Search Login


Understanding Houseplant Dormancy and How to Care for Dormant Plants

Understanding Houseplant Dormancy and How to Care for Dormant Plants

What is Houseplant Dormancy?

Houseplant dormancy is a natural process where a plant slows down its growth and conserves energy in response to environmental changes, typically during the winter months. Just like animals hibernate, plants go through a resting period to survive adverse conditions and prepare for new growth in the upcoming growing season. Understanding dormancy is crucial for houseplant enthusiasts, as it allows you to provide proper care during this period and ensure your plants remain healthy and vibrant.

Factors Affecting Dormancy in Houseplants

Several factors can trigger dormancy in houseplants, including:

  • Temperature: Colder temperatures signal the plant to slow down its growth and conserve energy.
  • Light: Shorter days with less sunlight contribute to reduced growth and activity in plants.
  • Humidity: Lower humidity levels can cause plants to lose water, slowing down their growth.
  • Water and nutrients: As plants enter dormancy, their water and plant nutrient requirements decrease.

Understanding these factors can help you recognize when your houseplants are entering dormancy and adjust your care accordingly.

What Is The Purpose of Plants Going Dormant?

From April to August, plants experience a period of vigorous growth and development, producing flowers and leaves at a rapid pace. This time, known as the growing season, is not only applicable to outdoor gardens but also indoor plants. The warmer temperatures and extended daylight hours during these months enable indoor plants to flourish. The increased opportunity for photosynthesis allows them to generate more energy, which they utilize to develop larger leaves and sturdier stems.

The shorter daylight hours and cooler temperatures result in reduced photosynthesis time, forcing plants to use their limited stored energy to survive the cold rather than promoting new growth. Consequently, you might observe a decrease in leaf production and the shedding of weaker leaves. The plant's primary goal is to maintain its health, and a significant part of that responsibility lies with you, the caretaker.

Why Do Some Houseplants Go Dormant While Others Don't?

While many houseplants do experience a dormant period, not all of them do. The reason behind this has to do with the native environment of the plant. Houseplants that come from tropical environments, such as many types of ferns, philodendrons, and monsteras, do not experience the same level of seasonal change as those from temperate climates. Therefore, they are less likely to go dormant in the winter months. However, some tropical plants may still experience a brief period of reduced growth during the winter, as the shorter days can still impact their photosynthesis.

On the other hand, plants native to temperate regions, are adapted to withstand seasonal changes in temperature and light. They have evolved to go dormant in the winter as a survival mechanism, conserving energy and resources until the warmer months when they can resume growth. It's important to research the specific dormancy patterns of your houseplants to provide the best care during their rest.

Here you can find a list of what plants that do go dormant.

Common Houseplants Dormant Periods And Care Tips

Different plants have different dormancy patterns, knowing when your houseplants enter dormancy will help you provide the best care and ensure they thrive throughout the year. Here's a closer look at the dormant periods of some common houseplants and the specific care requirements for each one while in dormancy:

Aloe Vera: Winter Dormancy

Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to arid regions and is known for its healing properties. During winter, the plant enters dormancy as it conserves energy to survive the colder months. During this period, the growth rate slows down, and water requirements decrease.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Water sparingly: Allow the soil to dry completely before watering, as overwatering can lead to root rot.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature range of 55-80°F (13-27°C) to mimic its natural habitat.
  • Light: Place in a bright location with indirect sunlight, or use a grow light to supplement natural light.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria): Winter Dormancy

Snake plants are popular for their hardiness and air-purifying properties. These low-maintenance plants originate from West Africa and enter dormancy during winter months.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Watering: Reduce watering frequency, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Temperature: Keep the temperature between 60-85°F (15-29°C) for optimal growth.
  • Light: Provide bright, indirect light, or use a grow light if natural light is insufficient.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Winter Dormancy

Spider plants are known for their air-purifying plant abilities and adaptability to various conditions. Native to tropical and southern Africa, spider plants enter dormancy in winter.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Watering: Water less frequently, ensuring the soil dries slightly between waterings.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature range of 65-75°F (18-24°C) for best results.
  • Light: Spider plants require bright, indirect light or supplemental grow light during dormancy.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): Late Fall to Early Spring Dormancy

ZZ plants are native to eastern Africa and are cherished for their low-maintenance plant care requirements. These plants enter dormancy from late fall to early spring.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Watering: Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry out completely between waterings.
  • Temperature: Keep the temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C) for optimal growth.
  • Light: ZZ plants can tolerate low light but prefer bright, indirect light. However, during dormancy, they do not require as much light as they do during their active growth period. Overexposure to light can cause the plant's leaves to turn yellow, so it's important to find a balance and not expose ZZ plants to too much light during their dormancy.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): Late Fall to Early Spring Dormancy

Pothos plants are versatile, fast-growing plants native to Southeast Asia and the Solomon Islands. They enter dormancy from late fall to early spring.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Watering: Reduce watering frequency, allowing the soil to dry slightly before watering again.
  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature range of 65-85°F (18-29°C) for best results.
  • Light: Pothos plants prefer bright, indirect light but can tolerate low light or supplemental grow-light during dormancy.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): Winter Dormancy

Peace lilies are popular indoor plants known for their beautiful, white flowers and air-purifying properties. Native to tropical regions of the Americas and Southeast Asia, they enter dormancy during winter months.

Dormant Care Tips:

  • Watering: Reduce watering frequency, allowing the soil to become slightly dry before watering again. Be cautious not to let the plant wilt, as this can cause stress and damage to the plant.
  • Temperature: Keep the temperature between 65-75°F (18-24°C) for optimal growth.
  • Light: The Peace Lily prefers bright, indirect light but can tolerate lower light conditions during dormancy.

Signs of Dormancy in Houseplants

Houseplants display several signs when entering dormancy, such as:

  • Slowed or stopped growth
  • Yellowing leaves or dropping of older leaves
  • Reduced water uptake
  • No new leaves or buds

When you observe these signs, it's important to adjust your plant care routine to meet the needs of dormant plants.

10 Tips to Bringing Your Plants out of Dormancy

As the dormant period ends, your plants will begin to show signs of new growth. To help them transition back to their active growing state, it is essential to take the proper steps to ensure their health and vitality. Keep in mind these 10 key observations to successfully help your plants emerge out of dormancy:

Identifying the End of Dormancy

The first step in bringing your plants out of dormancy is recognizing when the process is complete. Some common signs include the appearance of new leaves, buds, or growth at the base of the plant. Be patient and observant, as the end of dormancy can vary depending on the specific plant species.

Gradually Increase Watering

Once you've identified that your plant is ready to come out of dormancy, start by gradually increasing the amount of water you provide. Begin with a small amount and slowly increase it over a few weeks. Keep an eye on the moisture level of the soil to prevent overwatering or underwatering, as this can lead to root rot or dehydration.

Reintroduce Fertilization

As your plants exit dormancy and begin to grow, they will require additional nutrients to support their growth. Begin reintroducing fertilization at a reduced rate, then gradually increase the dosage over several weeks as the plant continues to grow. Be sure to follow the specific recommendations for your plant species to ensure optimal nutrition.

Prune and Repot as Necessary

Coming out of dormancy is an excellent time to assess your plants for any necessary pruning or repotting. Remove any dead leaves or branches to encourage new growth and maintain a clean and healthy appearance. If your plant has outgrown its current container, repot it in a larger pot to provide the necessary space for continued growth.

Optimize Lighting Conditions

Proper lighting is crucial for your plants' health and growth, especially as they transition out of dormancy. Soltech offer a range of LED grow light solutions to support your plants in any indoor setting. Our grow-lights act as a sunlight replacement, perfect for spaces with limited natural light, dark corners, or office environments.

We recommend our Vita grow-bulb for those looking for a versatile lighting solution. This LED plant lightbulb can easily be attached to any lamp, providing your plants with the light they need to thrive.

For a stylish, functional option, consider the Soltech Aspect hanging pendant grow-light. With its sleek design, the Aspect adds a touch of sophistication to your space while ensuring your plants receive the optimal light for growth. Alternatively, the Highland track plant light system is ideal for larger areas or large collections of plants. This innovative system allows you to beam light into specific areas, ensuring that every plant receives the light it needs to flourish.

Monitor Temperature and Humidity

As your plants emerge from dormancy, it's crucial to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels to support their growth. Research the specific requirements for your plant species and adjust your home or office environment accordingly. In some cases, you may need to invest in a humidifier or dehumidifier to create the ideal conditions.

Be Patient and Observant

Bringing your plants out of dormancy can be a delicate process, so it's important to be patient and observant during this transition. Keep a close eye on your plants for any signs of distress, such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or dropping leaves. If you notice any issues, adjust your care routine accordingly and consult a plant expert if necessary.

Pest Prevention and Management

As your plants begin to grow, they may become more susceptible to pests. Inspect your plants regularly for any signs of infestation and take immediate action to prevent further damage. Keep your plants clean and remove any debris from the soil, as this can provide a breeding ground for pests. If you do encounter pests, use eco-friendly and non-toxic methods to eliminate them and protect your plants. Read all about indoor plant pests and how to gt rid of them.

Gradually Acclimate to New Conditions

If you plan to move your plants to a new location or introduce them to different lighting conditions, make sure to do so gradually. Sudden changes in light or temperature can stress your plants and impede their growth. To acclimate your plants, move them to the new location or adjust their light source in small increments over a few days or weeks.

Celebrate Your Plant's New Growth!

As your plants transition out of dormancy and start to grow, take the time to celebrate their progress. Document your plants' development through photos or a journal, and share your plant success stories with friends and fellow plant enthusiasts. Sharing Instagram posts is a great way to do this. You can check out our Soltech plantstagram where we might post you if you get a great pic of your thriving plants with your Soltech light!

Nurturing your plants through dormancy and witnessing their return to growth can be a rewarding experience, and it's essential to appreciate the process.

If you have additional questions or concerns about plant dormancy, we recommend this helpful read: on Plant Dormancy from The Gardening Channel.

Understanding houseplant dormancy is essential for providing the best care to your plants throughout the year. By recognizing the specific dormant periods of your houseplants and adjusting your care routine accordingly, you can ensure that your indoor plants remain healthy and beautiful. Remember to monitor your plants' water, temperature, light, and other needs during their dormancy, and provide supplemental care as needed.

For additional houseplant care tips and resources, be sure to check out Melissa Lo's “Houseplant Oasis: A Guide to Caring for Your Plants + Styling Them in Your Home”. Here, you'll find detailed instructions for keeping your plants healthy and happy all year long