Seasonal care for houseplants: A plant shop owner's checklist
Rachel Ellis·May 11, 2023
Many houseplants need special care to navigate the changes in light, humidity, and temperature throughout the seasons. Here at Daphne’s Botanicals, we see our Portland weather affecting seasonal changes as we take care of our abundance of houseplants.
In this blog, we’ll explain our tried-and-true tips to keep your plant healthy, rain or shine!
Believe it or not, plants are smart! Just as animals evolved traits to survive in winter—such as hibernation, longer fur, and changes in diet—plants also developed ways to adapt to seasonal changes. For example, in winter months when it is harder to gather nutrients and sunlight, plants enter “quiet season” and slow down their normal processes.
Even though the seasonal changes indoors aren’t as dramatic as the seasonal changes outside, subtle changes in light, temperature, and humidity cause your houseplants to change their normal growing habits. Thus, plant owners need to make changes too to ensure an optimal growing environment.
Our seasonal care for houseplants checklist
Below, each season—Summer, fall, winter, and spring—has its own checklist. These suggestions are a general guide for the most common indoor tropical plants, and may also work for for succulents, cacti, and rarer plants. Be sure to research and see if your plant needs any special care throughout the seasons!
How to care for Houseplants in the Fall
6 Best Tips for Caring for Houseplants in autumn. Fall has it all!
1. Bring back indoors
Unless you live in a very warm southern climate, we recommend bringing your plants indoors at the start of September. In the fall, surprise frost and storms are more frequent. Use this checklist to help your plants on their move-in day:
Check for bugs before bringing in your plants. You don’t want to find any surprise housemates!
As long as you’re outside, give your plant a final deep soak. Water away without worrying about your inside flooring!
Make your plant pretty and pick off dead leaves, stems, and flowers. Easiest cleanup for trimming and pruning!
2. Don’t fret about falling leaves
In the fall, your plant is likely to drop a few more leaves than normal. This is how plants reduce their energy needs when the days get darker and colder. And don't worry, this can also happen to plants that were outdoors for the summer, as well as 100% indoor plants. If you notice any leaves are about to fall, you can gently pull them off to help you plant along.
3. Keep an eye on the sun
If you collected more plants over the summer and/or kept plants outside, make sure that their new indoor home has a reliable source of sun! Check out your plants throughout the day, and maybe even take notes about which times of day they are receiving sunlight.
4. Cut back on watering
When houseplants receive less sunlight, they slow down their rate of growth and consume less water. This means you will need to adjust your watering schedule after summer. We recommend using PlantDoc or a digital moisture meter to check in with your plant’s new watering needs. We sell PlantDoc and our favorite digital moisture meter at Portland store—check us out!
5. Hold back the fertilizer
With less sun and water, your plants will not grow enough to need fertilizer.
6. Rescue from heat waves
Just when you think the summer heat is finally over, there’s always a couple of heatwave days in the fall that come out of nowhere! When this happens, we move our plants away from windows or hotter parts of our home. While humans like cranking up the AC, be sure not to place your plants too close to this cold source as it can be quite a shock to them.
How to care for Houseplants In the Winter
9 best tips for caring for houseplants in the winter…Brr!
This chilly season is also known as the “rest season” for plants. Following these tips helps your plants recharge and come back even more beautiful and healthy in the spring!
1. Look for more sunlight
Even if you think you’ve found the brightest spot in your home for your houseplant, it might not be quite as sunny in the gloomy winter months! Because the angle and timing of the sun changes in the winter time, it’s best to double-check that all your houseplants are getting as much sun as they can.
How can you tell which spots have the most light? A safe bet is to place your houseplants by south- or west-facing windows. In the northern hemisphere, windows facing south receive the most direct sunlight, followed by windows facing west. Be sure to double-check that no outdoor obstacles (like trees) are blocking the light throughout the day. Once you’ve found the brightest windows, you may need to raise or lower your plant for it to reach the winter sunlight. In my plant shop, I like to place my plants on small tables, bookshelves, and lightweight plant stands.
Depending on how much sunlight is available, some types of plants may need grow lights in the winter, including succulents, ferns, and orchids, citrus trees, and many tropical plants.
2. Water less
Since houseplants receive less sunlight in the winter, they slow down their rate of growth and consume less water. This means you will need to adjust your watering schedule throughout the seasons. We recommend using PlantDoc or a digital moisture meter to check in with your plant.
3. Keep temperatures warm and stable
Watch out that your plants aren’t placed too close to a cold, drafty window… or next to a vent blowing out warm air! Fluctuating temps can shock your plant. Plants close to radiators can get "sunburned" by the heat, so be sure to move or rotate your plant if you notice any brown or dried spots.
4. Turn up the humidity
In the cold and dry winter, your plants would love some extra moisture. We recommend an automatic water mister, or a careful regimen with a spray bottle mister.
5. Wait to fertilize
With less water and sunlight, your plants likely have no need for fertilizer. However, some tropical plants don’t know what winter is and will continue to grow. You should fertilize them as usual.
6. Resist repotting
While it may be tempting to give your plant a new bright, cheery look in a new pot, this big move might be too shocking for them. Wait until the weather gets warmer to rehome your plant unless it is showing obvious signs of overgrowth (see point #2 in Summer)
7. Give them a spin
Unless you live in a greenhouse, there’s a chance that some spots in your house are sunnier than others. If you see any of your plants spending too much time in the shade, rotate your plants and give them a little “house tour” so that each plant gets its time in the sun.
8. Keep the dust off
As we spend indoors in the winter, more dust can get out our houseplants. If you notice any dust bunnies frolicking on your houseplants, be sure to give them a little brush or gentle wipe. Along with keeping your plants looking their best, cleaning off the dust allows for better light absorption. And, it clears out any bugs that might be trying to hide in your plant's leaves, too.
How to care for Houseplants in the Spring
3 best tips for houseplants in the spring. April showers bring may flowers!
1. Restart fertilizing
As the sun shines brighter and longer during the day, usually starting in February, houseplants will start itching to grow (not literally!). Fertilizer and plant food helps them reach their full potential.
2. Water more
With more sun and fertilizer, your plant will start to perk up! With all the new action of growing, your plant will get thirstier and need to be watered more frequently and in greater volume. A handy moisture meter like PlantDocwill tell you when to start watering more, and how to adjust your routine with the changing weather. We also sell our favorite digital moisture meter at our Portland, OR store.
3. Consider Repotting
Now that your plants are receiving more water, sun, and nutrients, they’re going to hit a growth spurt! This is the time to get out the gardening gloves and start shopping for larger pots (See point #2 in Summer for more tips on when to repot).
4. Sneak in some sun
If any spring days are particularly balmy and bright (at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 17 degrees Celsius), your plants would love a few hours in the sunshine! Be on the lookout for surprise spring showers, winds, hail, or other weather conditions that could startle your plants. If you live in a very warm climate, look ahead to the Summer checklist for advice on leaving your plants outside overnight.
How to care for Houseplants in the Summer
4 Best Tips for Caring for Houseplants in the Summer, the season of sun… and bugs and heat!
1. Harken to heat waves
Abnormally hot days can impact your houseplants whether they are indoors or outside. Heat waves can bring strong sunlight, blistering heat, and super dry humidity.
Many houseplants love being outdoors... but they can get "heat stroke" and "sunburn" just like people! Unless you know your plant type loves extreme temps (like jade plants, aloe, or snake plants), play it safe and bring your plants indoors on super hot or sunny days.
Even if you follow a watering routine for your plants, we highly recommend using a plant moisture meter on heatwave days to make sure your plants get the water they need, since this is an unusual weather phenomenon that your watering schedule likely doesn't predict (ours don't!)
Plants can suffer heat exhaustion, so take notice if your plant’s leaves get brown or yellow spots, dried brown tips, curled edges, or if the plant begins to wilt.
Even though it might seem like a good idea to keep your plants cool by placing them next to a fan or central air duct, the cold rushing air can shock and dry out your houseplants. In general, it's a good practice to not set your plants too close to air conditioning units and heaters.
2. Size up
So much sun encourages your plants to grow, and thus your plant may need to size up to a larger pot. Consider repotting if you notice any of the following:
Roots growing through the drainage hole(s)
Roots pushing the plant up and almost out of the planter
Much slower growth than normal
Potting soil dries out quickly (not due to heat or low humidity)
Plant becomes extremely top-heavy and off-balance
Foliage is more than three times the size of its current planter
Noticeable mineral build-up on the plant or planter
It's been 12 - 18 months since last repotting (but slower-growing plants like cacti do not need to be repotted this often)
3. Spray for pests
Plants love the summer just as much as your plants do! Be extra vigilant about checking for bugs and signs of bugs, especially on outdoor plants. Look under the leaves and at new plant growth. Here’s some telltale signs of unwanted critters:
Color change: Spotted, speckled, yellowing, or smudged patches on leaves
Shape change: leaves may look cupped or pinched
Texture: mold or abnormally shiny or sticky leaves
Houseplants love to bask in the sunlight, fresh air, and rain of the outdoors! June through August are the best times to take your plant outside, as there is much less danger of surprise cold snaps. Another benefit of taking plants outside: you can easily clean the dust off your houseplant (either by gently washing it yourself or benefitting from gentle rain) and tidy up its usual spot indoors.
Here’s a few things to watch out for before taking your plant outside:
If your plant is more sensitive, gradually introduce them to the outdoors so they don’t go into shock over the temperature and humidity change. Leave the plant outside for one hour at first, then increase the time over a few days
Watch out for high winds and inclement weather, like heavy rain and hail that could bruise or topple over your plants
Wind and sun will evaporate more moisture from your plant, so water even more than you would indoors. Use a moisture meter to double check you're watering enough!
Since more sun gives you plant more energy to grow, consider fertilizing more frequently
Plants can get sunburned, so make sure the plant will be out of direct sunlight at some points over the day, especially their first few times outside
Watch out for even more bugs outdoors! Check your plant’s leaves often and consider pest solutions if you spot any persistent visitors (we explain this more in point #3)
Unless you live in a very humid, stable climate, we recommend you leave tropical houseplants indoors
You can leave your plants outside overnight if…
The lows have consistently been above 55 degrees Fahrenheit
Your plant has adequate drainage in case it rains during the night
There's a low chance of high wind, hail, hungry critters, or anything else that might damage your plant
And there you have it! Houseplants are a joy to watch all year round.
With a little care from you, they’ll weather the seasons and look their best!
Want all the season info in one place? You can print out thissummary easy checklistto keep on your refrigerator all year long.