Your transition to fall might include pulling those cozy boots out of your closet or kicking on the heater, but plants also need to make adjustments as the seasons change. As the sunlight gets weaker and the days get shorter, our plants begin to slow their growth and settle in for the winter months.
Along with these physical reminders of the cold, dark months ahead, you may notice some changes to your mental state as well. As Fall transitions into Winter, the change in season can dampen moods and bring on an onslaught of symptoms like burnout, depression and exhaustion. This occurrence is often referred to as seasonal affective disorder or, simply, SAD. Plants are a surprisingly effective combatant of the negative effects winter has on our brains. It has been proven that indoor plants improve the moods and focus of people in spaces with plants. They also have the ability to bring calm to ward off depressive thoughts in those who care for them.
Keeping your plants alive in Winter
As the leaves start to change and the nights lengthen, it’s time to bring any plants inside from their summer homes and prepare your personal jungle for the changing seasons.
Start with some grooming
Plants that spend their summers outdoors take advantage of the strong sunlight and higher temperatures, often growing at a much quicker rate than they do indoors or during other seasons. So to enable your indoor plants to absorb more light, giving them a cute haircut can be beneficial. Remove damaged and dying leaves, then snip as much as a quarter to a third of the foliage. Doing so serves a few purposes—with the weakening sunlight, plants may begin to drop leaves. Trimming your plants beforehand will minimize this issue, along with diverting precious energy to the healthy leaves. Trimming also benefits plants by promoting new growth. This will make your plant fuller and better looking in the long run. You can even pop any of the discarded trimmings containing nodes into your preferred propagating medium and watch them grow into a plant of their own.
Take the time to wipe off the leaves while you’re grooming your plants. This will make it easier for them to absorb the already feeble winter sunlight. Do this about once a month. While you’re at it, make sure all the windows are clean to allow for maximum light.
Before you bring the plants inside
If you are bringing in any plants that were sitting outside, treat them in the same way you would treat a new plant. Isolate them from the rest of your indoor plants and treat them for any potential pest they may be carrying into your home. Using an insecticidal soap solution, spray from the tops of the leaves all the way down to the soil, making sure that this process is done a few times during the quarantine period. These plants should remain secluded from the rest of your plants for three to five days. Doing so ensures that any wayward outdoor pest has been eliminated. After the treatment process, rinse and let the plants dry out.
Most tropical plants are comfortable at temperatures between 60°F and 75°F (15-24°C), so before the weather starts to dip below 55°F (12°C) at night, move them indoors. This is also the time to assess where your plants are arranged, regardless of whether they lived outside for the summer or not.
Check window sills and near exterior doors and less insulated areas that may be drafty and harm any plants sitting nearby. Alternatively, any plants in the path of a radiator or vent may also be at risk. Too much heat can dry the plant out and cause wilting, crispy leaves or even your plant’s demise. The best option is to move those plants out of the way, but if there is nowhere else to put them, it might be a good idea to invest in a humidifier to put some moisture back in the air.
Generally, less watering is necessary for the winter months than in the spring and summer seasons. Plants do not grow as quickly, so they are not expending as much energy and do not need as much water as a more actively growing plant would.
However, other factors that could affect watering schedules may be at play, such as the lower winter humidity speeding up the soil’s drying out process. Try grouping your plants together. They release water vapor into the air, which creates a more humid environment for all of the plants in that area.
Water when at least the top few inches of soil are dry and adjust the plant’s location if it is drying out too slowly or quickly. When watering, ensure to fully wet the soil, but also allow it to dry out before the next watering.
No matter the time of year, overwatering is one the most common causes of plant death, so water every plant according to its needs, not your schedule.
Plants need more sun
The low and fleeting sunlight of the cold months can leave both people and plants depleted of energy. Daylight hours grow shorter and provide much weaker rays than the glaring summer sun. This is a cue to our plants and our bodies to slow down.
Less light means less energy, for everyone. Plants combat this with dormancy, conserving precious energy to last out the bleakest months. For humans, the longer stretches of darkness trigger our production of melatonin and induce a general feeling of lethargy for most, while prompting a seasonal depression for others. The environment that was meeting your needs a few months ago may not be sustaining you anymore, and the same can be said for your plant companions.
The location you choose for your plant could decide whether it survives to see spring. Now, plants that would have scorched with southern exposure in the summer may actually prefer the stronger rays that south-facing windows now provide. Similarly, while the northern sun may have been sustainable before, the lower temperatures and weak sun could be inhospitable during this season. Keep in mind that, in conjunction with the diminishing daylight, plants receive less light in even the brightest indoor spot than they do in the darkest patch of shade outside.
Skip fertilizing and repotting
Lower light conditions require less fertilization, so fertilizing at this time of year is usually unnecessary. Overfertilization can cause damage to the roots, causing the edges of the leaves to appear burnt or dry.
The best time to repot a plant is during the spring, but the next best time is while it is still actively growing, before beginning dormancy. Use fall to do last-minute repotting for any plant that outgrew its home over the summer.
The onset of the colder seasons can bring on an undesirable mental state, but luckily, plant companions are here to lend a helping hand. Having or tending to plants has a natural mood boosting effect, along with numerous other health benefits. So while it might seem like you are the one taking care of your plants, they are also quietly taking care of you.
At horti, we take extra steps to ensure that your monthly plants keep coming to you in good cozy conditions, which is why we ship all our plants with 48 hour heat-packs. Please disregard those after opening your box. We also check the weather for each region before sending the plants out, and will keep you posted if we need to delay shipping due to any nasty weather conditions.