Combating Winter Houseplant Threats

Written by on February 3, 2014 in News

Winter is a challenging time for both humans and our plants. The benefits and enjoyment one gets from plants are many, but during the winter our enjoyment is limited mostly to houseplants. Even though we do our best, some of our plants may still be struggling to survive.
According to Darbee Wellman, ISU Extension and Outreach Agriculturalist, one of the major mistakes is overwatering. A sign that a plant is receiving a little too much care is that the leaves on the plant are wilting. When plants have water-logged soil there is not enough air for plants to breath, therefore their leaves wilt and their roots rot.
“We want to make sure our plants are getting an adequate amount of water, but it is very easy to water them too much. Sometimes by the time you notice the wilting leaves it is too late to save your plant,” Wellman said.
In order to salvage overwatered plants, try repotting in new dry soil, pruning the rotting roots and watering sparingly. Wellman also says that different types of plants require different amounts of water. There are some who prefer evenly moist soils, while others prefer to be watered when the soil is almost completely dry. As a general rule, most houseplants need to be watered when the soil is almost dry to the touch.
Another common problem seen in houseplants during winter is the dropping of leaves. According to Wellman, this can be a result of lack of adequate sunlight, which is required for plants to conduct photosynthesis. If this is the case the loss of some of the leaves may not be a detriment to the plants, however the plant may not be as attractive.
Another reason leaves drop on houseplants is due to low house humidity levels. Most houseplants prefer humidity levels of 40-50%. In the winter humidity levels can drop to levels of 10-20%. Wellman suggests to group plants together or to use a humidifier near the plants.
“When grouping plants together, remember this may also increase the chances of a pest or disease being spread from one plant to another,” said Wellman.
For more information contact your local extension office. Contact information for your county can be found at

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