How to prepare houseplants for fall

houseplants on a table
© rattiya lamrod

With cooler weather and shorter days, your indoor plants could use a little help getting ready for the new season.

It would be easy to think that since houseplants live inside, they don't really experience seasons like their outdoor friends do. 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. They would appreciate a few seasonal tweaks; and 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.

1. If they have 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.

2. 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.

See more here: How to repot your houseplants to keep them happy

3. Give them a shower

The 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 says. "The spray will also clean off any dust that collected on the foliage."

She also recommends trimming off yellow or browning leaves using sharp, clean shears.

Plant Mom bonus tip: Always disinfect scissors and other tools with rubbing alcohol between plants to minimize the spread of bacteria or disease.

4. 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; Mom suggests using a liquid all-purpose fertilizer at half the recommended strength.

5. Consider the light

On the equinox the sun rose and set 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.

6. Be mindful of extreme temperatures

How 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.

7. 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.

For more, see: How to water houseplants correctly

For much more on houseplants, see the related stories below. Happy fall!

How to prepare houseplants for fall
WIth cooler weather and shorter days, your indoor plants could use a little help getting ready for the new season.

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