It’s winter time and you’re happy to curl up next to the fire, read a book, sip on that glass of wine and live your best winter lifestyle. But you’ve noticed that your house plants aren’t doing too great. Some of them have dropped their leaves, others seem to be giving up on life, and stems are falling over. You know something is wrong, but you can’t seem to figure it out, you’ve checked soil moisture, you’ve fed them and you cut back and re-pot as needed.

The one thing you probably overlooked – believe me, I have – is light. 

And I don’t mean the suave lighting you have in your lounge. Natural lighting, friend, all the natural reflected light from our life-giving sun.

It might sound strange that you would have to think about natural lighting indoors, but your indoor plants rely heavily on sunlight to stimulate growth and stay healthy. During summer and spring, when you are most likely to purchase or receive house plants as gifts, the natural light is at its best and your indoor plants flourish inside. In the winter months, however, we have shorter days, the natural sunlight is at its weakest and indoor plants receive less light. The biggest problem with this is that most of us don’t adjust the water and feeding schedule for our indoor plants. We also leave them in the same space, expecting the lower light conditions to suffice.

With that in mind, let’s look at how we can assist our indoor babies by looking at the following:


As mentioned above the quality of light changes throughout the year and we need to provide the plants with as much light as possible. During summer months, a well-lit room can sustain plant life efficiently, ensure plants are placed close enough to the window that they receive this light, but not direct light through the windows, as glass amplifies the sun’s rays and can burn certain species. If light enters the windows directly (usually with north-facing windows) move the plants to the edge of where the light cascades, will be well lit and not directly in the sun. Apply the same method in winter, this might mean that you need to move them closer to the window and move some of your plants that are further away, closer to the light source.

Watering and feeding

During winter, most plants enter a resting period and consume less water and nutrients. It is important to not overwater your plants during this time, use the trusted old technique of pushing your index finger into the soil of the pot, if your finger comes out dry, water the pot, if it comes out wet or has moisture, the plant is still fine. Always ensure that your plants do not stand in a saucer with water, this means the soil stays wet and root rot can occur. Feeding schedules coincide with water intake, during winter you will only need to feed your plants once, if ever. The warmer months require more feeding and generally, a water-soluble plant feeder is the best method of ensuring your plants stay healthy. When feeding a pot plant, never do so with a dry pot, as this can burn the roots. One of the best methods to feed house plants is to dissolve a fertilizer in a large tub of clean water (indoor plants cannot tolerate greywater) and place the pots in the tub for a few minutes or until the soil is saturated. Allow the pots to drain completely before placing them back into their spot close to the light source.

After absorbing all this information you can sit back, open that book, pour a glass of red wine, and relax knowing that even though winter is upon us, your plants will be less Stark then they were last year.

Mark Mac Hattie is a Landscape Designer and blogger for Contours Design Studio.
N.D. Landscape Design, B.Tech Landscape Design  Master’s of Landscape Architecture
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