Winter is again here, and during this time of the year, it’s more important than ever to think carefully about plant care and protecting your plants from the cold weather. A common question from homeowners and business owners is when is the right time to bring your plants indoors for the winter months.

Keep reading as we share some of our top tips for looking after your best indoor plants this winter so that you can enjoy the benefits of your greenscape throughout the year.

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Indoor Plants vs. Outdoor Plants

The first thing to remember when discussing plant care during winter is the difference between indoor and outdoor plants.

You won’t need to make many adjustments to your greenscape when it comes to the tropical plants inside, as plants in the office will likely benefit from the heating and protection you have indoors.

Of course, you will need to ensure the soil stays hydrated and that the plants aren’t stripped of their moisture when you increase the heating during the winter.

Growing Zones and Hardiness Zones

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed the standard by which amateurs, gardeners, and growers can determine which plants are most likely to survive the winter outdoors at a location.

The Zone map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. These zones are numbered from 1 to 13 – with 1 being the coldest and 13 being the warmest.

For example, the Miami area is mostly Zone 10, the Boston area is mostly Zone 7, and the Burlington, Vermont area is mostly Zone 3.

Click here to view a map of plant hardiness across the U.S.

Tropical Plants

Many of the plants we keep as outdoor and indoor plants shouldn’t be subjected to cold temperatures unless they are plants that are hardy in cold weather in your area.

Researching a plant’s natural growth or hardiness zone will tell you where it can successfully spend the winter outside. For example, most red oak trees grow in Zone 5 to Zone 9, – and if you live within those zones, you won’t need to bring your oak tree inside for the winter.

On the other hand, many plants we keep are native to warm climates and won’t survive cold winters. Spider plants thrive outdoors year-round in Zones 9 to 11. If you live in Zone 8 or lower, you’ll need to protect your spider plant during the winter.

Relocation Timing

When the temperatures drop, you need to consider bringing outdoor plants inside for the winter.

As a general rule, for tropical plants native to Zones 9 to 11, when the temperature at night goes below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to think about moving your greenspace indoors.

Where you are in the country will greatly impact the work you need to do to preserve your plants. If the plant is native to Zones 9 to 11, and you live in Zone 8, you might only need to cover your plants. We recommend burlap to keep them safe from the cold.

However, if you live in an area where the temperatures drop below 45 degrees, you’ll want to bring your tropical plants inside.


As mentioned above, when the night-time temperature drops below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, tropical plants need protection to stop dying from the cold.

Remember that you must slowly subject your plants to the new weather conditions. They shouldn’t deteriorate because of the increase or decrease in light, moisture, and temperature.

To make the transition easier, we recommend bringing your tropical plants in only overnight, to begin with, and then taking them back outside in the daytime.

After a few days, they can stay indoors for the rest of the winter until the temperature rises again in the spring.


Soil often becomes quickly dehydrated inside – the indoor humidity is much lower when the heating is on in your home or office, and the water in the soil evaporates faster.

On the other hand, you won’t typically need to apply fertilizer. Your interior planting design can last the winter without it. Then, when you are ready to bring your plants outside in the spring, it is a good time to give them a nutrient boost.

Bringing your plants out in the spring is also a good time to consider if your plantscape would benefit from repotting.

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A challenge for humans and plants during the winter is the reduction in sunlight. With the shorter days in most parts of the country, it can be harder than ever to give your best indoor plants the sun they need to thrive.

For that reason, ensure you follow the plant care instructions for your specific plant type. If they need direct sunlight, find somewhere in your home where the plant can receive the maximum sun. Ideally, it would be best if you used a south-facing window.

You may need to reposition your plants in the winter months to help them to receive the necessary hours of sunlight each day, and if they are still struggling to get enough sun, consider installing a grow light to provide them with extra light while they are inside.


While the heating in your home can dry out the soil for your plants, don’t be tempted to overwater them in the winter.

Overwatering is the most common cause of indoor plant death. You’ll be surprised how little water they need in the winter.

Most tropical plants in the office and succulents don’t need watering as much as you might think. For example, you’ll likely be safe leaving them unwatered for a couple of weeks during the winter break if you aren’t going to be in the office as much.


Before moving any plants indoors, you must thoroughly check them for pests.

Over the summer, it’s very common for spider mites and aphids to make their way onto plants, so check under the leaves to see their condition before relocating them.

We recommend using an insecticidal soap and washing your plants with water before moving them so that you don’t have any issues or spread these pests to your other greenscape plants.

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Key Takeaways

Interior planting design is something that homeowners and business owners can benefit from throughout the year. However, even the best indoor plants need to follow different plant care instructions in the winter.

It’s best to move your plants indoors gradually. Look out for the key signs we’ve shared above to help make this process smooth for all of your plants.

By following the tips we’ve shared above, you can create a beautiful greenscape that will continue to thrive all year round.

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Boston’s Plantscaping Specialists

Foliaire is a full-service interior and exterior greenscape design-build firm in Boston’s historic South End. For over 40 years, we’ve provided award-winning plantscaping services in the Boston Metro area.

We customize and plan our roof garden projects and interior plantscaping to fit your unique space and tastes. That’s how we’ve built a reputation of unparalleled style and elegance for corporate plantscaping and residential community projects.

In addition, we’ve received several environmental design awards and have appeared in several publications. You can find us in Architectural Digest, House and Garden, Horticulture, and Interiorscape.

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