If you have a garden, you probably take pride in your beautiful plants, and maybe even care about a few favorites that are especially lovely or fast-growing. When winter comes, you may not wish to stand by and watch all of them die off.  

Fortunately, this is not the only option. You can overwinter certain houseplants to ensure their survival, allowing you to hold onto your favorites, and eliminating the need to replace certain plants the following year (saving hassle and money).

Here we will discuss:
Why Overwintering Some Plants Indoors is Necessary
When to Overwinter Your Plants Indoors
How to Overwinter Plants Indoors
Where You Should Overwinter Your Plants Indoors
Common Issues with Overwintering Plants Indoors

Why Overwintering Some Plants Indoors is Necessary 

Some plants, like roses, will naturally go dormant and survive an outdoor winter. Others are not quite as hardy, and will swiftly wither in the face of cold weather. Overwintering these plants indoors is not merely for their comfort, but also for their survival. 

Even if some tender perennials and tropicals survive the first frost, they are sure to sustain damage, and nursing them back to health by overwintering them indoors will not always succeed after this (often the combined stress of cold damage and uprooting is too much, causing the plant to weaken excessively and die).

Some popular types of plants that you can successfully winter indoors, through repotting and/or cuttings, are:

  • Succulents
  • Cacti
  • Ferns
  • Pothos
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Geraniums
  • Coleus 
  • Azaleas
  • Jasmine
  • Hibiscus

When To Overwinter Your Plants Indoors

So, when should you overwinter your plants indoors? As a rule, you will want to bring your tender perennials and tropical plants in before the first frost, or else the intense cold of winter will kill most of them off. 

It is sometimes possible to still rescue extra-tough individual plants after the first frost, but after the second frost, even the hardiest of the tender perennial or tropical varieties will almost certainly be done-for.

How to Overwinter Plants Indoors

When it comes to removing plants for the winter from your garden itself, you will want to either take cuttings or dig up entire plants to move to containers (which you can then bring indoors). 

  • Dig Up the Entire Plant to Move to a Container

If you’ve grown attached to some especially lovely or well-growing plants, you may wish to rescue the entirety of the plants - leaf to root - from the deadly low temperatures of winter. How? Dig deep down into the soil around each plant with a hand shovel, giving about a ½ foot to 1-foot space from the plant to where you dig in (otherwise you can accidentally cut into the vital root system). Be sure to do this before the freezing temperatures of winter hit.

Coax the plant from the soil, never pulling on the stem or foliage but relying only on the hand shovel. Once the plant is free, remove some of the excess dirt, gently loosen the roots up a bit, and, if you wish, trim the root tips about ¼ inch, as this can help stimulate them to regrow in their new container. Finally, move the prepared plant to its new, soil-filled container, and shelter it in your home until the end of winter.

  • Take Cuttings

There are many houseplants, like succulents, African Violets, and Azaleas, that can be propagated through cuttings. Rather than digging them up, some consider this indoor overwintering method to be easier. 

How does it work? Cuttings can be taken from certain plants, like those with woody stems, succulents, and more. The plant cuttings can be placed indoors, warm and cozy in water or soil. Here, part of your plant will survive the winter and continue to grow.

Where You Should Overwinter Your Plants Indoors

Below, we'll list a few primary locations in which you can overwinter your plants indoors. Prime locations depend on the types of houseplants that you have and the spaces that you have available, whether those spaces are by a window or even in a greenhouse.

Overwinter Indoors In Front of a Sunny Window

The best spot to overwinter just about any plant indoors is in front of a bright, sunny window. South-facing and west-facing windows are the optimal choices, as they provide the most sunlight throughout the day (the exceptions are shade-loving plants, which may prefer north or east-facing windows).

Overwinter In Your Greenhouse

If you have a greenhouse, you can overwinter some plants there. Beware of harmful drafts and changes in temperature, because they are more common in a greenhouse than in your home.

Overwinter In the Basement with Lights

Even when taken indoors, plants can still be compelled to believe that it is, in fact, winter. While they will still become dormant, bringing them inside eliminates the risk of frost, and excessively low temperatures. How can you do this? You can use your basement to mimic a mild winter since it is naturally dark and cool. Dormant varieties need only minimal light and water.

Common Issues With Overwintering Plants Indoors

  • Bringing Them In Too Late

You may have the best intentions about bringing your plants in before the frost, but when the frost arrives unexpectedly, many of them can be killed off. Try to avoid this mistake by bringing them  in well before the first frost (sometimes as early as mid-late autumn), or as soon as the temperature starts dropping below 40°F. 

  • Too Much Water

When brought indoors, some plants will go at least partly dormant, and this means that they will require less water. If you continue to water them generously, root rot quickly becomes a risk. To avoid this, only water your houseplants once their soil has been completely dry for a day or two (unless they show signs of drying out, such as withering). This will make sure they can avoid root rot throughout winter.

  • Not Enough Sunlight or Humidity

Sometimes, when it comes to sunlight and humidity, an indoor climate just doesn’t cut it—especially during the winter. Your plants may need some extra care in order to remain healthy and continue to grow. The majority of your plants should be located in front of south or west-facing windows. When space runs out, ample plant lights will also work!

To increase the humidity for your plants, try pebble and rock trays beneath the pots, and consider investing in a humidifier. There are also houseplants—like the pothos—that like to be kept in a bathroom, where people frequently shower. 

  • Feeding in the Winter

This is a pretty simple and easily avoidable mistake: feeding your houseplants in the winter. Usually, they will become at least somewhat dormant, so giving them fertilizer can do more harm than good (it can cause mutations, overgrowth, etc.). Be sure to avoid giving them fertilizer until winter is over.