Cool Temperature Houseplants

Think twice before turning your thermostat up as winter encroaches. Lowering the temperature in your house is an effective way to save natural resources, cut your heating bills, lower CO2 emissions, and reduce your carbon footprint. If you are trying to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle, learn to live in a cooler environment.

You can adjust by wearing warmer clothes inside (like a sweater or long sleeve shirt, and warm slippers), putting heavy drapes on your windows to keep in the precious heat you pay for, and cooking meals in the oven for added warmth. If you enjoy houseplants, you may want to decorate with those that tolerate cool temperatures.

succulent houseplant top view

No one wants to keep their heat too low, but don’t forget about power outages in bad storms. Houses can become refrigerators at the worst possible time, and you could lose all your plants if they are cold-sensitive.

Maybe you turn the heat off in rooms that are not used, but you would like to keep plants in them. If you heat your home with sunny windows, like I do, there can be cool spots along northern walls. Cool temperature plants would do well in those locations.

Native plants

Indoor houseplants are simply plants native to desert or tropical regions. I have a picture of my grandfather outside his home in Florida, and beside him is a huge, colorful Croton. Up north, Croton is a popular houseplant, but it needs warmer conditions than what I want to talk about in this post.

When I worked for an interior plantscaping company, we got a contract to install plants in a new outlet mall. My boss and our manager made several visits to nurseries in Florida to pick out tree-sized plants for use.

Point being, interior plants in temperate regions are outdoor plants in warmer areas. I have seen below freezing temperatures in Tucson in December, and citrus in Florida and California is frequently damaged by a hard freeze. Cold weather is not a stranger to these plants. The ones that hold up well are the ones that make good houseplants in cold climates.


In Tucson, I had aloe plants growing in my front yard. They were much bigger than what I had up north – at least a couple feet across with 3’ tall flower spikes! I watched them fare through the winter when temperatures dipped into the 30s. Needless to say, they make hardy houseplants!

The same goes for cacti and yucca. I was camping in the Sonoran desert one winter, and the morning temperature was about 20º. The cacti lived through it, and they will not mind 55º or so in your house.

Jade is a succulent native to South Africa, where it is hot, sunny and dry. Scant rain comes in winter, and the plants will tolerate temperatures to 50º.

Christmas and Thanksgiving Cacti originate in Brazilian rainforests. They will live in a cool temperature, but will not tolerate frost. That’s not a concern as a houseplant, though!

Herbaceous plants

In the oil embargo and energy crisis of 1974, I lived downstairs from the woman who owned a houseplant store. She suggested Piggyback Plant for the cooler temperatures on our thermostats, and the bright light we had in our apartments. She also took into consideration the drafty 1700s building we lived in!

piggyback plant

Tolmiea menziesii (piggyback plant) (image: J Brew)

My mother closed off my bedroom after I moved away from home. She filled it with geraniums, the proper name of which is Pelargonium. They thrived in the sun and cool overnight temperatures.

The Norfolk Island Pine is endemic to Norfolk Island near Australia and New Zealand. Although it thrives in warm, coastal conditions, it will take a bit of cold and even snow, but not for a prolonged period of time.

Winter growing

Plants get less light with short days, so they grow less and need less maintenance. They don’t require as much water, and they should not be fertilized. This is especially true if plants are tolerant of cool temperatures. They slow way down to survive, so they do not need nourishment to keep them going strong.

Once the days begin to lengthen, watering and fertilizing will need to be increased. Plants may need repotting, too.

Although plants will tolerate cold weather, because they are from the tropics or the desert, they are perfectly suited to summer temperatures. So whatever you choose to grow in winter will thrive in summer. You can’t go wrong with cool temperature houseplants!

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