There are (many) reasons why house plant parents hate winter, including the dormant period when their plants rest. Growth is something we enjoy. When a plant is putting out new growth, it is happy. Is it true that houseplants go dormant when the weather gets cold? There is a very common debate among house plant parents about this issue, and I can answer it as follows:
A decrease in temperature, low humidity, shorter days, and lower light levels cause some house plants to show signs of dormancy in the wintertime. Whilst some plants truly go dormant and drop all their leaves, most just slow down significantly, putting out less new growth to conserve energy.
Why do plants go dormant?
In a nutshell, they’re unhappy with their current situation. It’s understandable, right?
If you were adapted to live in a rainforest the entirety of your life but were actually forced to adapt to an indoor environment, you would have to learn how to adjust.
In general, rainforests are warm, humid, and generally beautiful all year long. Since our houses don’t match our plants, they become confused. Thus, they slow down, sometimes even taking a life break and becoming dormant.
Plants don’t usually go dormant during the winter. They just try to conserve as much energy as possible. In other words, they’re trying to preserve what they already have, not grow anything new. Occasionally, the plant gets winter growth, which is rather sad.
During the fall and winter, the plant’s growth is usually smaller and sometimes crispy; this is probably due to the plant’s stress and the fact that the rain doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it did in the summer. They don’t have the energy to add new leaves right now.
What happens to a plant when it goes dormant?
Oh my gosh, that’s pretty frightening. If you keep yours in a warm, humid, and light environment, you can help keep them from being damaged. Because there is most light near the windows, and that is also where it gets coldest, this can be a problem. I put my alocasia about four feet from a window, but I used a mirror behind it to enhance the light.
It was a brilliant setting. Only when deep into winter did I realize the mirror placement prevented the plant from going dormant.
As a side note, some plants need to dormant during the winter. It is part of the lifecycle of an organism. Nonetheless, this site is all about house plants, and there aren’t very many house plants that go dormant in nature.
Plants like cyclamen, that die off and regrow if you take good care of the bulb, are examples. Unfortunately, I can’t assist you with that since I tried my hardest but the root just vanished. It may have rotted, or it may have been stolen. We won’t know for sure.
Are there different types of dormancy?
Dormancy is classified into two types, and they are pretty self-explanatory:
When an organism goes dormant prior to whatever it is that makes it dormant, this is called predictive dormancy. During the dormant season, plants who use photoperiods detect when the light is diminishing and go dormant. Inhabitants of native species are more likely to develop this condition, which also occurs in autumn when temperatures start to fall.
When an organism goes into dormancy as a result of having been adversely affected, that is called consequential dormancy. This phenomenon is more likely to occur in house plants because they don’t experience winter naturally, so they won’t have evolved the dormancy response to photoperiods and temperature decreases. Tropical rainforests don’t get sudden and prolonged temperature drops. Even though the world is changing at the moment, they might have to adapt, and quickly.
In any case, it seems that plants conserve energy safely before winter by entering a state of predictive dormancy, but that is not a guarantee. As a result of a warm winter, we may see a bit of growth in plants, despite low light levels. A growing season that does not end at the first sniff of winter will help organisms extend their lifespan.
Signs that your plant has gone dormant
- All its leaves drop off
Since leaves are such a big deal, this is very alarming indeed. However, some plants, such as alocasia, will grow back from their tubers in the spring. I’m thus trying not to panic when my Alocasia Zebrina reaches the end of its life cycle. There is nothing to worry about.
- It looks dead
That’s essentially what we’re looking for in houseplants.
Do plants always go dormant in winter?
Ultimately, it is determined by the plant.
In the winter, some plants will go dormant. However, these plants are usually outside. You would not need to water your tropical house plant if you could maintain the conditions one would find most likely in a rainforest.
And the cyclamen, which was mentioned earlier, is one of the plants that go dormant in summer. Flowering occurs during the winter and sleeping occurs throughout the summer. The reason they flower in the winter is that they are from the Mediterranean, which has better flowering conditions.
Are some plants more likely to go into dormancy than others?
In general, the plants that are in need of the most light, humidity, and warmth are the ones that have the most difficulty staying active. In the event of consequential dormancy, your plant will keep growing, though it may become somewhat gnarly.
Is there anything I can do to stop my plants going dormant?
My plants have not been in particular need of special care. I didn’t run my heater any more than usual (and, as I said, my house is old and drafty) and no humidifier was used because my house is already pretty humid.
A few quick tips to help you avoid dormancy are as follows:
Check your plants regularly for pests
During winter, plants are at a weaker stage and can’t protect themselves from insects.
Dust your plants
Neem oil solution is sprayed on mine and they are wiped with a cloth. While I don’t do this as often as I should (like, once every 2 -3 months, oops), but it is a good way to keep bugs from bothering your plants and it allows the leaves to get as much light as possible.
Water them enough
Despite the fact that plants require less water in winter than they do in summer, they actually require more than you may think. You should check their moisture levels every week, and make sure the water you give them is room temperature or a bit warmer. You may want to add a small amount of hot water to your watering can if you didn’t have the foresight to leave the water out overnight to acclimate.
Plants can get dried out when they’re exposed to central heating, so consider getting a humidifier (it’s also good for you). In this way, you’ll be more like the rainforest, and it’ll reduce the chance of new growth coming in crispy. It’s bad enough that winter growth is sluggish, let’s not have crispy tips too.
Get grow lights
You may think it’s fine to move your plants closer to the window for light, but you risk them getting too cold.
Do plants go dormant in their natural environment?
In rainforests, no.
A plant’s growth rate varies depending on the season – a lot of growth in the rainy season, for example. It’s possible for some plants in the tropics to go dormant, but that isn’t what you’ll find in a home with a temperate climate.
Although tropical regions do experience seasons, they may differ from ours; for example, Vietnam does not experience freezing winters (well, sort of), we also do not have monsoon season.
Plants have to deal with different things in different regions, so its a bit swings and roundabouts. Your living room may be cool, but at least you don’t have hordes of locusts.
A plant’s dormancy is a response to a certain set of conditions that some plants experience and others do not.
How to tell if your plant is dead or dormant?
The following tips will help you:
- Roots are brown and mushy – this plant is dying and needs attention.
- A living plant can be tested by snapping a branch, and if the inside is green, it’s alive. When it’s brown, it’s dead.
- Some plants such as alocasia, oxalis, and ZZ plants can revive themselves if they have tubers or rhizomes.