Yard and Garden: Winter Care for Houseplants



houseplants on a tableAMES, Iowa – Giving houseplants special care and attention during winter will help keep them growing and vibrant. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach horticulturists answer questions about the care of specific houseplants. To have additional questions answered, contact the ISU Hortline at 515-843-3108 or hortline@iastate.edu.

Why does my weeping fig lose leaves in winter?  

Environmental conditions indoors during the winter months are often rather poor. Low light levels, cold drafts, low relative humidities and other environmental factors are stressful to plants. The stressful conditions may cause weeping figs (Ficus benjamina) and other houseplants to lose leaves in winter. Good, consistent care during the winter months should keep leaf drop to a minimum.  

Weeping fig trees prefer brightly lit sites near windows. Locations near east and west windows are often best. Make sure the plant is kept away from cold drafts or heat sources. When watering a fig tree, continue to apply water until water begins to flow out the bottom of the pot. Discard the excess water. Allow the soil surface to dry to the touch before watering the fig tree again.

Avoid any abrupt change to the weeping fig’s care or environment (such as lighting or temperature) as this often leads to leaf drop.  

Why are the frond tips on my Boston fern turning brown?  

The Boston fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) likes a consistently moist potting soil and high humidity levels. Dry soil conditions or low humidity levels may be responsible for the brown frond tips.  

Water Boston ferns when the soil surface is barely moist. When watering, continue to apply water until water begins to flow out the bottoms of the pots.  

Winter is often a difficult time for Boston ferns as the humidity levels in most homes are quite low. One solution is to place plants in brightly lit locations in the home that usually have higher humidity levels, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Another option is to place plants on trays/saucers containing water and pebbles. (Make sure the water level does not reach the bottoms of the pots.) Water evaporating from the trays/saucers will increase the humidity levels in the vicinity of the plants. 

Why is my jade dropping leaves?  

The loss of leaves on the jade plant (Crassula argentea) may be due to over watering (watering too frequently). The jade plant is a succulent, which stores water in its foliage and stems. Allow the potting soil to dry between waterings in spring and summer. Reduce the frequency of watering by a few additional days in fall and winter.