Thick sweaters and freezing fingers usually mark winter, a season that has a way of disrupting many people’s plans and schedules. However, it’s plants that bear the most adverse effects of winter, with the extreme temperatures affecting their biological processes and causing some to hibernate. Therefore, it’s essential to adjust your watering routine to the season to ensure your greenery survives the harsh weather conditions.
Here’s what you need to consider when watering plants in the winter:
- Adjust your watering routine.
- Water your plants from the bottom.
- Maintain optimal conditions as much as you can.
- Make sure you use the best water for your plants.
- Take care not to overwater or underwater your plants.
- Use suitable soil and pots for your plants.
- Thoroughly inspect the soil before watering.
- Use hoses or watering cans when watering.
Winter causes ambient temperatures to fall, affecting humidity and causing low evaporation and transpiration rates. All the practices in this guide will ensure your plants are well cared for despite the extreme temperatures and altered biological processes. Let’s discuss them a bit further!
1. Adjust Your Watering Routine
Both indoor and outdoor plants require less water during winter months. Although the winter air is drier during this time, and many plants develop at a slower rate, they still need to be watered. However, extreme environmental conditions mean that overwatering can pose a severe threat.
When the temperature drops below a certain point, some plants go dormant, and their biological functions come to a standstill. Regardless, these plants still require a few watering sessions, even if they should be fewer and far between. On the other hand, if too much water accumulates in the soil during winter, the plants will grow weak or even decay.
For this reason, you need to adjust your watering routine appropriately. However, remember that various plants need different amounts of water based on their physiology.
For example, plants like cacti and other succulents may not require any watering. However, certain tropicals may require more frequent watering throughout the season.
Whether indoors or outdoors, regular plants need to be watered roughly once every two weeks. Water your succulents every fortnight, and ensure you do not water your cacti.
Plants like the Christmas cactus (winter-flowering) do not need serious watering adjustments during the winter months. You only need to water them whenever the soil becomes dry.
The topsoil might dry up more quickly in the winter but this quick evaporation isn’t necessarily a sign that your plants need water. I recommend using a soil moisture meter to track moisture changes in the soil and develop an appropriate watering schedule.
Additionally, using an automatic watering system during winter might not be a good choice since your plant’s water requirements can change very easily.
Watering like this may lead to freezing damage so I recommend you turn off your automatic system completely. Opt for a hose-end sprinkler or watering wand during winter.
2. Water Your Plants From the Bottom
Your plants may need less water during the winter, but you must ensure your watering practices are as effective as in summer and spring. Ensure you water your indoor and outdoor plants from the bottom. Watering from the bottom means that you must directly water the soil during the watering process.
Watering the soil ensures water and critical nutrients reach the plant’s roots directly. The root system is the crucial organ that absorbs moisture, which is why it’s good practice to water them directly.
When caring for some sensitive plants, make sure you only water from the bottom up to avoid shocking the plants.
Furthermore, bottom watering will ensure water gets to the roots of the plants rather than freezing on the stems or leaves. It also protects plants from rot and illness.
Bottom watering is also necessary since certain plants’ leaves change color when wet. You don’t want this color change to happen, particularly if you’re growing a plant for its aesthetic value.
Bottom watering benefits a variety of plant types in different ways. For example, watering from the bottom up causes plant roots to grow directly toward moisture, which helps them grow stronger as they anchor the plant deeper in the soil. It will also ensure the plant remains well-rooted throughout winter.
Whether your plants are directly in the earth or a container, rest assured that bottom watering will ensure that the water reaches the roots of your plants. When watering outdoor plants directly in the ground, use a watering can or hose to add water to the soil. Make sure the soil you use in your garden is fast-draining to avoid overwatering your plants.
Watering potted indoor and outdoor plants from the bottom requires a somewhat different approach. Fortunately, both of these methods can be completed in a few steps.
Here are a few steps to follow to bottom water your indoor and outdoor plants:
- Fill a container halfway with clean water. Containers are excellent for holding your pots when watering. Always water your plants with rainwater or distilled water.
- Allow the potted plant to soak up water for at least ten minutes before placing it in the container. Afterward, completely submerge the soil in the pot by filling the container with water.
- Check the soil moisture level to see if your plant has absorbed sufficient water. You can use a soil moisture meter to assess the moisture content of the soil properly. Let the plant stay for a few minutes longer if the soil isn’t saturated enough.
- Remove any excess water. Use pots with efficient drainage holes to guarantee that all of the excess water is thoroughly removed.
3. Maintain Optimal Conditions As Much as You Can
You must maintain optimal conditions when growing plants in the winter. Successful watering relies on several factors, and you must ensure that you retain optimal indoor and outdoor conditions as best as you can. Balancing and maintaining optimal conditions will guarantee your plants thrive throughout their lifespan regardless of the weather.
Overall, the watering procedure will be more straightforward and beneficial if you perform regular maintenance.
Here are a few conditions you’ll want to monitor during winter:
- Water quality: Insufficient water or outrightly foul water might cause severe damage to your plants. Always check the quality of your water before using it.
- Water temperature: Keep the temperature between 62-72°F (17-22°C) to avoid harming the plants. Remember that watering your plants with hot or cold water will harm them.
- Relative humidity: Most indoor plants can thrive in humidity levels of 40 to 60%, and unique plants (such as cactus) require relative humidity levels of only 10 to 20%. Take care to maintain these as best you can for your indoor plants.
- Soil moisture content: Plants do not require a lot of water during winter, but too little can harm them by disrupting vital biological processes. As a result, make sure the soil moisture content isn’t too high or too low before watering your plants.
4. Make Sure You Use the Best Water For Your Plants
As mentioned, plants do not require a lot of water in winter, but too little can harm them by disrupting vital biological processes.
Water temperature significantly influences your plants as it impacts their growth by interfering with critical biological processes. These mechanisms include crucial processes like transpiration and photosynthesis. However, extreme water temperatures may also affect translocation and the capillary action mechanism.
Keep the water temperature between 62 and 72°F (17 and 22°C). However, water temperatures around 68°F (20°C) are ideal for most plants, regardless of weather conditions. Colder temperatures severely affect plant metabolic processes, and you need to monitor the water temperature as closely as possible.
Water pH is another essential condition to monitor. Your plants will thrive in the winter if you use water with a pH level of 6.5 to 7.5. However, because these neutral pH values might be difficult to determine based on the water source alone, you’ll need to invest in a pH meter or pH test strip to precisely measure the value.
I recommend you use rainwater or distilled water when watering your plants. Tap water is dangerous to your plants as minerals like magnesium and calcium present might build up in the earth or show on the leaves as white spots.
Melted snow is another excellent option, especially since you’ll likely have lots of it in the winter. The water also contains high amounts of minerals your plant needs while being clean enough not to hurt their growth process.
5. Take Care Not to Overwater or Underwater Your Plants
Overwatering and underwatering are both serious issues that can harm plants in the winter. Both may cause serious harm to your plants’ roots, stems, leaves, and branches. As a result, it’s critical to understand how much water to use throughout each watering session.
Succulents and various extreme plants can tolerate dramatic weather changes and grow in the bitter cold. However, indoor plants need special care during winter.
When you under water your plants, they don’t receive enough water to perform biological processes adequately. Although certain plants can survive without water, they may not flourish in such conditions. You’re probably not giving your plants enough water if you find wrinkled and dried-up leaves on them.
Underwatering is a less common issue in the winter since low temperatures mean the plant’s metabolic and biological processes will slow down. This dormancy means the plant will use fewer resources overall, even water. Nevertheless, take care that you do not under water your plants.
Overwatering is more common during winter because many gardeners and plant owners forget to account for humidity changes and extreme temperatures. Your plants will use less water, and you will need to space out the watering sessions to account for this development.
Overwatering can happen if you don’t dry out the soil between waterings. Overwatering your plants can lead to various issues like root rot or leaf crack.
It can also cause discoloration and severe changes in the leaves. In extreme situations, plants might become spongy and transparent.
Use a sensible approach to ensure that your plants receive only the water they require throughout the season.
6. Use Suitable Soil and Pots for Your Plants
All plants (except for aquatic plants) will perish if you keep them in water for an extended period. Regardless of their ability to withstand harsh weather, they require gritty, fast-draining soil to develop. Fortunately, you may improve the likelihood of growing strong and durable plants by investing in some high-quality soil.
Fast-draining soil that does not hold water will ensure that the roots of your plants have enough room to breathe. You can also increase drainage by mixing your soil with perlite.
Quick-draining soils are essential for growing and watering plants in the winter. Additionally, you may be able to water your plants more freely if you use fast-draining soil in a container with drainage holes. However, using this type of soil doesn’t imply that you should overwater your plants.
Fast-growing soil is likely available at your local supermarkets, and you can use it in the same way as other, more traditional varieties.
Overwatering is a severe problem and often one of the main causes of plant death during winter. Therefore, I recommend that you use pots with holes to ensure there is proper drainage, especially in the winter when the evaporation rate slows to a crawl. You can buy custom-made pots with holes or adapt an old container to fit your plants.
Even if you grow your plants in conventional pots, water can collect at the bottom and leave the soil wet for an extended length of time. It will lead to overwatering-related problems and illnesses.
Using a regular pot also requires more time and expertise because you must closely monitor and control the watering schedule to keep your plants in top condition.
7. Thoroughly Inspect the Soil Before Watering
Winter soil can be problematic, with thin sheets of ice covering the earth and frozen puddles affecting plant roots. Therefore you need to carefully inspect the soil before watering. These inspections will save you a lot of stress down the line and ensure you pick up any frost or other winter-related issues as early as possible.
Your soil is just as important as the water you use and the plants you’re watering. Many plants have higher water requirements than others, and soil checks are essential to ensure that you’re watering in a manner that is providing the plants with all the nutrients they need. These checks are helpful because overwatered or underwatered soils and plants display various signs that you must learn to detect.
Plants that need more water will typically develop wrinkles in their shoots and even lose leaves. However, when your soil is soaked, the plant will become mushy and show typical symptoms of overwatering.
Waterlogged soil will have excess water flowing across its surface, making it soggy and visibly wet.
Before watering, take time to ensure the soil is practically dry. Some plants enjoy it if the soil is continually wet, while others prefer it if it is completely dry before watering.
Stop watering your plants only when the soil is sufficiently moist to ensure that all the water gets to the plant’s root. Remember to bottom water! Bottom watering ensures that your soil and plants get enough water and will prevent overwatering.
8. Use Hoses or Watering Cans When Watering
It would be best to use only watering cans to hydrate the stem bases and not the surrounding soil. Watering with cans is the best approach to deliver the most water to the roots when watering during the winter. You can also utilize a soaker hose for a more efficient session.
You can also use sprinklers when watering in the winter. However, you must consider the plant variety and temperature before adopting techniques that will expose your plants to a constant stream of water.
Watering in the winter can often seem like a tricky affair. However, with sufficient plant knowledge and the tips I’ve taken you through in this article, you can rest assured the watering process will be far less stressful and more efficient.
Make sure you monitor your plants and soil as closely as possible. The suggestions I’ve provided are guaranteed strategies to ensure that the watering process is geared toward improving plant life quality over the challenging winter season.