6 Springtime Steps to Support Your Houseplants Through the Seasonal Shift
Springing forward into a new season brings fresh changes and growth. While plants outside will start to sprout with vivid colors of green, our indoors plant friends will also experience seasonal shifts. Since some houseplants go semi-dormant in the winter, a wave of warmer air will influence your plants to start emerging into a phase of new growth. As these plants start to enliven with a spring in their step, there are always a few key steps to keep in mind when entering a new season. To best support your indoor plants, here are 6 tips to keep your plants in tip-top shape from March-June.
1. Time to assess if you need to start watering more.
As spring and summer marks the growing season, plants will require more to support a healthy life. Plus, warmer conditions mean that the soil is likely going to start drying out faster, so monitor the soil for changes in water retention. If your winter season routine meant that you watered every other week, then start to check more often. If the plant is losing moisture faster, then it’s time to start providing extra water, more often. While every indoor environment is completely unique, it’s hard to say exactly how much to start increasing water. But most houseplants are on a weekly, semi-weekly, or semi-monthly schedule. So depending on each individual plant's needs, it is typically suggested that by summer you’re watering twice as much you were in winter. It is important to gradually increase water through the spring instead of switching the routine outright. Too much is never a good thing since houseplants are prone to root rot. When in doubt, always underwater (there are always exceptions though— for example, Calathea plants will not handle underwatering well and will display crispy, brown leaf tips).
2. Track sunlight changes to see if you need to move the plant.
The sun is constantly (although gradually) changing its course over the span of a year. And depending on the placement of the sun in the sky, you may need to consider moving your plant. While we don’t recommend moving your plant to a completely different area, you may need to shift it just ever so slightly depending on your geographic location.
The winter sun is known for being weaker (farther from Earth), and as such, spring will start to see amplified sunlight with a change in the angle and warmer temperatures. Depending on where your plant is (and what type of light it needs) you may need to monitor over the next few months to make sure that it isn’t exposed to too much or too little vital light as the sun will hit inside your space differently. The majority of houseplants do not tolerate direct sunlight. Too much sunlight risks sunburned leaves, so consider moving your plant farther from the window if your plant will now be exposed to harsh midday sun. So do a quick check to see if there's more or less direct or indirect sunlight hitting your plant than normal. If so, adjust according to that plant’s specific needs.
3. Start fertilizing moderately and progressively.
Did you know that to keep your indoor plant healthy, happy, and growing you likely need to be feeding it? It's an imperative step that many people are unaware of or just forget. Fertilizer supports healthy new growth and provides the plant with vital nutrients that the soil might have lost over the course of time. Supplying your houseplants with fertilizer is especially important since they’re contained inside and don’t have the exposure to the natural elements that plants experience outside (in the ground).
First, always double check for your type of plant to make sure it's ready for fertilizer and if it prefers a certain kind. There are different types of fertilizers for succulents, outdoor plants, and indoor plants. For typical houseplants, we recommend any common liquid or granular fertilizer to be applied once a month during spring and summer. Specifically, it’s a good idea to apply half of the recommended dose since every plant has differing sensitivity levels to fertilizer. Too much can cause burns on foliage and even damage roots. So again, when in doubt, do less.
You’ll slowly work up to more and more over the spring months and finally peak in summer. Since the plant could still be slightly vulnerable from winter, this slow and steady pace ensures that the fertilizer doesn’t shock the plant.
4. Now’s an opportune time to repot.
Spring makes the perfect time to repot most houseplants. Break out the plant tools, and get ready to get dirty. We advise that you check on your specific plant’s needs before repotting because some plants need to be rootbound in order to thrive. Another piece of advice— don’t repot for the sake of repotting. Always make sure that your plant is healthy and ready to go up a size. How do you know if it’s ready for a new pot?
- If the roots are starting to creep out of the bottom holes of the pot, it’s likely time to repot (again dependent upon plant).
- Or if you inspect the root system and the bottom half of the pot is mostly thick, wrapped roots, then it is probably time.
- If water is constantly draining right through the bottom holes of the pot when you water the plant, then there’s likely a greater proportion of roots than soil— and thus, the soil is unable to retain water, so it’s time to make more room and go up a size.
When repotting there are a few things to be cognizant of. Don’t go too big… only pot up a size that’s about 2 inches (in diameter) larger than the current pot. You’ll also want to gently loosen the roots before placing the plant in the new pot. Repotting does put a minimal amount of stress on otherwise happy plants, so be prepared to provide a little extra care afterwards.
5. Pruning: out with the old and in with the new growth.
With the plant in a more stable condition than the colder months, it’s also a good time to get rid of old or weak growth. A form of pruning, normally you’ll trim away browning, leggy, or dead leaves at the base of the plant (check first, as some prefer to be pruned in other places). This practice can actually stimulate new growth while making room for foliage to prosper. If your plant has patchy, sparse, or leggy growth, this step can make a huge difference. Just make sure you aren’t cutting away more than 20% of the plant as too much can cause stress. And do note that pruning isn’t always necessary— especially if your indoor plant is small with few leaves to begin with or if it’s already stressed.
If you do decide to chop away some leaves, consider propagating too. In the warm months, propagation tends to be quite successful. So if you’re cutting leaves away on a plant that takes root via stem clippings, then save a few for creating new plants!
6. Management and prevention with spring cleaning.
If you aren’t already cleaning your houseplant’s leaves regularly, now is the time to start! A clean surface helps plants absorb sunlight and respire more efficiently. Using a sterile, damp cloth, gently wipe away the dust, dirt, and tiny particles that have accumulated on your plant’s leaves. Everyone loves a glossy, clean look anyways!
In addition to that buff and shine, we also recommend that you start checking weekly for pests. Unfortunately eggs can lie dormant over winter and hatch once spring arrives. Houseplant pests are kind of inevitable at some point in the plant’s life, so don’t freak if/when it happens. It’s important to treat immediately at the first glance of activity since indoor pests are usually manageable in the early stages. The best remedy however is prevention— consider spraying your plant liberally with a solution of warm water & a few drops of liquid soap (castile preferably) before wiping the leaves clean. This all natural approach can keep your plant pristine as well as keep your home safe since it is non-toxic.
Spring is truly an exciting time for plant life. You’ll get to see new leaves pop up bigger and better than before, and maybe even experience a bloom or two (yes, some houseplants can bloom)! The most helpful tip to keeping your plants in tip-top shape through the seasons is to practice awareness. At the end of the day, we as plant parents are in charge of controlling the plant’s ecosystem. As we enter a new season, hone in on how your plant and indoor environment is different, and make minor changes accordingly. Check in regularly and mindfully and you’ll be all set for a thriving, lush indoor jungle.