Gardens

Hilton Carter reveals the one thing you must do to keep house plants alive in winter

The Wild Creations author says caring for them can boost your wellbeing, too

Hilton Carter house plant cleaning tip
(Image credit: Neil Daftary/Unsplash)

Do your house plants suffer every winter? That could be because we've all been missing one simple care trick that can transform them into healthy specimens, according to Hilton Carter, Baltimore-based plantfluencer and author – see more on his books, including the hotly-anticipated Wild Creations, below. 

Hilton is adamant that house plants aren't just props, but living things and family members. Treat them like treasured pets, he says – caring for them individually in a way that suits their needs – and only bring them home if you can really cope with the maintenance they demand. 

His biggest tip for caring for house plants in winter? Cleaning them – not for aesthetics but to help them thrive in the poor light they tend to receive during darker days. 

He explains in a recent Instagram post: 

'PSA (Plant Service Announcement): Remember that wiping your leaves down twice a month can help deter bugs but will also let more daylight caress the tissue of your foliage! And that could be very useful for those that live in darker spaces or during the winter months.'

And it makes sense – as Hilton has been quoted as saying before, dust can block the light leaves need to help a plant thrive, but can be easily removed with a soft cloth dipped in lukewarm water. 

Hilton Carter's house plant cleaning tip

(Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

What can I use to clean house plant leaves?

Use the soft cloth/warm water method we described above. 

Plants kept in rooms, such as kitchens, where leaves will attract a sticky grime, might need wiping with a solution of warm water diluted with just a little dish soap – choose the mildest you can find, such as Method's.

Ensure you clean both the top and underside of the plant's leaves – the top may be covered with dust but the underside might be harboring pests, such as spider mites.

5 more house plant care tips for winter

Healthy house plants don't just look better, caring for them can improve our wellbeing, especially during the dark days of winter. 

'Plant care is self care,' says Hilton Carter on his Instagram feed. 'Well, for me it is. It’s a moment to let the day slow down and let the stresses of the world dissipate. This is a peek into what my day will look like. 

'Plants don’t innately make people happy. It’s when you’re able to properly care for them and see your plants thrive that you’ll find that happiness. So the new motto should be, HAPPY PLANT, HAPPY YOU.'

And, of course, cleaning house plants can help with the air-purifying function they naturally perform. With this in mind, try these house plant winter care tips to boost your plants' health.

1. Move house plants near the windows in winter

Your rooms will be getting less light in winter and dull corners can be dark corners on dull days, so it's worth moving house plants that are visibly suffering into brighter spots temporarily.

2. Check the room temperature

Moving your house plants to brighter spots could, in itself, be problematic for your plant, so do it with care. Windows and windowsills can be cold spots – too chilly for your plants to thrive, so ensure they're nearer the windows in winter, but not necessarily pressed right up against them.

Equally, hot spots will be tricky for house plants to cope with. If the house plant that loves your mantelpiece year round is suddenly dealing with the heat of a fire or a plant that's sits next to a radiator belting out heat is wilting, you need to move it – fast.

3. Turn your house plants regularly

Plants grow towards the light, obviously, but if you never rotate it, it will grow crooked and fall over. In winter, you'll need to turn the plant so that all sides get equal daylight... in summer you may need to turn it so that the leaves get a break from scorching sunlight. 

You don't need to do this too often – once a month will do. Hilton, it should be noted, sets reminders on his calendar so he doesn't forget any of his individual plants' needs.

4. Don't over-water house plants in winter

If your house plants' leaves are going brown, it's likely they're being over-watered – see UK gardening guru Monty Don's house plant watering tips for more on this. 

In summer, we know that plants' soil dries quickly and that they're regularly thirsty. In winter, it's all about individual rooms' temperatures – warm rooms you're spending lots of time in will probably house thirstier house plants than those in cooler spaces that you don't use during the day, such as bedrooms..

5. Check that you and your house plants are well-matched

It's tempting to buy house plants based on their looks and size alone, but checking that they will thrive in that particular spot in your home – and that you are going to be able to care for them based on their needs is vital. 

So, if you have a corner you'd like to fill with a house plant, first take a note of light levels and room temperature to ensure what you buy will actually be happy in that spot. Then check its maintenance requirements – and avoid difficult-to-care-for or demanding house plants if you don't have the green thumb or time to devote to it. 

Finally, if you have animals at home, check your are buying pet-friendly house plants that will be safe if they nibble at them.

In other words, look for low maintenance house plants rather than house plants that are hard to keep alive and you'll hit the sweet spot.

Don't miss Hilton Carter's house plant books

Wild Creations – Inspiring Projects to Create plus Plant Care Tips & Styling Ideas for Your Own Wild InteriorHilton Carter shows how you can make, style, decorate and care for your own stunning plant-inspired interior with his 25 step-by-step DIY projects and plant hacks.

Wild Interiors – beautiful plants in beautiful spaces – Hilton first guides you through his own plant journey, his inspirations, and his top ten favorite house plants. He then takes you on a Journey in Greenery where he showcases the homes of 12 inspiring plant parents that demonstrate the versatility of decorating with plants.

Wild at Home: How to style and care for beautiful plants – came out in 2019 and is a wonderful introduction to both displaying and maintaining house plants. ‘Having plants in your home not only adds life, but changes the airflow throughout,' says Hilton in the book.VIEW DEAL ON

Lucy Searle
Lucy Searle

My first job was writing a DIY column for a magazine for the over 50s (which seemed a long way off back then). I then moved to a DIY magazine as deputy ed, then freelanced my way around the homes departments of most women's magazines on the market before working on Your Home and Family Circle magazines as homes editor. From there, I went to Ideal Home magazine as associate editor, then launched 4Homes magazine for Channel 4, then the Channel 4 4Homes website before going back to freelancing and running a social media business (you can see where I had kids from the freelancing gaps!). I was tempted back to the world of big business by the chance to work with the great team at Realhomes.com, where I was Global Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years, taking it from a small website to a global entity. I've now handed the reins of the website to our American managing editor, while I take on a new challenge as Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens.