5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive This Winter

by Garrett Fleming

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Over the last three years at Design*Sponge, I’ve spoken to countless creative-minded people. During my conversations with these innovators, one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is how they fell into their niche, special talent or skill. For many, the burning desire to follow a certain passion has been flickering in them since before they could remember. For others, though, some momentous event or experience propelled them towards a specific field. Hilton Carter, for example, experienced the latter when he left chilly Baltimore, MD for sunny Los Angeles and New Orleans.

There he was: new cities, new homes and totally new climates to master. Unbeknownst to him, the warmer weather would end up influencing his house more than he could have ever imagined. For the first time, he was able to use greenery to decorate without the fear of a brutal Northeastern winter coming through and undoing his home’s lush look. So he started with a fiddle fig, and the rest is sort of history.

For a decade Hilton collected a thriving collection of green buddies. Then an opportunity to relocate back to Baltimore, MD came calling. A lesser gardener would have sacrificed their love for greenery in the face of Baltimore’s brutal winters, but not Hilton. Instead he mastered how to keep his indoor jungle thriving even when outside temperatures dip to freezing. And fortunately he’s sharing his top 5 tips for keeping plants alive in winter with us today. So grab a pen, and get ready to take notes from this master gardener as he takes us through his tropical, verdant abode. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography courtesy of Hilton Carter

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Light Them Up: Given that the light in your home will be changing, some of your plants that require high sunlight will need to be relocated to a spot where they can receive that sort of attention. Since most of them will be receiving less light than they did during spring and summer, expect some leaf loss. Don’t freak out. This is natural.

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Be Vigilant: Since your home will be a touch cooler than it was in the warmer months, your plants won’t require as much water. Plants that normally need water every seven days will then require water every 10 days. The best way to always determine if your plant bud needs a drink is to take a finger and stick it about an inch deep into the dirt. If it’s dry to the touch, water your friend. If it’s damp, wait until it’s ready. The way I stay on top of this is to create an alarm in my calendar [for] which plants need to be watered and on which day.

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Monthly Rotation is Key: Rotating the plant will encourage a balance in light and growth. No one wants a lopsided rubber tree, right?

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Wipe Down: Cleaning the foliage off once a month will also help for light intake. Layers of dust and grime can block out light and wiping off each leaf with lukewarm water and dish soap can help avoid this. It will also make your plants look shiny and new.

5 Tips for Keeping Houseplants Alive this Winter, Design*Sponge

Just Warm Enough: The colder it is outside, the colder the area around your windows is. I usually back my plants in the window back a bit from the glass. You don’t want their little green tips getting cold, do you?

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  • Hilton’s pics and feed are so amazing!!! He inspires such a love of plants and motivates even the blackest of thumbs to take great care of plants. I absolutely love his space and my husband is inspired by his page as well. Great article! Great tips

  • Great article, perfect timing. I was freting over my plants looking sick just this morning. Love the lushness of Hilton’s home. The air must be wonderful (full of oxygen) in there.

  • Thank you for the tips and a magical peek inside your incredible home. And wow, the photography! What a wonderful post to brighten up the week!

  • My apartment with its old radiators gets incredibly dry, so I turn on the humidifier to moisten the air for the plants. The added bonus is my nose doesn’t get as stuffed up

  • Wonderful tips!! Where oh where did you get those cutting test tubes??? What a great way to start new plants without a bunch of glasses sitting around!

  • What a beautiful apartment! The plants definitely make the space. I too have a home full of plants and they make me smile every time I come home. I also find enjoyment in nurturing them and watching them grow.

  • Yay! What a beautiful and very reassuring post. Glad to know I’ve picked up on the right habits and that leaf loss right now is normal.

  • These tips are so great.. especially rotating your plants, which makes total sense, but I’ve never done it before.. and that’s why some of my plants are lopsided.. haha. Taking care of that many plants is a full time job! I love plants but I wish some would just water themselves. It’s almost like cleaning, you don’t really want to, but you have to! Nevertheless I’ll keep on buying new plants. It makes your home so beautiful.