Any day now, things will change in the twinkling of an eye and temperatures will plummet. Artificial heat sources will replace the mild, natural warmth of summer. And houseplants will take notice.

Even now, shortened hours of daylight affect our plants, and that nice, indirect sunlight from an east-facing window will become dimmer and dimmer as the sun rides lower in the sky. The same goes for west-facing windows.

Houseplants respond in several ways, one being to drop leaves. This is not necessarily a matter of concern, because it is only the plant’s way of coping. All things being equal, the leaf-drop stage will pass and the plant or plants will be none the worse for wear.

Dry air from furnaces and woodstoves, though, is an entirely different matter. Indoor dryness in winter takes a great toll on plants, and without frequent watering, plants may become entirely desiccated. Some seek to remedy that by frequent misting, but in most cases, the slight amount of water that misting imparts to plant surfaces evaporates within minutes, making misting mostly ineffectual. Of course, for air plants, bromeliads for instance, misting is the main source of moisture. Such plants do best around a humid indoor environment, such as near a sink.

Special Care

Cold drafts are the arch-enemy of tropical houseplants. Given today’s high cost of energy, homeowners should strive to have draft-free houses anyway. But if, despite your best efforts, there is a draft, try to keep your houseplants away from it. Other than the typical warmer-by-day and cooler-by-night routine in most houses, plants thrive on constant temperatures.

The need for frequent watering, on plants that require regular watering, cannot be over-stressed. There are plants that seemingly laugh at dry conditions. I have a Sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s-tongue, in my living room, that I’m convinced could spend a year in Death Valley and continue growing as if nothing unusual had occurred. The same goes for a spider plant in my laundry room.

But other than these, our most beloved plants should not remain completely dry for very long, or irreparable damage may occur. It’s fine to let most plants dry out almost completely, but do not allow them to remain that way.

The other big consideration going into winter is light. Plants such as my Sansevieria can thrive in extreme low-light conditions. Most others cannot. This is where windows come into play. South-facing windows bring in the most light but even these suffer in the low-light times of winter.

Some people opt for artificial lighting for their plants. But now, with sky-high energy rates, this can run into money problems. For my personal enjoyment, I have chosen mostly houseplants that can do just fine in low- to moderate-light conditions. As such, these do well on my limited windowsill space.

There is another tactic indoor gardeners can use to increase light for their houseplants. I learned about this in an article by Alys Fowler. Alys uses mirrors to bathe her plants in diffused light. I haven’t yet put this to the test, but it makes all kinds of sense and sounds like fun.

Surprisingly, older, faded or even scratched mirrors work best. We don’t want the mirrors to reflect direct sunlight on the plants but rather, indirect light. Situate a mirror where it shines indirect light on your plants and they will get an extra, needed boost of light.

I have a feeling that using mirrors to boost light for houseplants is not a new concept and some research may reveal more about this interesting tactic.

Traveling Plants

Finally, when transporting plants from the florist or garden center to your home, try not to do it on a really cold, windy day. If possible, try to wait for temperatures to moderate and for the wind to die down. And make sure to protect your plants by placing them in a container or otherwise wrapping them.

Maintaining houseplants in winter requires some extra care but is well worth the effort.