How to keep your houseplants happy and healthy as the days grow shorter

As autumn settles in and the number of daylight hours decreases, it’s time to mix up your plant care routine to keep your leafy friends happy and healthy throughout the darker months.

Your houseplants may not grow much during autumn and winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need the same amount of care and attention as they do in the warmer months.

Because most houseplants are native to tropical regions (that’s why they like the warmth of our homes so much), they tend to struggle as the nights draw in and the weather grows colder, especially if they’re located somewhere that doesn’t get much natural light.

And while there’s not much you can do about the weather changing, there are steps you can take to support your plants as it gets colder.

To find out more, we asked two plant experts to share their top tips for taking care of houseplants in the autumn and winter months. From optimising the amount of light they absorb to avoiding overwatering, here’s what they had to say. 

1. Move your plants closer to a window

As autumn continues and the number of daylight hours decreases, it’s harder for our plants to get the amount of light exposure they need to stay alive and healthy.

“To help your plants absorb as much light as possible, wipe their leaves to remove any dust and move them closer to a window,” explains Meg Spink, a plant expert at Patch Plants.

“Just be sure to check your plants aren’t next to any drafts – they hate cold breezes as much as we do!”

Autumn plant care: moving your plants closer to a window will help to ensure they get enough light during the darker months.

2. Forget the fertiliser

Thanks to the fall in temperature and reduction in light levels, autumn and winter mark a dormant period for many houseplants, meaning they slow down their growth in order to conserve energy. As a result, you can cut down on feeding your plants during this time.

“Autumn is the last time you should add a squirt of fertiliser to the soil,” Spink says. “Because plants don’t grow very much in winter, they won’t need feeding again until Spring.”

Continuing to feed your plants in a time when they’re not actively growing could actually cause damage to their roots because the nutrients in the fertiliser won’t be used up.

3. Try ‘bunching’

If you’re struggling to keep your tropical plants happy as the days get colder, then ‘bunching’ could be the technique you’ve been looking for.

“As a majority of houseplants will typically come from tropical areas, they’ll more than likely appreciate extra humidity in autumn,” explains Maddie Porritt, head buyer at The Stem.

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Is misting your plants a good way to boost humidity and avoid dry and crispy leaves?

“You’ll want to consider moving your plants to a room with more moisture, like a bathroom or kitchen, or start to mist your plants. You could also try ‘bunching’ – this means grouping houseplants that have similar needs together. It makes misting a lot easier – so spritz away.

She continues: “Sometimes bunching can even mean similar plants create their own ‘mini-biome’ – pockets of moisture that will keep them happy.” 

4. Cut down on watering

If you’ve been paying attention to your plants over the last couple of weeks, you might have already noticed they’re not drying out as quickly as they did during summer; plants are less thirsty at this time of year because temperatures are cooler and they’re not producing as much new growth. As such, you’ll want to reduce the amount of water you give them to avoid overwatering.

“Be sure to reduce the frequency of watering,” Spink says. “Remember to do the finger dip test before you water, only watering when the top two inches of the soil feel dry.”

If you don’t trust your watering instincts, you can also pick up a soil moisture meter which can tell you when your plants are in need of a drink.

Winter plant care: pay attention to how much you’re watering your plants and cut down where necessary.

5. Avoid drastic temperature changes

Although switching on the heating can help to regulate the temperature for your plants, it can also do them damage if you’re not careful.

“Make sure your plant isn’t near a radiator because the high temperatures can dry out their soil faster,” Spink explains. “If you’re lucky enough to have underfloor heating, this can upset your plants by keeping their roots too warm. Plant stands are a good way around this problem.”

If you do have to keep your plant near(ish) a radiator that gets used regularly, make sure to pay attention to its soil and provide extra water where necessary.

Images: Getty/Pexels

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