Use Plants to Prevent the Winter Blues

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Use Plants to Prevent the Winter Blues

So, how are your indoor plants doing? Are they dropping leaves, or looking sad? How are you surviving winter thus far? May I offer a few ideas to get you both through the dark days until spring?

To keep your plants alive and happy, consider the place from which your plant hails along with its environment. Agaves, my favorite indoor/outdoor plants, and cacti are both desert dwellers. Since I often get preoccupied in winter and forget to water, they are both also the perfect indoor plants for me. In autumn when I bring in my agaves, I check them for bugs and determine if they need a larger container. Then, I place the agaves atop my grandmother’s sewing machine in a west-facing window. This window opens upon a line of trees on the hill beside my house, so even on warm, winter days, the agaves get a respite from afternoon sun. Agaves and other succulents thrive in bright, indoor light so this spot is perfect for them.    

Other favorite houseplants are often tropical, and I find these perform better in my bathroom where they get east and south light. Moisture from the shower makes their leaves shine, and you don’t have to water as much as you might think. Overwatering kills more houseplants than neglect.


One of the best trends in gardening is pulling together like things, and it works perfectly indoors too. Group like plants or pots together for greater visual impact.

Herbs in the windowsill

For your kitchen, try herbs in a window. Instead of starting with seeds, buy herbs in pots and then transplant them into containers like these fun, Fiskars Eco-Friendly round planters in purple. I found rosemary, variegated sage and a smaller globe basil at the grocery store, and because I wanted to place them on a windowsill, I planted mine into one rectangular, red container. I chose red because it’s a cheery color in winter and contrasts nicely with green foliage. If my herbs outgrow their space after winter, I can plant them in the garden come spring. Snip off new growth to cook with, or simply run your hands across them for an aromatherapy boost.  At my desk, I rotate a plant in and out of my writing area which happens to be in our kitchen. Having a bit of green at my fingertips is a wonderful thing in winter. Small African violets or other easy-care plants are great for this. If the plant isn’t getting enough sun, I rotate it back to a window bringing another to inhabit my workspace.

forcing bulbs

This winter, try forcing some bulbs. Although we see tulips, narcissus (daffodils) and crocus outside in March and April, there’s nothing stopping us from also growing these plants indoors where we can enjoy them up close. Bulbs that need a cooling period can sit in the refrigerator for twelve to sixteen weeks, but keep them away from apples or other ripening fruit. If you live in a cold area, you may also use cold frames, your garage or a basement to cool bulbs for forcing, and you can plant them in containers before they begin the cooling process.  I like daffodils in the Tazetta class (paper whites) because they don’t need chilling, and some, like ‘Geranium’ and ‘Inbal’ smell much nicer than the more common ‘Ziva.’ Check out William B. Miller’s advice from Cornell University about how to keep stems shorter and more manageable. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) are other great plants for growing indoors and so easy. Before they grow too large, make a support. They get large, and you don’t want your container to fall over. Trust me, I’ve had it happen.


These tips should help you and your plants to thrive throughout winter. Growing plants indoors is worth the time and effort because a bit of green at your fingertips is essential for a gardener to fend off the winter blues.