Ask A Plant Queen: How Should I Take Care Of My Plants In The Winter?

Welcome to Ask A Plant Queen, where with the help of Tula founder and bona fide plant expert Christan Summers, we'll answer every question you've ever had about the care, keeping, and presentation of houseplants. No need for you — or your pretty green pals — to thank us.
Question: "It's freezing out!!! Not only is every part of my body cold, but I imagine my plants may be too. I know I probably shouldn't keep them outside on my fire escape anymore (or can I?), but do plants get cold inside on the windowsill in the winter, and if so, how do I keep them warm? Sweaters, whiskey, and Netflix are my seasonal security blankets (along with, well, actual blankets), so what do plants need to survive these brutal temps?"

Christan's Answer: Oh yes, winter is officially here. As I write, I’m looking out onto a blanket of snow that has quickly and quietly covered the New York streets. In my line of site are my beloved plants, all tucked indoors, totally oblivious of the below freezing temps of outside. And this is the way they like it.
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Illustrated by Anja Slibar

It's safe to say that your tropical plant babes do not like freezing temps, so much so that if they are exposed to cold temps for an extended period of time they will die. Even if they are exposed for a short time, the cold temps could quickly damage leaves and send them into a bit of shock. So yes, you should most definitely bring your tropical and arid plants indoors before the temps drop below 45 degrees F. If you have perennial or evergreen plants they can, and should, stay outdoors all year round, but we’re talking about the indoor babes today.
Illustrated by Anja Slibar
For drafty windows, this is always a bit more difficult to speak towards. It's safe to say that you should take your plants away from the window on an extremely cold night, and return them to the sill when that warm sun rises in the morning. This is mainly to avoid cold damage to the leaves and potential shock to the roote. I would also advise not to water at night as a tropical plant sitting in cold, wet soil is bound to get a case of the winter blues, and it may not recover even with the brightest of sunshine.

If you have nowhere to put your plant other than a drafty window sill you could try adding an extra layer of insulation at the window, like sealing off those drafty cracks. They sell all types of tools and tricks at the hardware store. I have also seen people go so far as to buy their plant a sweater. Oh yes, this is a thing. I can’t attest to the success of a plant sweater, but it is one of the cutest and most wholesale things one could do to keep a plant warm during winter months.
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Now, for those who grow succulents and other blooming arid plants, a cool room can in fact help a plant bloom. If you think about the desert, it does get cool at night, which forces the cacti to conserve sugars and make for big, bold blooms come springtime. Freezing temps are off limits, but a cool room does not hurt.

So, in conclusion, here are my best tips to keep your green babes happy during the colder months:
Illustrated by Anja Slibar

● Maintain temps between 65-75 degrees F.

● Do not let temps fluctuate drastically. If you are travelling don’t turn off the heat to save money unless you don’t mind spending money on a new bunch of plants.

● Do not water your plants at night then return them to a cold windowsill.

● Keep your plants away from the heat vent and too much heat from a radiator.

● Run a humidifier to combat the dry air from your heat units.

● If your windows are super drafty, move your plants to another ledge on the really cold nights and return them to the window to get the sunshine.

● If you have drafty windows, try sealing them for the winter with insulating tape.

● Don’t repot. If your place is cold and drafty it's not a good time to repot your plants. Wait until springtime when the temps warm up again.
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