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Can Indoor Plants Recover From Cold Shock?

Indoor plants can have a significant effect on the overall aesthetic of your home, and they can give your living spaces a natural feel. Many plants can thrive inside the house, yet problems arise from time to time, such as cold shock, for multiple reasons during winter. But, can indoor plants recover from cold shock?

If your indoor plants are suffering from cold shock, don’t worry, there are a few ways in which you can help them recover. Raise the humidity around the plant and give them a thorough watering. Generally, your indoor plants suffering from cold damage will recover if you catch the symptoms quickly enough. 

This article will discuss whether or not indoor plants can recover from cold shock. So keep reading; we have everything you need to know about whether or not your plants can recover from cold shock.

What Causes Plants To Suffer From Cold Shock?

Plants are like humans and animals in specific ways, as they are susceptible to the environments in which they live. Like humans, plants can suffer when exposed to cold temperatures, yet unlike humans, they cannot move, and thus they may begin to suffer from cold shock. But what exactly is cold shock?

If your home is heated, your indoor plant will most likely survive, but if you live in places where the temperatures reach below zero for a portion of the year, your plants may be in trouble. Most indoor plants are tropical species that need a good humidity level in the home to survive year-round. 

If your plants are exposed to climates below their native growing temperature, they will be in danger of cold shock. When the temperature surrounding the plant drops to below zero, the water within the leaves of the plants turns to ice, forcing them to expand and destroying the cellular walls. 

While this is permanent damage, cold shock does not mean your plant is dead. If the damage is centered on a small portion of the plants, there’s a good chance that it can recover and come back to life. Thus, the focus should be on minimizing the damage when cold shock sets it. 

Cold Shock On Indoor Plants

If your home is consistently heated throughout the year, you may not need to worry too much about cold shock on your indoor plants. However, if you live in a part of the world where the winters are long and violent, even houseplants in a heated home may be susceptible to cold shock. 

Here is what happens when cold shock sets in on your house plants:

Cold shock will cause a significant amount of damage to the cellular structure of your plants, especially during the wintertime when extreme frost is prevalent. 

When the temperature of the plant’s surroundings drops to below zero, the leaves of the plant will seem feeble and pale. Alongside this, the cold will damage the tissue of the plant. 

During the first stages of cold shock, the low temperature will force a high level of transpiration in your house plant. This means the water in the leaves is drawn out, leaving sad, limp, and wilted leaves.

A sudden drop in the temperature of the plant’s surroundings forces the organic enzymes in the plant to become inactive. Thus, this will often inhibit the physiological functions of the plant and stunt its growth. 

During extreme cold spells, the plant’s natural growth functions, such as Auxin and Gibberellin hormones, will also become inactive, causing multiple problems for the plant’s overall health.

Signs Of Cold Shock On Your Plants

If you believe your plants are suffering from cold shock but aren’t quite sure what the symptoms are, it’s pretty easy to notice once you know what you’re looking for. The most common symptoms are drooping and discoloration of the plant’s leaves.

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Here are five of the major signs that your house plants are suffering from cold shock:

Discoloration of the leaves

As cold shock begins, the plant leaves will start to die. You will begin to notice rare colors such as yellow, red, and white appearing as spots on the parts of the leaf that run close to the vein. Sometimes the entire leaf will change color. 

In this scenario, the colors represent the area most affected by the cold and where cellular damage has occurred. While this damage is minuscule, the leaves will eventually fall off. 

The leaves will also begin to wither and turn brown due to dehydration during the long cold periods. This is a sign of a lack of humidity, and with this comes multiple problems such as bacterial infections, fungal spores, and disease. 

The leaves have begun to wilt and droop

The damage begins at the cellular level as cold shock sets in on your indoor plants. You will notice that the leaves will start to become droopy, they will wilt and then eventually curl in on themselves.

You will notice that the leaves have lost all rigidity due to the cold temperatures. While wilting can often be seen as a sign of underwatering, it’s more than likely because of the sudden drop in the plant’s climatic environment if it’s during a cold period. 

Another indicator that your plant is suffering from cold shock is dry leaves. Due to this, your plant will not be able to photosynthesize, and thus, the leaves will dry out and die. A cold period will especially cause cellular damage in the leaves. 

Plants are turning back and mushy

Cold shock on your plant may cause the entire plant to turn black and become mushy. In this instance, it’s probably too late to save your plant. However, if you are noticing a few dead branches on your plant, this is another sign of severe damage from cold shock. 

Just like dead leaves on your plant, branches that die open up the plant to various problems, including diseases and fungal infections, to wreak havoc on the plants surviving healthy tissue. This is why you should never forget to prune in spring. 

Root ball becomes loose

Cold shock can affect more than the leaves and stems of your plant; it can also have a lasting effect on your plant’s roots. 

A great indicator that your plant suffers from cold shock is when you notice that the root ball has become loose. This indicates that your plant’s roots are frozen, which will cause significant damage. 

If you notice that the plant’s roots are damaged, it’s most likely that your plant is beyond saving.

Stunted growth

Plants are like some animals; during wintertime, they often take the season slow and do very little growing. It’s a dormant season for almost all plants; thus, their growth during this period is minimal. 

So if your plants are exposed to a severe cold snap during these winter months, you may notice that zero growth is occurring, and this is a problem, as you may be left with a dead plant by the end of winter. 

So it’s essential to keep an eye on your plant’s growth during these winter months, and if you begin to notice no growth instead of slow growth, now is the time to act if you want to save your plant from cold shock.

How To Treat Indoor Plants Suffering From Cold Shock?

If you keep a good eye on your indoor plants during the winter months, there is a good chance that if they do begin to suffer from cold shock, you’ll be able to save them. 

When it comes to indoor plants, the majority of them are going to be tropical plants. This means that when the temperatures go below zero, many will die almost instantly. However, many houseplants can recover if given the correct treatment.

If you’re worried about the state of your plant during a cold spell, the first thing to do is look at its roots. If they are white and firm, then they will survive. But, if they are mushy, there is little to no chance of survival. 

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While sometimes there is nothing you can do if you notice your plants have cold shock too late, here are a few tips that can help you if you catch it quickly enough.

Water the plant immediately

While it may seem too easy, the first thing you want to do when you suspect your plants have suffered from a sudden cold snap is to water them. The freezing temperature =, accompanied by the low humidity, will suck the water out of the leaves. 

Give your plant a lifeline by rehydrating it with a small amount of water. This can be repeated frequently, but first, let the soil dry out completely. If the cold shock hasn’t affected the roots of your plants, frequent water will be enough to rehydrate your plant and save it.

Get it to a warmer place

If you notice that your plants have been suffering from cold shock, one of the first things you want to do is move them to a warmer spot in your home. This could be in a room with more natural sunlight or a heated room.

When choosing a new spot close to a window, ensure the leaves don’t touch the glass, as this may cause further cold shock during a cold spell. Leave the plants a safe distance from the glass, yet close enough that they get the full effect of the sun without the side effect of a draft.

One way to increase the overall humidity of your plants is to place them all together. This can be done in a place close to a window where they will receive a good amount of natural sunlight, and the plants will then work in harmony as they insulate one another. 

Don’t worry about fertilizer

When you notice your plant is suffering from a mild cold shock, forget about feeding it nutrients and fertilizers. If you begin to feed your plant when it’s in shock, you will promote growth, which is the last thing it needs. 

During the recovery phase of your plant, you should aim to stabilize it before you work on any new growth. So first, let your plant settle into its new environment, and once you begin to see the symptoms of cold shock disappear, you can start to work on new growth.

Don’t prune the dead parts right away

When your plants begin to suffer from cold shock due to cellular damage and other factors, they become susceptible to many fungal infections and diseases. Thus, once they recover from the worst parts of the cold shock, you must prune all the dead foliage, branches, or blossoms to have any chance of saving them.

First, water the plant, then find a suitable place in the room with a raised temperature. Focus on these steps for around a month and then you may begin to prune your dead foliage. However, this is not to be done during the first few stages of recovery. 

Taking care of your plant

It can take anywhere from a few weeks, a few months, or even nearly a year for your plant to return to optimal health after a severe bout with cold shock. However, if you catch it early enough and follow the steps previously mentioned, you may just save your indoor plants.

Ways To Prevent Cold Shock In Your Plants

Now that you know how to identify cold shock in your plants and how to act if you begin to notice that your plants are being affected by cold shock, the next thing to focus on is how to prevent cold shock in the first place. 

Of course, in some instances it is almost impossible to stop during a rapid cold spell or a room that loses heating when you’re not around, but here are a few tips to keep you on your toes when it comes to preventing cold shock on your indoor plants.

Regulate your watering

Plants during the winter seasons enter into a dormant state and do not require as many nutrients or water. All that’s needed is a little water to stop your plants from dehydrating, yet overwatering can lead to multiple problems, such as root rot during cold periods. 

The best way to go about watering in the winter is half the water you’d often use during the spring and summer months. But always remember to check the soil before you begin to apply water. 

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Focus On Humidity

During the winter, the dry and cold climate can drive many of your plants’ stored moisture out of the leaves, making them limp, feeble, and pale. To avoid this and thus prevent cold shock from setting in, there are a few ways to regulate the humidity levels around your plant.

Try to maintain a high humidity level by placing your plants in a room with a heater or putting the plants away from windows with a draft or dry wind. 

You can even help plants that are suffering more than others by placing them in the bathroom, where there is a naturally high humidity level. One further option is to put them in a room where you have a humidifier. 

If you have multiple plants, a great option is to group some of your plants together, allowing them to exchange moisture with one another during the coldest spells, thus stopping the onslaught of transpiration.


As we are now well aware, a drip in the temperature is a sure way in which your plants will begin to suffer from cold shock. To combat this, monitor the temperature of the rooms where you keep your plants. 

Most indoor plants thrive in temperatures of around 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Another option is to place your plants in a well-insulated room during the harsher parts of winter. 


So, now you know how to identify symptoms of cold shock on your plants and help them recover from it, you’re all set to keep a close eye on your plants over the following winter. Just remember, water, sunlight, humidity, and temperature all play an equally important part in the survival of your plants during winter. Below is a table summarising the key takeaways from the article.

Causes of Cold Shock– Exposure to temperatures below their native growing temperature.
– Water within the leaves turns to ice, destroying cellular walls.
Symptoms of Cold Shock1. Discoloration of leaves.
2. Leaves begin to wilt and droop.
3. Entire plant turning black and mushy.
4. Loose root ball.
5. Stunted growth.
Treatment1. Water the plant immediately.
2. Move to a warmer place.
3. Avoid fertilizers.
4. Don’t prune dead parts right away, wait until recovery is more advanced.
Recovery Time– Can range from a few weeks to nearly a year.
Prevention Methods1. Regulate watering during winter (reduce amounts).
2. Maintain high humidity levels by grouping plants together, using a humidifier, or placing them in a room with naturally high humidity (like a bathroom).
3. Monitor room temperature, ensuring it stays within 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Place plants in well-insulated rooms during harsh winter periods.
Conclusion– Keep an eye on water, sunlight, humidity, and temperature to ensure the well-being of plants during winter.


What are some signs that plants are too cold?

Some signs that your plants are too cold are:

  • Water-soaked leaves: This means that the water inside the plant cells has frozen and ruptured the cell walls, causing them to leak fluid and appear wet.
  • Wilting or curling leaves: This means that the plant has lost its turgor pressure, which is the force that keeps the leaves firm and flat. Cold temperatures can reduce the water uptake and movement in the plant, leading to wilting or curling.
  • Discolored leaves: This means that the plant has suffered from chlorosis, which is the loss of chlorophyll, the green pigment that allows plants to photosynthesize. Cold temperatures can interfere with the production and function of chlorophyll, resulting in white, yellow, red, purple, brown, or black spots or patches on the leaves.
  • Splitting at the base of the stem: This means that the plant has experienced bark splitting, which is a crack or fissure in the woody tissue of the stem or trunk. Cold temperatures can cause the plant to contract and expand rapidly, creating stress and damage in the bark.

    I left my plant outside in the cold?

    Yes, leaving your house plant outside in the cold can be bad for its health. Most house plants are tropical or subtropical species that prefer warm temperatures and high humidity. Cold exposure can damage their cells, reduce their water uptake, interfere with their photosynthesis, and stunt their growth. Some signs of cold damage are water-soaked, wilted, curled, or discolored leaves, and splitting at the base of the stem.

    To revive your house plant after cold exposure, you can try the following steps:

    • Move your plant indoors as soon as possible. If possible, try to do this in stages to avoid shocking the plant with sudden temperature changes.
    • Water your plant thoroughly and make sure the soil is moist but not soggy. Avoid overwatering as this can cause root rot.
    • Avoid fertilizing your plant until it is fully recovered. Fertilizing can encourage new growth that is more vulnerable to cold damage.
    • Remove any dead or damaged flowers, leaves, or stems. This can prevent fungal infections and help the plant focus on healing.
    • Increase the humidity around your plant by misting it regularly, placing it on a tray of pebbles and water, or using a humidifier.
    • Protect your plant from further cold exposure by keeping it away from drafty windows or doors, and covering it with a frost cloth if necessary.