How to Prepare Houseplants for Fall

Your indoor plants could use a little help getting ready for the new season.

Giving the plants a drink
LOUISE BEAUMONT / Getty Images

It would be easy to think that since houseplants live inside, they don't really experience seasons as do their outdoor relatives. And while it's true that they are provided a lot more protection inside, it doesn't mean they don't know what's going on. They do. And they would appreciate a few seasonal tweaks; the change of seasons also offers a good time for general maintenance. With all of that in mind, here is how to keep your plants happy as the summer slinks behind us and cooler days prevail.

If They've Been Vacationing Outside, Bring Them In

If you have given your houseplants outside time for the summer, bring them in before temperatures reach a low of 55F. Check thoroughly to be sure that they are not bringing any hitchhikers along with them; examine both sides of leaves for insects, as well as the stem and soil. Also, clear the top of the soil of dead leaves and any other debris, which can attract pests and create an environment for mold.

Also, note when bringing plants inside: Many plants are toxic to pets and/or children. Check you plants, and place them accordingly. The ASPCA has a great list here.

Repot If Needed

Spring is the best time to repot houseplants because that's when they strive to grow, but if any of your babies have had an active summer and are too small for their pot, now is a good time as well. Lift the plant out of the pot and check how the roots look; if they seem crowded, are looping around, or creeping out the drainage hole, it is time. Here's our how-to.

Give Them a Shower

Beloved "Plant Mom" from Bloomscape recommends giving them a good (yet gentle) shower. "This is the perfect time to leach out any salt build-up by letting the water run freely out of the bottom of the pot," she tells Treehugger. "The spray will also clean off any dust that collected on the foliage."

Give Them a Trim

Bloomscape also reminds us that this is a good time to tidy up houseplants. Gather your supplies, like sharp scissors or pruning shears, and get to work.

Remove any dead or dying leaves: Find any yellowing or brown crispy leaves. Cut the leaves that are brown or yellow at the base – near the stem or at the soil. For brown or yellowing tips, you can just off the unhealthy part of the leaf.

Trim healthy plants to encourage new growth: To make a plant bushier, you can trim healthy leaves. Loo for a leaf node, and cut about ¼ inch above that scar, at an angle – as you can see in the video below. Also, don't forget to save larger pieces to replant!

Plant Mom bonus tips: "Wipe the blades of your scissors/shears with rubbing alcohol between each snip. Be careful not to remove more than 20% of the entire plant while pruning; you may need to prune in stages to avoid removing too many leaves at once."

Tuck Them In With A Snack

Houseplants won't need any fertilizer during fall and winter, but they might appreciate one last snack. Plant Mom recommends doing so after their shower while the soil is still damp. Do not make it a full meal; Plant Mom tells us to use a liquid all-purpose fertilizer at half the recommended strength.

Consider The light

On the autumn equinox, the sun rises and sets at exactly due east and due west ... but as the season crawls along, our favorite giant star shifts across the sky and enters our homes in different ways. Note how light streams in and place plants accordingly; this is a good thing to check every few months.

Be Mindful of Extreme Temperatures

Hot and/or cold extremes can stress plants out, so be careful about where your plants are living. Make sure they are not on top of radiators or by heaters; likewise, make sure they are far from drafty windows or doors that open to the outside. Or, like in the sad case of my pretty string of hearts (RIP sweet girl) by a vented skylight that welcomes winter gusts.

Be Careful With Watering

Over-watering is one of the most common houseplant mistakes, and it is an easy thing to do come fall. With less light, they grow more slowly and need less water. Unless you have especially thirsty species or a very dry home, wait at least a few days in between watering.