A Gradual Transition to Winter Ensures the Health of Indoor Plants

by Sophia Chen
Indoor Plant Care

My mandarin orange tree and spider plants had the luxury of an extended outdoor stay on the back deck throughout the summer, relishing the warm weather. However, their outdoor escapade came to an end last month when frost began to loom.

To prepare them for their return indoors, I generously watered them, leaves and all, to eliminate any potential hitchhikers. Additionally, I applied a diluted Neem oil solution to the soil as an extra precaution. Yet, their transition was far from over.

Much like when potted plants are introduced to the outdoors in spring, they need time to acclimate when brought back inside. The key difference is that in the spring, we gradually “harden them off,” exposing them to increasing periods of sunlight and breezy outdoor conditions. However, the return indoors is often more abrupt, without the luxury of a leisurely adjustment period.

This rapid transition is why your recently reintroduced houseplants may be displaying signs of stress, such as yellowing leaves, leaf drop, and an overall unwell appearance as they adapt to the lower light levels indoors. The same applies to recently purchased plants that were thriving in greenhouses or under artificial lights at the nursery.

Rest assured, with time, they will bounce back. Nevertheless, there are steps you can take to facilitate their transition. One effective strategy is to use grow lights, gradually increasing their daily exposure over the first few weeks indoors. However, there are simpler and cost-effective methods to aid in the adjustment process.

During their initial weeks back indoors, position potted plants close to your sunniest window. Keep in mind that even the brightest indoor light cannot match the intensity of outdoor sunlight they enjoyed during the summer. This temporary placement will serve as a pit stop on their way to their permanent winter spot elsewhere in your home.

If you opt to place them on a windowsill, consider lining the entire ledge with aluminum foil. This will reflect sunlight back onto the plants, including the undersides of their leaves. This refracted light can also help prevent seedlings from becoming excessively tall and spindly in the spring.

For a similar light-enhancing effect, you can place a mirror on the wall behind your plants. However, be cautious not to position it too close, as this could potentially scorch the foliage.

These practices can be employed year-round to provide adequate light for houseplants that require bright sunlight.

Even for plants that don’t go into full dormancy, growth typically slows during the winter months. Based on my experience, it’s advisable to postpone repotting until spring whenever possible. If repotting becomes necessary due to factors like overgrowth, infestation, or a damaged container, select a new pot that is either the same size or, at most, one inch larger in diameter than the current one. This helps prevent root rot, which can occur if the plant can’t absorb moisture from excess soil in a larger pot.

Furthermore, reduce your watering frequency. Each plant has its unique needs, but a plant that received daily watering in the scorching summer sun may only require a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly drink during the winter. As a general guideline, insert your finger knuckle-deep into the soil and water only when it feels dry to a depth of 2 inches.

When you do water, do so slowly and thoroughly until water starts to drain from the pot’s drainage hole. Avoid allowing water to accumulate in the pot’s saucer.

Unless you live in a tropical climate, your indoor plants likely won’t demand or benefit from additional nutrients during the winter. If you believe fertilization is necessary, use only a quarter to half of the recommended dosage and decrease the frequency of applications by the same proportion. Over-fertilizing while the plant is not actively growing can lead to fertilizer burn or browned leaf tips.

Lastly, ensure that your plants are placed away from radiators, shielded from the direct blasts of forced-air heating vents, and protected from cold drafts emanating from windows and doors. Most indoor plants thrive in temperatures in the mid-70s. In general, if you feel chilly, your plant probably does too.


Jessica Damiano, an accomplished writer, authors the highly regarded Weekly Dirt Newsletter and provides regular gardening insights through her columns for The AP. To receive valuable gardening tips and advice every week, you can subscribe to the Weekly Dirt Newsletter here.


For more informative gardening articles from AP, please visit https://bigbignews.net/search?q=gardening#nt=navsearch

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Indoor Plant Care

How can I help my outdoor plants transition indoors for the winter?

To help your outdoor plants adapt to indoor conditions for the winter, start by thoroughly watering them and checking for any unwanted pests or hitchhikers. Gradually acclimate them to lower light levels by placing them near a sunny window. You can also use reflective surfaces like aluminum foil or mirrors to enhance the available light. Reduce watering frequency and avoid repotting unless necessary. Be cautious with fertilization, and protect plants from extreme temperature changes and drafts.

What should I do if my houseplants are turning yellow and dropping leaves after being brought indoors?

It’s common for houseplants to show signs of stress like yellowing leaves and leaf drop when transitioning from outdoor to indoor environments. To mitigate this, provide them with adequate light by placing them near a sunny window or using grow lights. Adjust your watering schedule to accommodate their reduced growth during winter. Avoid repotting unless essential and use caution with fertilization. Shield them from extreme temperature fluctuations and drafts.

Can I use regular household mirrors for enhancing indoor plant light?

Yes, you can use regular household mirrors to enhance indoor plant light, but be mindful of their placement. Position the mirrors on the wall behind your plants, ensuring they are not too close to prevent foliage scorching. This will reflect light back onto the plants, particularly the undersides of leaves, providing additional illumination.

When is the best time to repot indoor plants during the winter season?

It’s generally best to postpone repotting indoor plants during the winter season, if possible. Repotting can stress plants, and they are often in a period of reduced growth during this time. If you must repot due to factors like overgrowth, infestation, or damaged containers, choose a pot that is no more than one inch larger in diameter than the current one to avoid root rot from excess soil.

How often should I water my indoor plants during the winter?

The frequency of watering indoor plants during the winter varies depending on the specific plant’s needs. To determine when to water, insert your finger knuckle-deep into the soil and water only when it feels dry to a depth of 2 inches. In general, indoor plants may require less frequent watering during the winter compared to the summer months. Adjust your watering schedule accordingly based on individual plant requirements.

More about Indoor Plant Care

You may also like


GreenThumb_Guru November 15, 2023 - 7:10 am

great info on repottin, i made mistake last year, now i kno better!

FlowerChild88 November 15, 2023 - 10:40 am

mirrors trick is cool, i’m tryin it out, hope my plants like it.

PlantLover123 November 15, 2023 - 5:27 pm

wow, this article helps lots, ma plants always struggle wen i bring dem inside for winter, thx!

IndoorGardener27 November 15, 2023 - 10:27 pm

thx for remindin bout less water in winter, i used to drown my plants, they’ll b happier now.

GardeningNoob November 16, 2023 - 5:21 am

why plants gotta turn yellow tho? good tips but still sad seein my plants lookin sick.


Leave a Comment


BNB – Big Big News is a news portal that offers the latest news from around the world. BNB – Big Big News focuses on providing readers with the most up-to-date information from the U.S. and abroad, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, sports, entertainment, business, health, and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest News

© 2023 BBN – Big Big News