When the winter chill sets in and outside plants are dormant or faded, decorating with houseplants is a cheerful way to brighten your home. Keeping them healthy and happy in the reduced sunlight and low household humidity during the winter months, however, can be challenging. But don’t despair: Some plants will do well in spite of the dry, lower-light conditions in the house.
Why do some plants thrive in the house and others do not? It comes down to adaptability. Each plant is unique in its needs, and the most adaptable ones will grow in a wide range of conditions. If you can just supply the basics of light, warmth, good watering practices, and increased humidity, you should be able to grow beautiful plants over the winter months.
Here are 13 flowering and foliage plants that do well in most households even when the weather outdoors turns cold.
The handsome poinsettia is a perennial shrub native to Mexico and Central America, where it blooms in the winter along stream banks and moist hillsides. It was introduced to the United States floral industry in the early 1800s and has become a popular decorative and gift plant during the Christmas season. Poinsettia’s original colors are red bracts and dark green leaves, but it has been hybridized to have other colors as well, such as white, salmon, pink, and yellow.
Indoors, they do best in six to eight hours a day of bright, indirect light and in average household temperatures, from 65 to 75 degrees. Poinsettias also appreciate some humidity, and they should be watered when the surface of the soil becomes dry.
Cyclamen’s pretty heart-shaped, patterned leaves and white, violet, pink, or red nodding flowers make them popular houseplants during the winter and gifts for Valentine’s Day. They bloom from November through March and are native to Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.
Like many houseplants, cyclamen do best in bright, indirect light and average household temperatures that are on the cool side, between 60 and 70 degrees. They don’t do well in drafts or low humidity, so it’s important to boost the humidity with a pebble tray or humidifier. Water when the soil is dry an inch down from the top, making sure to keep the leaves and crown of the plant dry. In the late spring and summer, when cyclamen go dormant, water sparingly, and move the plant to a darker location until it revives in the fall.
3. Christmas cactus
Natives of the Brazilian rainforests, Christmas cacti have flattened, segmented leaves that grow in an arching shape, making them excellent hanging pot plants. The late fall and winter flowers are usually red but can be pink, white, purple, or shades of yellow. They are the quintessential winter holiday plant.
Christmas cacti are usually in bloom when they’re for sale; to rebloom, they need diffused light for 11 hours a day and 13 hours of total darkness starting in September. They will be fine in average household temperatures, but may suffer if exposed to hot or cold drafts, and may drop their buds and flowers. Since Christmas cacti are rainforest plants, they love humidity and would do well on a pebble tray with daily misting, or with a humidifier. Water them thoroughly, then allow the soil to dry before watering again.
4. Kalanchoe (Flaming Katy)
Kalanchoe, or flaming Katy, is a succulent native to Madagascar and tropical Africa. It is a cheerful indoor plant for the winter, with the shortening daylight hours triggering it to bloom in clusters of red, salmon, or pink against its scalloped leaves.
Kalanchoe is easygoing, and will grow and bloom well in very bright, indirect light and in average household temperatures and humidity. Since it is a succulent, water it only when the soil is dry.
There are many types of bromeliads, native to tropical America, that make unique additions to a winter houseplant collection. Their exotic flowers come in all shapes and colors, including red, yellow, orange, and sometimes blue, and they have interesting foliage, too, with solid green, gray, striped, banded, or rainbow-colored leaves.
Bromeliads are easy to grow indoors. Give them bright to moderate indirect light, warm temperatures of 60 to 85 degrees, and 60% humidity, if possible. A pebble tray or humidifier would be helpful for these plants. Water them in their “cups,” which are formed from the overlapping leaves. Tiny air plants like bromeliads should be soaked upside-down for an hour in water once a week.
The orchid, the 2023 Flower of the Year, is an elegant member of the flower kingdom and is native to every continent but Antarctica. The species most often available for sale in Europe and the U.S. are phalaenopsis and dendrobium, both of which come in a range of colors. Given their striking beauty, one might assume that orchids would be difficult plants to grow, but they are actually quite easy and can be excellent indoor plants for the winter.
For orchids to thrive and bloom, give them plenty of bright, indirect light and temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees. They do need a chunky potting mix that provides good air circulation around their roots and require water only once a week. It is well to boost your room’s humidity to between 40% and 70% with pebble trays or a humidifier.
The anthurium‘s vivid red flower head shining against heart-shaped dark green leaves makes it a bright addition to a sunny winter room. Native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, anthurium has become a beloved holiday and Valentine’s Day plant.
As with so many other tropical houseplants, anthuriums love bright, indirect light, warm temperatures (65 to 85 degrees), and above-average household humidity that can be increased with a pebble tray. Water when the top of the soil is dry.
8. Snake plant
The handsome snake plant, with its sword-like, patterned leaves, is a native of tropical West Africa. Its many varieties range from short to tall, with different combinations of stripes and mottling of white, cream, green, and yellow on the leaves. It is an excellent houseplant because it requires very little care and is tolerant of household conditions any time of year.
A snake plant will happily grow in almost any amount of light, in 70- to 90-degree temperatures, and needs only infrequent watering. Although it’s nearly indestructible, a snake plant does not like hot or cold drafts, or being over-watered.
9. Jade plant
The jade plant is a perfect indoor plant for the winter. A succulent shrub native to Africa, it can grow up to six feet tall. Jade’s oval, fleshy leaves and branching habit resembling a small tree make it an attractive addition to a room.
For this plant to develop a pleasing shape, it needs at least six hours of bright light out of the direct sun’s rays. Normal household temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees and 30% to 50% humidity are fine. Jade likes its soil to be consistently moist but never soggy. Be sure to supply an excellent-draining potting mix so that it will not retain excess water.
Cute, curious succulents are all the rage, and for good reason. They are easy to grow, given the right conditions, and are usually quite small. They come in a variety of shapes and colors, and can be displayed in a delightful array of pots, terrariums, and planters. Succulents come from arid and semi-arid areas of the world, such as Africa, Mexico, and Central America, and they are resilient, drought-resistant plants.
They do need enough light, though. In their natural habitats, they live at the base of taller plants, so they get bright light but not direct sun. Position your succulents so that they get maximum light away from the sun’s scorching rays. They are tolerant of average household temperatures and humidity, and only need to be watered when their soil is dry, or about once a month. Make sure the water drains out of the pot so that the roots are not sitting in moisture, and use a potting mix that is light and well draining.
11. ZZ plant
The odd name of the ZZ plant comes from its scientific name, Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It is native to the dry grasslands and forests of East Africa, and has a distinctive, prehistoric look, with dark green, leathery, compound leaves growing up from its rhizomes (stems that grow underground).
Although it is tolerant of various amounts of light, the low-maintenance ZZ plant does best in bright but not direct light, the former of which could scorch its leaves. It will grow well in average household temperatures and humidity, and only needs water when the soil has completely dried out.
Beautiful, trailing pothos is one of the easiest plants to grow in the house any season of the year. It comes in many variegated forms, with yellow, white, or light green patterns decorating its heart-shaped, pointed leaves. Native to the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific, pothos will naturally grow up to 40 feet long in the wild. With support, it will reach 20 to 30 feet in length indoors, although a hanging pot will usually keep it much shorter.
The beautiful variegation that is so prized in pothos will revert to all green if not given enough light. Medium to bright indirect light and average household temperatures are best. Water when the soil is dry. Although tolerant of low household humidity, pothos prefer a more humid environment, so rooms like the kitchen or bathroom are good places to put your plant.
Also known as Chinese evergreens, aglaonemas come in a large number of delightful colors that have made them popular low-maintenance indoor plants. Their oval leaves shine with green, red, pink, silver, or white patterns that brighten up a room. Aglaonemas are native to warm forest floors of the Philippines and northeastern Sulawesi, an Indonesian island.
As with other variegated plants, the lighter the leaf, the more sun is required. Light-colored aglaonemas need bright, indirect light, but darker-leaved ones can grow happily in moderate light away from the window. They do like warmth, 70 degrees or above, and high humidity. Locate them in a room with higher humidity, like the kitchen or bathroom, or set them on a pebble tray or near a humidifier. Water thoroughly when the soil has dried out, making sure the water drains completely out of the pot.