Houseplant Winter Dormancy - What Is It?

Houseplant Winter Dormancy - What Is It?

Last Updated On: March 17, 2022

If you’ve been growing plants for longer than a year you may have noticed that your plants grow more slowly in the winter. In some cases you might have even noticed leaves dying and falling off. Don’t freak out though, this is completely normal. Plants often go dormant in the winter, this is a natural process.

This can be a bit alarming at first, but it’s no cause for concern. In this brief article we’ll talk about what winter dormancy is, why it happens, and the care you can provide your plants to help them come back stronger in the spring.

What Is Winter Dormancy?

Winter dormancy is similar to an animal hibernating. The plant opts to conserve energy and slows down its growth during the dark and cold winter months. This happens to many plants as they sense the days shortening and temperature dropping in the winter and do it to help survive.

This dormancy is perfectly normal and no cause for alarm. It’s a natural process that many plants go through. In most cases, once the warmer weather of spring comes around your plants will spring back to normal.

This is often seen as slowed plant growth, but you might also notice leaves dying and falling off. During this time you shouldn’t expect to see any new flowers or harvest any edible fruits/veggies. All of this is completely normal though, so you don’t have to worry about your plants.

Why Do Plants Do Dormant In The Winter?

The reason that plants go dormant in the winter is to survive. Plants know that during the winter sunlight and nutrients might be hard to come by, so they prepare for that. During their dormant periods your plant will need less nutrients to survive.

By stopping their growth, your plants are conserving their energy. During this time root growth is able to continue. In many cases, these periods of dormancy are beneficial to your plants and you’ll notice they come back fuller than before.

Does Dormancy Change Plant Care?

Yes, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when your plants go dormant. Firstly, it’s important to remember that your plant is taking in less nutrients than normal. That means that during this period you should hold off on fertilizing. At best these nutrients will be wasted and at worst too much will actually harm your plant.

You also will likely need to water less than in the winter. Always check the soil before watering to avoid overwatering. Remember, the roots are still growing and susceptible to root rot. Your plant will likely absorb water more slowly which consequently reduces the amount you need to water. Many plants are actually easier to care for in the winter given the two points above.

Temperature and humidity are also concerns, your plant will be more susceptible to them during dormancy. You should always make sure that your plant is far away from large temperature swings. This means moving it away from drafty windows, open doors, and heating instruments. You should also make sure the relative humidity remains high around the plant. Try misting it or check out our humidity guide.

Lastly, you should wipe off the leaves of your plant with a cloth every few days. Plants can get dusty and this can actually reduce the amount of light they take in. While you should be doing this year round it’s especially important in the winter. Light is already at a premium during the winter, so any wasted amount is a big deal.

Houseplant Winter Dormancy

If you notice your plants going dormant this winter don’t panic, it’s normal. Plants do so everywinter to conserve energy and survive the long, cold, dark winter months. In most cases, they’ll pop right back up in the spring good as new.

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