How to Keep Your Plant Babies Happy While the Seasons Change
As the seasons' change, so do the needs of your houseplants. Winter is a time of dormancy for most houseplants and Fall is the time to ease the plants into that restful period. It is important to make the transition easy for the health and prosperity of your houseplants.
Bring Them Indoors
If you have any houseplants that have been outside enjoying the warm temperatures, now is the time to bring them back inside. Do it before the cold weather hits so they aren't shocked by the sudden change. Bring them inside before you start heating your home, as well, so they can adjust slowly to the change in temperature and environment.
The majority of houseplants don't need as much water in the winter as they do in the summer. They have stopped producing flowers and don't need the extra boost anymore. The transition should happen slowly, though, so they aren't shocked by the sudden decrease in water. During fall, gradually decrease how much water you are giving the plants so by the time winter rolls around, they are accustomed to the lower amount.
Give the soil a bath. Set the plants in a bathtub or sink and water them for a couple of minutes, until water runs freely out the bottom. This gets rid of salt and nutrient build-ups.
Pests & Diseases
Checking for pests and diseases is especially important if the plants were outside during the summer for any period of time. Indoor only plants can also have problems, so don't neglect to check them also.
Deal with the situation immediately. Once the plants enter their dormant winter state, it will be harder for them to fight off trouble. Even if you don't see any issues, it is a good idea to wash down the leaves of each plant as a preventative measure.
Plants don't need fertilizer in the winter since they aren't growing much or using their energy to bloom. If any of your plants are on a regular fertilizing schedule, they need to be weaned off it so they don't go into shock. Slowly weaken the amount of fertilizer you are giving the plants so that by winter, they aren't getting any at all.
Any drafts will bring cold outdoor temperatures inside. Look around your home for drafts and keep your houseplants away from them. Move plants away from doors to the outside that are opened often and bring in gusts of cold. The average indoor temperature needs to be above 55F for houseplants to prosper.
Windowsills often have small drafts. Arrange cardboard pieces between the plants and the glass window when it is especially cold outside. Plants should never touch the glass.
Never place houseplants on top of radiators, stoves, or other heat sources. They will dehydrate and die.
Indoor heat can be problematic for houseplants in the winter. While the plants appreciate the warmth as compared to outside, heat from furnaces and stoves isn't the same as from the sun. Plants suffering from lack of humidity develop brown leaf tips.
Tropical plants, in particular, suffer greatly from lack of humidity in the winter indoor environment. Start preparing your plants for this situation by creating a small microclimate for them.
Start by misting the leaves with water every few days. If they are still struggling, fill a tray with pebbles and place the plant on top. Add water to cover the bottom of the tray but not so much that the pebbles float. It will evaporate slowly, creating a small humid base for the houseplant. Place plants with similar needs on the same tray.
The light the houseplants receive in fall and winter should be consistent. This may mean changing which window you have them in. During the winter, north-facing windows provide very little light. Any plants there should be moved to east, west, or south-facing window. It may be that the windows with the most sunlight still aren't enough for some houseplants.
Double-check every month or so to make sure the plants are getting as much light as they need. Move them, if necessary, to a better lit spot.
Your houseplants will do just fine if you prepare them for the seasonal adjustment. In the spring, when they come alive again, you'll be happy you took the steps to ensure a healthy and easy fall and winter for them.