Gardening for Health

Goldfish plant.

Caring for Houseplants in Winter

By Maria Price

As cold weather arrives and sends us indoors, indoor gardening with houseplants can bring great enjoyment. Most houseplants are very easy to care for; you can find plants that will be happy under the many conditions that your home might offer. Light is usually the most limiting factor. Check for different light conditions from windows around your home: full-sun, partial sun, and shade.

Spring is usually the best time to repot a houseplant. Only repot if the roots have grown out of the growing space. Root-bound plants have a mass of tangled white roots that may even protrude through the pot’s drainage holes. Dead roots are brown or black and should be cut before repotting. If you repot, move to a pot about 2 inches larger than what it was in.

Use a soilless potting mix for containers, which allows for good drainage and moisture retention. Do not use potting soil as it can stratify and then become compacted.

Be mindful of what type of plant you have. Cacti and succulents need coarse soil that drains very well. Ferns need soil with more peat moss to hold more water. Orchids are epiphytes that grow on other plants and get their nutrition from the surrounding air. They need to grow in coarse fir bark.

Prune your houseplants to get a nicely shaped plant. Most plants will grow a single stem if left alone. Pinch the growing tip back to encourage branching.

Low humidity is one of the biggest problems encountered by indoor gardeners. To raise the humidity, set pots on a pebble tray filled with an inch of pebbles and half an inch of water. Make sure to refill the tray as water evaporates.

Some houseplants that like high humidity are: begonias, gardenias, mandevilla, African violets, gloxinias, and ferns.

I love gardenias as they can grow into shrub-like plants after many years and fill your home with an incredible fragrance when they bloom. Winter blooming jasmine (J. polyanthum) will also perfume your home.

A fun plant that kids will like is the goldfish plant. It’s an easy-to-care-for plant with glossy green leaves and bright orange goldfish flowers that bloom from cascading branches. Rabbit’s foot fern is another fun fern with soft furry (hairy) roots that tumble out of the side of their pot. You might want to pet them.

Take good care of your houseplants in winter and they will bring a smile to your face all year long.