Why Fertilizing Indoor Plants In The Winter Is a Bad Idea

Winter days are for admiring indoor plants and showering them with tender loving care. Although tempting, don’t go overboard with the TLC. When it comes to houseplants, fertilizing in the fall and winter is a big gardening no-no.

Why Fertilize?

Generally speaking, houseplants are happy if you provide them with their required light and a warm place to live. But, being bound in a pot means their roots don’t have an endless supply of nutrients. That’s why fertilizing them is essential.

When To Fertilize

A nutritional drink or granular fertilizers is only recommended when indoor plants are in active growth stages in the spring and summer. At the very earliest, you should only be feeding them the goods at the end of February or the beginning of March.

Why Fall and Winter Fertilizing Is A Mistake

There are lower light levels in the colder months, which means naturally, houseplants will grow at a much slower rate and need less water and food as a result.

If they’re not expanding as much energy, they don’t need extra nutrients. Therefore, anything you give them will likely end up sitting in the soil, eventually burning their roots and killing the plant.

Not good. If you do fertilize, dilute the mixture by at least half.

Signs of Over-Fertilization

You know you’ve really done it when you notice some of the following symptoms in your plants:

  • Browning or yellowing leaf tips, sometimes resembling burn marks
  • Falling leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Wilting lower leaves
  • Blackened roots
  • Crusted fertilizer residue on the soil surface

If you notice any of the above signs, there’s little you can do to help the plant. Your only option is to flush the soil several times with water over a sink and hope for the best.

What Can You Do In The Winter?

Don’t despair! There are still indoor gardening tasks to do in the fall and winter.

Keep them free of dust and give them a good cleaning with tepid, soapy water. This way, they are sure to breathe better and absorb the little light they do get.

Similarly, clean the nearby windows to make sure they get as much sunlight as possible.


You worked hard all spring and summer; now is the time to sit back, relax, and enjoy your indoor greenery while it’s cold outside! There will be plenty of work to do in a couple of months.

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.