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Caring for Your Plants During the Winter

Cryptanthus Pink Starlight under Grow Lights
Cryptanthus 'Pink Starlight' Under Grow Lights

Winter is here, and for many first time plant parents, this can bring more questions than there are hours of daylight. Why aren't my succulents growing? Should I change the frequency in which I water my plants? Is it okay to repot my plant? All of these questions and many others will be answered below!

Common Questions with Lighting

During the winter, it feels as if the sun is gone by 2pm. "Evening light" is virtually nonexistent. Depending on the species of plant, this may be cause for concern. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding lighting:

Do I need to buy a grow light?

Not necessarily. For succulents, cacti, and aloe, it may be in your best interest to use a grow light. Grow lights will help keep your succulents from growing leggy; meaning the space in between the layers of leaves increases. Usually, you may find that your plants grow very little, if at all. This is due to most plants going into dormancy during the winter months, so they stay relatively the same size. For plants that prefer bright, indirect light, chances are you will not need to purchase a grow light.

What is a sufficient amount of light?

For plants that will need direct sunlight, a minimum of 3 hours should suffice of very bright/direct sunlight. If you have a window that receives some morning light or evening light, that would be enough. Keep in mind, this is typically for desert dwelling succulents/cacti. If you have other species of plants, you may not need a grow light and keeping them where they are would be just fine.

Common Questions with Watering

Should I continue with the same watering schedule?

Generally speaking, you will probably find that you are watering your plants less often during the winter. This can be for a few reasons. Considering that the temperature is cooler and the amount of sunlight has decreased, your soil may not be drying out as quickly as it did during warmer months. This is completely fine as plants will not be growing as much during the winter season. When you do water your plants, you will still want to make sure they are being watered thoroughly.

I have been watering less frequently, but now I see brown tips/edging. Why?

During the winter time, especially true for NYC apartments, radiators will be on fully. The influx of heat often deprives the air of moisture. For plants that grow in the desert, it is not too big of a deal since these climates are often hot and dry. For plants that are native to jungle/tropical regions, humidity is often very high. If you see your plant is beginning to get crispy along the edges or tips, it is most likely due to the lack of humidity. I would first recommend you move the plants away from the heater. Secondly, you can alleviate the humidity problem by misting your plants daily with a spray bottle. It is important that the droplets from the spray bottle are extremely fine so that large water droplets do not cause rot on the leaves. If your plant collection is quite substantial, you may want to consider purchasing a humidifier so that you do not forget to mist all your plants.

Other Tips for Winter

Can I repot my plants?

If you can see the roots of your plant through the top or the bottom of the soil, then yes. Repotting is done when your plant needs it, not according to a certain season. Plants tend to be repotted more during the warmer months since that is when they will be actively growing. If you think your plant needs it, don't be afraid!

Can I use fertilizer?

Similar to the previous question, the answer is it depends. If your plant is growing and it has not had any fresh soil (that usually has nutrients for 3-6 months already) then yes, you can use fertilizer. Remember, you may find that most of your plants will not be growing as much during the winter, so it might be unnecessary to fertilize your plants.

Can I leave my window open if there are plants nearby?

Cold shock can be a silent killer. Many plants are used to more warm/tropical climates, and do not do well in the cold. If you have a cold draft or a window open near your plants, I would most certainly move them away from there. You will notice that your plant becomes seriously droopy, despite it being on a regular watering schedule. In this case, it can be hard to bring your plant back, so it is one of those problems that it is better if you realize it sooner than later. Some plants are cold hardy, but I would double check their temperature hardiness online before taking the risk.

If you have any other questions regarding care that we may have missed, comment below or send us a dm on Instagram! Please follow us @nycitysucculents to stay up to date on our latest posts.

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