How to Transition Houseplants to Cooler Weather

Houseplants on a white background.

Houseplants bring color, coziness, and air filtration to your home. You might be so used to having them around that you don’t give a lot of thought to their changing needs. But like all living things, houseplants go through cycles of growth and rest. Things like water, fertilizer, and temperature all affect these cycles. During the fall, when the active growing season comes to a close and the weather changes, it’s a good idea to give your plants a little attention. Making a few subtle changes in the fall will allow your plants to thrive. Here are some things to keep in mind.


Most plants prefer light so move them next to a window or other bright location. If you have long periods of darkness or have flowering plants, you might need to use an artificial light for a few hours each day. Avoid the rarely-light north side of the house and opt for those areas where the morning and afternoon sun offer the longest exposure to sunlight.


Small succulents on a white table.

If you moved plants, such as succulents, outside for the summer months, bring them in once the temperature drops. Also bring in plants that need warmer weather throughout the year, such as that lemon tree and any cacti plants. Avoid high-traffic areas for your houseplants, as well as drafty spaces near doors. Also keep them away from the vents that blow furnace heat as they are sensitive to the cold and hot air flows. Not all plants do well next to the window, depending on the type of plant and where you live. For example, ferns prefer darker spaces and will wilt in direct sunlight.


When the temperature drops outside, we turn up the heat inside. Houseplants aren’t a big fan of this dry air and need a little moisture to counterbalance it. During the fall and winter, place a water source such as a glass of water near the plants. The plants will absorb moisture as the water evaporates. Another option is to fill a tray part way with gravel and place some water in the bottom. Set the plants on top of the gravel so they can catch the evaporation. You can group several plants together on the rocks so they can share the humidity.


An indoor garden.

Although plants need the humidity to counterbalance the artificial heat in the home created by fire-burning stoves and furnaces, they generally require less water during the fall and winter months. Most plants enter a sort of semi-dormant state where they conserve resources until the growing season comes again in the spring. Check your plants weekly and water as necessary. You can test the moisture level by inserting your finger 1 or 2 inches into the soil. If you don’t feel any wetness, it’s time for a drink.


Most houseplants won’t need much in the way of fertilizers during the fall and winter months. As with water consumption, this is because they are not actively growing and use less energy during this time. The exception is flowering plants that appreciate a monthly feed. Other plants can be fertilized once every few months. Keep an eye on them for signs of nutrient depletion, but you can probably skip the fertilizer until the growing season starts.

Not all plants are created equal, but these general guidelines will help ensure that your plants are properly fed and hydrated as their needs change with the seasons.