9 care tips for house plants during an Aussie winter
Winter brings a new set of conditions you need to consider for your house plants. Here’s an Aussie-focused set of tips on how to best care for your green babies.
Please note, I’m based in Sydney where our winters are mild (rarely dropping below 7C). It’s a tad tricky to cover off all climates so you may need to adapt this advice depending on the climate where you’re based.
1. Go easy on the watering
With less sunlight and less heat, plants will go into hibernation mode, & thus will need less frequent watering. Get into the habit (if you haven’t already) of testing the soil’s moistness by sticking your finger in the soil, and watering when the soil is dry (bar any plants that need constant moist soil). Or invest in a moisture meter ($14 at Bunnings) to guide you - these are great as they also aerate your soil and have saved me many a time from watering an already wet plant. Last winter, most of my plants only needed watering twice a month
2. Keep an eye on your humidity levels
If you love to blast the heater like me, you’ll want to keep an eye on your humidity levels as the heater will make the air dryer. The vast majority of indoor plants are from tropical areas, so can are sensitive to decreases in humidity. Low humidity can lead to brown tips, curling leaves and sometimes death depending on the plant. This winter I’m going to buy a humidifier to keep my plant babies happy! I’ve also invested in a few hygrometers (less than $10 on eBay) to give me extra guidance.
Beyond getting a humidifier, there’s a few other solutions at hand:
- A plastic bag over the top of a plant creates an instant mini greenhouse
- If the plant is small enough, you can use a glass cloche for the same effect (find these at Kmart, Typo etc.).
- Bunnings also sells mini greenhouses starting from $20. They make a great plant rehab centre if you have a bit of spare room.
3. Reposition your plants
You may want to move plants away from cold windows or other drafty spots, or move plants out of any rooms that get super chilly. Consider the location of your heater or vents, and move any plants that are in the firing line, so to speak, so you don’t dry them out. If you have plants outside, you may want to move them inside depending on how chilly it gets where you are. The vast majority of indoor plants come through tropical areas, therefore don’t fare well in temperatures below 14C It only takes one chilly night to harm your plants!
4. Put down the mister!
Aside from the fact that misting doesn’t raise humidity for more than 30 seconds (& is therefore not a solution for battling dry air), misting when it’s cold can also cause spotting & infection on leaves. If you need to mist, ensure the water is at room temp, do it only in the mornings, & ensure it’s warm enough for the water to dry quickly. I have learned this the hard way with my Monstera deliciosa which developed 3 brown spots a day after I misted it. Sometimes it’s better to love your plant less not more.
5. Reduce your use of fertiliser
Your plants, being in hibernation mode, will slow down or stop growing during winter, therefore so should your use of fertiliser. Here in Aus we still get decent sun during winter so plants will still grow. I would recommend either not fertilising at all, or reducing your frequency of fertilising plus reducing the strength of the solution when you do (halve it). Too much fertiliser can burn a plant
6. Repot but only if necessary
Most online guides will tell you to wait til Spring to repot, but I don’t quite agree with this - again, our winters are milder than many other countries. I wouldn’t recommend repotting your whole collection, but if you have a new plant you’ve bought or a plant that is pot bound, don’t let the season prevent you from giving the plant what it needs.
If you want to avoid repotting a new plant, but aren’t keen on the plastic pot look, get yourself some cache/container pots, baskets or paper bag planters. Simply slip the plastic pot inside your chosen vessels and ta da.
7. Continue to watch out for pests
Good news for gnat haters - you’re probably less likely to see gnats as the air becomes dryer cos they’re suckers for humidity. Bad news for spider mites haters - these guys LOVE dry air. Year round you should inspect your plants thoroughly & often. Check the soil, under the leaves, in any nooks & crannies, in new leaves that are growing. I do these checks each time I water my plants to keep a regular routine. If you find a pest, try not to panic, and go on to google to figure out the right treatment. Neem oil is a handy solution to have on hand as it works on a range of pests.
8. Watch the market for prices
Pricing for plants is in constant flux with supply and demand. Supply will inevitably decrease during winter, & so prices will go up, especially for any hard to find plants. If there’s a plant you’ve fallen in love with but aren’t too sure of the price, wait a few months (if you can) until they’re more abundant and cheaper. I bought my baby Pink Princess last June for $50 and they’re now $25. You may also wish to avoid having plants posted, as exposure to cold air can damage plants.
9. Regularly rotate your plants
Plants are more likely to stretch towards the sun with less light during the winter months. A quarter turn each time you water them keeps them growing evenly. If your succulent is looking leggy (all stem, no leaves), move it closer to light.
Lucky for us here in Australia, most of us don't experience extremely low temperatures (apart from our very Southern friends), so winter is not something to be too worried about. You just need to be prepared to change up your routine a little bit, and keep on an eye on your green friends to keep them happy & lush.