that could be reducing the amount of light they’re exposed to). “Help by gently dusting off leaves every few weeks with a soft, damp cloth. You can also add a drop or two of lemon juice or household soap,” they recommend.
- Forgo Fertilizer: “Give your plants a break until springtime,” they say. “Because your plants are doing everything at a much slower pace in the winter, they won’t benefit from any added nutrients fertilizer provides at this time…If you’re actively growing a specific plant and providing it ample light, you can fertilizer your plant at half-strength or less.”
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