Peace Lily in UTIA office

Your indoor "garden" of houseplants need special care during the winter. Photo courtesy UTIA.

By Jason Reeves, research horticulturist and curator, UT Gardens, Jackson

If you’re a gardening enthusiast like me, you have a garden of houseplants inside to take care of during the winter months. Here are some tips to take care of your indoor plants.

Regularly rotate houseplants growing near a window to keep them from leaning toward the light source. If needed, pinch back new growth to promote bushy plants. Keep an eye out for insect outbreaks and quarantine-infested plants until the pest is under control. Wipe dust off large leaf plants like dumbcane (Dieffenbachia) and rubber plant (Ficus elastica) or place in the bathtub and give them a shower.

Don't forget to water your 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.

For added color and fragrance during the bleak days of January and February, check out your local garden center for leftover paperwhite and amaryllis bulbs that are likely to be on sale. Look for bulbs that are firm and have not sprouted. To keep your paperwhites from flopping over add alcohol to the water. For details on this unusual cultural technique, check out this website from Cornell:

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. They don't need to totally dry out but 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.

Study seed catalogs when the cold days of winter seem unrelenting and dream of lush, warmer days ahead.

he 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



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