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Insider Knowledge - Winter

Jan 24, 2021
Insider Knowledge - Winter

Each Sunday, we get to chat about houseplants with RHS award winning gardener and broadcaster, Toby Buckland over on BBC Radio Devon, as part of our new mini feature “Insider Knowledge”.

You can also listen to the show over on BBC Sounds here

This week we had a little chat about the cold season of Winter and it’s effect on all of our houseplants.

Sometimes, we can have unfair expectations of our houseplants. Step outside into your garden, or take a walk in the local park, and you’re unlikely to be greeted by a lush green vista popping with colourful blooms at this time of year. Why then do we expect our houseplants to look “just perfect” all year round?

Whilst we’re fully in the throws of winter, now is the time for keeping an eye on your precious indoor plants. Winter is the season for notorious plant problems like browning and yellowing leaves. It’s a time when our plants slow down, some go dormant and some even die back.

BUT, before we get into all of that, we want to issue our first piece of advice on this tricky time for houseplants. It’s simple really: RELAX. Unless your plant is really on the turn, the odd brown or yellow leaf is to be expected. Follow our top tips below and we’re sure you and your plants will make it through the winter months without any major dramas!

To keep things simple, we want to focus on three key areas. Please not that all houseplants have different light, heat and moisture requirements. If you’ve got questions about a specific plant, why not drop us a message.


There’s no avoiding the fact that light levels at this time of year are much lower than in the Summer months. Days are shorter and your plants, no matter what their usual light requirements are, are getting much less of the all important sunshine that they need to truly thrive. Your average internal house lights are not doing a whole lot for your plants; unless you’ve installed full spectrum or grow bulbs, they still need access to natural light.

As a result, having a look at where you have your plants positioned is key. Are there any who’ve lost access to that much needed natural light? Can you move them to a brighter spot closer to the window? Grouping plants closer to the window can really help them get through the winter gloom.

Yellowing and drooping leaves, amongst other things, can be indicative that your plant is not getting the requisite amount of light that it needs.


Whilst central heating may lull some into a false sense of security, having your radiators on does not in fact turn your house into a year round tropical paradise perfect for plants. Most leafy houseplants, but certainly not all, are native to tropical and sub-tropical habitats that have much higher levels of humidity than your house. Turning on your radiators will create an incredibly dry heat that many plants do not like.

If your plants start to develop brown edges to their leaves, this can be a clear sign that your plants are lacking in humidity.

Be careful where you position your plants and keep them away from the direct blasts of heat emitted from a radiator or any cold winds that may come through external doors and windows at this time of year. If you have tricky spots like this, consider cacti and succulents or hardier houseplants such as Yuccas for these positions, as they are far less affected by extremes of heat.


With the slowing down of their growth rates, many plants require much less watering in the winter months. You may find that plants you would usually water once every 5-7 days, now only require watering every 7-10 days. Most cacti and succulents actually require no water in the winter months.

As we’ve already mentioned, most tropical leafy houseplants require you to generate more humidity for them. So whilst we row back on our watering, we increase humidity by increasing the amount we mist our plants, grouping our plants together to generate their own humidity and sitting them on trays with pebbles and water in them.

As we’ve already said, there is no one rule for all houseplants, so if you have any burning questions about what is going on with your plants at this time of year, then drop us a message. But most importantly, relax and don’t worry yourself too much over the odd browning or yellowing leaf. Before you know it, Spring will be here and your plants will be bouncing back in no time!

Winter is the season for notorious plant problems like browning and yellowing leaves. It’s a time when our plants slow down, some go dormant and some even die back.