Gardening Enthusiasts Can Continue Cultivating, Even in the Cold

Help your indoor houseplants survive winter with these tips from UTIA expert Jason Reeves. ​Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Even though it is winter outside, plants that are inside still need care and attention. Gardening enthusiasts who have indoor houseplants are sure to appreciate these winter care tips from Jason Reeves, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture research horticulturist and garden curator at the UT Gardens, Jackson.

Houseplants growing near windows should be rotated regularly to keep them from leaning toward the light source. It’s also important to watch for insect outbreaks and quarantine infested plants to keep pests under control. With plants like dumbcane or rubber plant that have large leaves, Reeves says it’s important to wipe dust off them or even place them in the bathtub for a shower. 

The gardening expert also reminds enthusiasts to continue to water succulents. “Just because they like it on the dry side doesn't mean they don't need water. The lack of humidly in your home during the winter months can dry them out more than you think,” Reeves says.

The months of January and February can be bleak, and Reeves suggests checking out your local garden center for leftover paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs for added color. Look for bulbs that are firm and have not sprouted.

Keep a check on tropical plants like elephant ears, bananas, cannas, ginger, agaves, and Boston and Kimberly Queen ferns that you may have stored in an enclosed garage, basement or crawl space. Carefully check them for water. Reeves says they don't need to totally dry out, but they can easily be overwatered, causing them to rot. Any rotting foliage should be removed to prevent further decay.

Check stored garden produce such as potatoes, turnips, winter squash, apples and pears for bad spots that may lead to decay. Use those right away. Be sure the remaining produce is spaced to allow for good airflow.

When the cold days of winter seem unrelenting, Reeves suggests you study seed catalogs, plan your spring garden and dream of warmer days ahead.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.


The UT Gardens includes plant collections located in Knoxville, Jackson and Crossville. Designated as the official botanical garden for the State of Tennessee, the collections are part of the UT Institute of Agriculture. The gardens’ mission is to foster appreciation, education and stewardship of plants through garden displays, educational programs and research trials. The gardens are open during all seasons and free to the public. For more information see​


Contact: Jason Reeves, UT Gardens research horticulturist and curator, 731-425-4765,​​