6 Tips to Get Your Houseplants Ready for Fall

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Summer, the time of abundant sunlight and growth! Summer graces us with its warmth and radiance, bringing joy to our hearts and boosting the flourishing of all plants, including our beloved houseplants. But summer doesn’t last forever. As we bask in the lingering warmth of the sun, summer is soon coming to an end, and we must prepare for the changing season because the approaching autumn brings with it an important phase for our houseplants. Fall acts as a bridge between the energetic growth of spring and summer and the quiet dormancy of winter. It is a period of transformation, during which both outdoor and indoor houseplants adjust their growth patterns and physiological functions. 

Fall is when plants prepare for the winter ahead and for us plant enthusiasts to adapt our care routines to support the natural changes in our houseplants' growth cycles. Proper care during the fall transition can help ensure the health and vitality of houseplants throughout the colder months and set them up for renewed growth when spring arrives.

[Importance of fall care guide]Why do we need to have a special houseplant care routine for the fall season?

Several factors make fall care unique and important for the well-being of houseplants: 

  1. Change in Light: As fall progresses, the days become shorter, and natural light intensity decreases. This change affects how plants photosynthesize and process energy. Houseplants may need to be relocated to spots with more suitable light conditions or supplemented with artificial grow lights to ensure they receive enough light to sustain their reduced growth.
  2. Temperature Changes: Outdoor temperatures drop as the fall season sets in. If you keep your houseplants outdoors during the warm months, you'll need to bring them indoors to protect them from cold temperatures, as most houseplants are tropical or subtropical and cannot tolerate frost or extreme cold.
  3. Pest Infestation: Fall can be a time when pests become more active, seeking refuge indoors from colder outdoor temperatures. As the light decreases and temperatures fluctuate, plants also become more susceptible to pests. 
  4. Transition to Dormancy: Fall is a natural time of transition for many plants. As they prepare for the winter ahead, their growth rate slows down, and they will start to enter a period of dormancy. During this special time of the year, they will start to conserve energy so they can survive through the colder months.
  5. Yellow Leaves and Wilting Flowers: Towards the end of the growing season, plants naturally exhibit signs of reduced strength and growth. As the days shorten and temperatures cool, their metabolic activity slows down, leading to a decline in their overall vigor. The leaves may turn yellow and flower stems will wilt and die. This process is a strategy to recycle valuable resources back into the plant before they are lost to the changing seasons.

A well-adjusted fall care routine helps houseplants enter winter in their best condition. Healthy and well-nourished plants are more likely to withstand the challenges of colder temperatures and lower light levels during the winter months. Adjusting their care routine during this phase helps them save energy and resources, promoting their overall health and resilience during the cold, dark winter.

[6 Tips to care for houseplants on fall]How to get your houseplants ready for the fall season?

Pruning, Trimming, and Foliage Cleaning

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Pruning yellow leaves on houseplants
Photo by alexdov

Pruning in the fall season for houseplants can be a bit different from pruning during the active growing season in spring and summer. As the fall brings a shift in the plant's growth and prepares them for dormancy, the pruning approach may vary. Here are some considerations for pruning houseplants in the fall:

  • Remove Dead or Yellowing Leaves and Wilting Flowers: As houseplants prepare for dormancy, they naturally shed some leaves. However, if you notice dead or yellowing leaves, it's a good idea to remove them. Pruning away these unhealthy leaves and dead flowers helps the plant conserve energy and prevents the spread of diseases.
  • Trim Back Leggy Growth: If your houseplants have grown vigorously during the summer, consider pruning them back to promote better growth and shape. Remove any leggy or unhealthy-looking stems or leaves. This will also help the plant focus its energy on essential parts as it enters a period of slower growth during fall and winter. 
  • Promote Airflow: As you prune, focus on improving the plant's airflow. Trimming back dense growth allows better air circulation, reducing the risk of fungal issues that can be more common in the fall due to increased humidity indoors.
  • Sterilize Tools: Before pruning, make sure to sterilize your pruning tools to prevent the spread of diseases between plants. Clean and sharp tools ensure clean cuts that heal faster.
  • Foliage Cleaning: As the fall season progresses, the amount of light will decrease. Moreover, dust and debris can accumulate on the leaves of houseplants, reducing the amount of light they receive and hindering their ability to perform photosynthesis efficiently. Cleaning the foliage helps to ensure that your plants can make the most of the available light and maintain their optimal photosynthetic rates.

Remember that not all houseplants require pruning in the fall. Always consider the specific needs of your houseplants and the timing of their growth cycle before you prune.

Reduce Watering and Stop Fertilizing

Reducing watering and stopping fertilization at the end of the growing season is a critical aspect of adjusting your houseplant care routine for the changing season.

As the days become shorter, and temperatures cool down, houseplants generally experience a slower growth rate and reduced metabolic activity. The slower growth during the fall means houseplants require less water than they do during the active growing season in spring and summer. It is therefore very easy to overwater your beloved green friends, leading to root rot and other overwatering-related issues. Gradually reduce the amount of water and wait until the topsoil is very dry to the touch before giving your plants a drink. 

Similarly, as the growth rate slows down, fertilizing during the fall season can lead to an accumulation of unused nutrients in the soil, potentially harming your plants. Instead of promoting robust growth, the excess nutrients may lead to imbalances in the plant's system, affecting overall health and vigor. This can manifest as leggy, weak, undesirable growth, leaf discoloration, or even increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.

Adjusting the lighting

During the fall, as the days become shorter and natural light intensity decreases. It is important to adjust the lighting conditions and provide your plants with sufficient lighting so they can stay healthy. You should also help your plants acclimate to the reduced light conditions of fall and winter. 

  • Bring your plants to a brighter spot: As the days become shorter, and natural light diminishes, relocating your houseplants to a brighter location indoors can provide them with the light they need to thrive during this transitional season. 
  • Cleaning your windows and your plants' foliage:This is a simple yet effective way to increase the amount of light available for photosynthesis. By removing dust and debris from both the windows and the leaves, you allow more sunlight to reach your houseplants, enhancing their photosynthetic efficiency.
  • Rotate your plants: Additionally, rotating your plants regularly ensures that all sides receive equal lighting. This practice helps prevent uneven growth and ensures that each part of the plant has an opportunity to absorb the optimal amount of light for healthy development.
  • Acclimate your plants: Begin the acclimation process a few weeks before the fall season sets in. Slowly reduce the amount of time your houseplants spend in direct sunlight or bright conditions each day. This gradual transition allows them to adjust more easily to lower light levels.
  • Use a growth lamp if necessary: If the amount of natural light is reduced significantly during the fall, you can use a full-spectrum growth lamp to provide your houseplants with the necessary light they need. Place the lamps at the appropriate distance and duration to mimic natural daylight hours.
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Ensure light condition to help houseplants thrive in fall
Photo by Olga Miltsova

Maintain a suitable temperature and humidity level

The weather in the fall can be quite unpredictable, and even indoor houseplants can be affected by changes in temperatures and humidity. While houseplants are shielded from direct outdoor weather, indoor conditions can still fluctuate due to various factors, including indoor heating, cooling systems, open windows, and drafts.

  • Move Plants Indoors: If your plants are outdoors, this is the time to move them indoors when the temperatures drop at night. Don’t forget to inspect them carefully for signs of pests and diseases before bringing them inside. 
  • Monitor Indoor Temperature: Keep an eye on the indoor temperature, especially if you rely on heating systems. Try to maintain a consistent and comfortable temperature range for your houseplants, avoiding sudden temperature swings. Most plants thrive in normal room temperatures between 65°F to 75°F. 
  • Avoid Drastic Temperature Fluctuations: Sudden changes in temperature can stress plants. Keep your houseplants away from drafty areas, heating vents, or air conditioning units, which can cause rapid temperature fluctuations.
  • Maintain A Suitable Humidity Level:Houseplants may have very different requirements when it comes to humidity. Tropical plants enjoy humid environments (humidity level between 40-60%), but succulents and cacti prefer slightly dry air, so make sure you check out your specific plant’s care guide. 
  • Maintain Adequate Ventilation: Proper air circulation is essential for preventing stagnant air and controlling humidity levels. Make sure there is enough ventilation in the room where your houseplants are located.
  • Group Plants with Similar Needs: Grouping plants with similar temperature and humidity requirements can create microenvironments that cater to their needs. For example, grouping tropical plants together can help maintain higher humidity levels for them.

Watch out for pests 

Checking for pests during the fall is crucial, as it is a common time for them to become more active indoors. As the weather cools down, pests may seek shelter and find their way into your home, potentially affecting your houseplants.

Here are some additional tips for pest prevention and management during the fall:

  • Regular Inspections: Conduct regular inspections of your houseplants, especially the undersides of leaves and along stems, to look for signs of pests such as insects, mites, or eggs.
  • Identify the Pests: If you notice any signs of pest activity, try to identify the specific type of pest. Knowing the pest's identity can help you choose the most appropriate treatment method.
  • Isolate Infected Plants: If you find a plant with signs of pest infestation, isolate it from other plants immediately. This prevents the pests from spreading to other houseplants.
  • Prune Infested Parts: If you spot pests concentrated on specific parts of the plant, like leaves or stems, consider pruning those affected parts to prevent the infestation from spreading.
  • Treatment: For minor pest infestations, consider using natural remedies like neem oil, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil to treat the affected plant. These options are often less toxic to the plant and its environment.
  • Quarantine New Plants: If you purchase new houseplants during the fall, quarantine them for a few weeks before placing them near your other plants. This helps ensure that no pests are introduced into your existing collection.
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Checking for signs of pests on houseplants
Photo by olgsera

Repot if needed

After a summer of active growth, some houseplants may have depleted nutrients in their current soil. Repotting provides an opportunity to refresh the potting mix, replenishing nutrients and improving the soil's structure for optimal root health. Repotting during the fall season allows plants to adjust to their new containers and growing medium before the active growth season in spring. 

Especially for fast-growing plants that have outgrown their current containers, repotting in larger pots during the fall gives them more space for root expansion and better overall growth. It helps prevent the plant from becoming root-bound or pot-bound, which could restrict its growth and development.

Fall repotting also allows you to inspect the roots for any signs of pests or diseases. If any issues are detected, repotting with fresh soil can help remove pests and provide a clean start for your plant.

While repotting during the fall can be beneficial for many houseplants, it's essential to consider each plant's specific needs and growth patterns. Not all houseplants require repotting every fall, and some may be best left undisturbed if they are thriving in their current containers. Always assess the condition of your plants and their root systems before deciding to repot. If repotting is necessary, do so with care, ensuring the new container and potting mix are appropriate for the plant's growth and future needs.

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