14 Hardy Houseplants That Will Survive the Winter
During the fall and winter months, many homes become inhospitable environments for houseplants. Some rooms are drafty, others are over-heated, the air tends to be dry, and there’s less natural sunlight streaming in the windows. In search of hardy houseplants that can survive all of these conditions, we reached out to plant pros for their top picks, and these 14 easy-to-care-for houseplants made the list. From a Christmas cactus that can handle the chill, to a ZZ plant that thrives in the dark, there’s a plant for every room. To make sure you find the right fit for your home, consider whether your space tends to be drafty, overly heated, dry, or dim, then check out the pretty options that work best in each of those conditions. Bring these plants into your home now, and you’ll always have fresh greenery to enjoy, even in the dead of winter.
In a Low-Light Room: ZZ Plant
This popular houseplant often tops the “most likely to survive” lists, making it a perfect pick for any time of year. What makes the ZZ plant particularly notable is its remarkable ability to thrive in areas with minimal natural light, explains Stephen Hill, the creative director at Sprout Home, a garden design center with locations in Chicago and Brooklyn. While this plant is capable of surviving in brighter areas, it’s ability to thrive in the dark makes it well-suited for the winter months. So what’s the trick to keeping the ZZ plant happy? “The key here is to keep it very dry, only watering once the soil has had a chance to dry considerably,” says Hill. Low-light and infrequent watering? No wonder this low-maintenance plant is so popular.
In a Low-Light Room: Maidenhair Fern
Many varieties of fern don’t need much light because they’re used to growing on forest floors, completely shaded by a canopy of trees, says Maria de Los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez, a floral designer for GRDN, a gardening supply shop in Brooklyn. However, while they can tolerate low levels of light, they demand high humidity and like to be watered and misted frequently, so this option isn’t for the hands-off plant owner. While many houseplants prefer to dry out in between waterings, ferns like constantly damp soil. The maidenhair fern is a pretty option with delicate, lacy leaves, and will be happy in a spot offering indirect light for at least part of the day.
In a Low-Light Room: Chinese Evergreen, or Aglaonema
“Aglaonema have beautiful lush large leaves, some with patterns. Surprisingly, they can take low light and maintain their color and grow,” says Barbara Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm. But if you are keeping your plant in a dim room, she recommends paying close attention to how much you water, as there’s a higher risk of overwatering. Also, if the room doesn’t receive much natural light, you can supplement sunlight with artificial light by placing your aglaonema near a lamp. If this is your first foray into plant ownership, this is an excellent starter plant, and if you already have an indoor forest, this is a low-maintenance option to grow your collection.
In a Drafty Room: Clivia
If you have a room that’s chilly and doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, the clivia may be its ideal match. “These durable plants actually prefer a period of cooler weather which will allow their fantastic blooms to emerge, typically in orange or sometimes a golden yellow,” explains Stephen Hill. Not only will this beautiful plant bloom even in a drafty home, but the vibrant colors will brighten up a chilly space. Another bonus: clivia like to be kept on the dry side, so you won’t need to water them every day.
In a Drafty Room: Moss Terrarium
To protect your plants from a chilly breeze beside a window or near the front door, consider a miniature version of a greenhouse: the glass terrarium. “It will retain humidity within the glass as well as protect the plants from both hot and cold drafts,” says Hill. Not only does the terrarium shield the plants inside, but it also adds a stylish conversation piece to a living room. “Ideal plants for covered terrariums are mosses, ferns, and fern allies,” recommends Hill. You can try creating your own terrarium, and Sprout Home offers terrarium-building classes and online orders in Chicago and New York City.
In a Drafty Room: Jade Plant
“A lot of plants don't really like the combination of cold air with hot radiator air in the winter months,” admits Maria de Los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez. “However, some plants can tolerate it.” One of the most likely plants to survive these temperature variations is the jade plant. “The jade plant, which is a type of succulent, will be fine near an open window in the winter,” she says. It also doesn’t require much water, and can thrive with a watering once every three weeks. This plant looks like a miniature tree, so it will introduce a refreshing burst of greenery to your home, even when the trees outside are leafless.
In a Drafty Room: Christmas Cactus
If you’re looking for a durable plant that will also bring a pop of color to your space, turn to the festive Christmas cactus. This plant is typically propagated for sale before Thanksgiving, but its pretty red and pink blooms hint at spring. Plus, this houseplant is undeniably low-maintenance. “They range in color, thrive on neglect, and can be kept indoors year-round or moved outside for the summer in full shade,” says Barbara Pierson.
In a Dry Room: Philodendrons
The good news is, many of the most common houseplants don’t like a lot of water, according to de Los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez. One of her favorite drought-tolerant picks is a philodendron, like the split-leaf or the monstera, which is an on-trend choice. These plants only need to be watered once every two weeks or so. What’s the secret to knowing if your giant monstera plant is thirsty? Pick up the plant and get familiar with its typical weight. “Sometimes water evaporates much faster or much slower depending on the room temperature. So if your plant feels heavy but hasn't been watered in two weeks, the soil is probably still very wet and watering it again will only cause it harm,” she explains.
In a Dry Room: Succulents
On a windowsill in a dry room is the ideal location for a succulent collection. They come in a wide array of colors and styles, so you can mix and match to create a unique grouping. “One thing to keep in mind is that temperatures tend to be cooler near windows in northern climates, especially in older buildings. In scenarios like this, it can be advised to almost not water your succulents throughout the winter months,” Hill says. Some succulents may continue to grow during this time, while others will wait at a standstill until spring. When warmer weather hits, you can resume regular (yet still infrequent) watering.
In a Dry Room: Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree
One thing to remember about caring for houseplants in the winter is that many, including the popular fiddle leaf fig, experience natural growing seasons and periods of dormancy. These periods should also correspond to how often you water them, says de Los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez. For example, the fiddle leaf fig tree should be watered once every two weeks during the growing season, but only needs water about once a month during the winter. Also keep in mind that water evaporates more slowly in a chilly room than a hot one, so pay attention to whether the room is drafty and damp or dry and hot.
In a Dry Room: Snake Plant
Even the most neglectful plant parents can handle caring for a snake plant. “Overwatering can kill this beautiful, architectural plant. It should be in the top 10 for low-light, easy care houseplants,” says Pierson. They’re also easy to find at almost any plant shop or gardening center (look for the botanical name “sansevieria”), or they can be ordered online already in a planter to make the process even easier. Choose from variegated leaves with splashes of yellow or white, or solid color leaves.
In a Dry Room: Aloe
If your house runs dry in the winter, but you’re too busy to water your plants regularly (let alone turn on a humidifier for them), then aloe is a great choice. This hardy succulent can store water in its sculptural leaves, allowing it to go long stretches between waterings. The only downside is that this plant won’t give you any visual clues if it’s parched. “You have to check the soil to see that it needs water—it won’t wilt!” says Pierson. While this desert plant can handle a dry environment, it also loves to sunbathe, so set it near a window that gets plenty of light.
In an Overly-Heated Room: Cacti and Desert Plants
If you live in a home with an overactive heater, cacti and desert plants will thrive there. “They love dry air and hot environments because that's where they are naturally from,” explains Maria de Los Angeles Rodriguez Jimenez. “A piece of wood, which is a poor conductor of heat, over a radiator is the perfect place to have a small cacti desert set up, and super cute,” she says. And because many deserts are known to get chilly at night, some varieties of desert plants can handle the cold and go into winter dormancy. “They'll drop their leaves, but appreciate the snooze from the growing season,” explains Stephen Hill.
In an Overly-Heated Room: Wax Plant
If you keep your thermostat turned all the way up in the winter, and also tend to be an inconsistent plant waterer, the wax plant, also known as hoya, is for you. “Hoya have thick waxy leaves and rope-like stems that allow them to take hot temperatures by storing water in their succulent plant parts,” says Pierson. By reserving water in this way, the wax plant is always prepared for an unexpected drought. The hoya’s cascading leaves look stunning when suspended in a hanging woven basket, and if you forget to water it for a few weeks, this forgiving plant will bounce back quickly without getting brown leaves.
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