Seasonal Houseplant Care Guide

With drafty homes and climates with four distinct seasons, there will be considerable differences in seasonal houseplant care. Even in homes with tightly controlled temperature and humidity levels, there will be differences in the amount of light a plant receives throughout the year. Indoor grow lights can increase the types of plants you care for and their growth pattern, but even then, there will be big differences between winter and summer plant care.

The only way to know for sure how to modify your houseplant care by season is to learn about that specific type of plant, modify based on your local climate, and then monitor the houseplant’s growth and soil moisture to make any necessary adjustments. That said, there are some seasonal adjustments to houseplant care that is shared by many types of plants.

Houseplant Care in Spring

Adjust watering proactively or else look for signs of underwatering. As the days start getting longer, your plant will emerge from its dormant state. Even if the plant continued to show signs of growth over the winter, it may still start to need more water. Likewise, this is the best time to fertilize to promote new growth and take advantage of the season. More to this point, add dusting and cleaning plant leaves to your list for seasonal houseplant care in spring.

It’s also important to start looking for signs of discoloration from too much sunlight. The temperatures may remain cool and pleasant, but during May and June, your houseplants will start to see some of the most direct sunlight of the entire year. On warmer days, you can start taking some of your indoor/outdoor plants outside for a few hours to transition them into their summer spot.

Spring is the time to prune for new growth. Ideally, you will have pruned back any dead growth during the fall and winter. When spring arrives, it’s time to take a look at your plants with a different perspective. If a houseplant is getting on the large side for its pot, spring is the best time to take action. You will likely have three options: 1) You can repot the plant in a larger pot. 2) You can prune and discard the trimmings. 3) You can take these trimmings and propagate the plant.

Houseplant Care in Summer

You may need to water all or most of your houseplants a little more frequently in summer. Warmer temperatures make it easier for water to evaporate.  For plants that prefer soil with higher moisture content, you may need to add rocks, mulch, or other amendments that help the soil retain more moisture between watering.

Plants that like a lot of light will likely take off during the summer. You may want to consider moving plants that don’t like direct sunlight away from windows. The first half of summer is also your last chance to make plans for the rest of the growing season. This is typically your last chance to apply fertilizer or propagate a plant cutting and expect new growth before next year.

Most houseplants more easily tolerate temperatures that are warmer than usual. Your houseplants don’t need you to crank up the A/C on their account. In fact, plants may even suffer from low humidity levels in the summer if they are placed too close to air vents. Once overnight temperatures consistently stay above 60-70 degrees, you may also bring most types of full sun plants outdoors, but you must do so gradually.

Houseplant Care in Fall

Here’s a tip for seasonal houseplant care: Give yourself permission to test out your furnace early in the fall season during the first mild cold snap. This will help introduce your houseplants to drier air earlier in the year, while reducing temperature extremes. Thus, be ready with the room-by-room air humidifiers, if you don’t have a whole house humidifier. This combination should help create a smooth transition from summer’s hot, humid environment to winter’s cold, dry environment.

If spring is the time to prune aggressively to promote new growth, then fall is the time to prune conservatively. At the end of summer, blooms and other new growth may start to wilt or become discolored. The fall season is also time to remove this growth and remove any fallen growth from the pot to keep your plant looking great.

Along with checking on the heating system, pest control is another thing that homes and houseplants have in common with the fall season. Many types of bugs that bred in the spring and matured in the summer will look to find warmer, protected places to survive the winter. This makes them more likely to come inside the home and more likely to find your houseplants.  

Houseplant Care in Winter

While there are many houseplants, like the Christmas cactus and many types of orchids, that bloom in the wintertime, most plants do not show new growth. Instead, these plants go dormant. This is normal. Do not try to compensate by adding fertilizer. This will almost surely do more harm than good. Most houseplants recognize the winter season by the amount and time in which they receive light. Rather that flooding plants with indoor grow lights, some plants prefer to be kept in the dark to mimic their natural environment.

Dormant plants already need less water, but colder temperatures also mean that the potting soil will take longer to dry out. At the same time, the air dries out. Moisture-loving plants may need an air humidifier or regular misting to keep a minimal amount of moisture in the air. Likewise, don’t let dormancy and reduced watering cause you to ignore the plant altogether. Left undisturbed for too long plant leaves, like furniture and knick-knacks, can collect their own layer of dust. This dust reduces the leaves ability to maintain some level of nutrient absorption.

Some plants do fine with east- or north-facing windows during the summer but may wilt to a significant degree in winter. In these borderline cases, you might be able to care for a favorite houseplant by moving it into a south- or west-facing window. Alternatively, moving the plants closer to the window and cleaning the glass will also let the plant get more light.

Follow the Basics for Seasonal Houseplant Care

Regardless of the season, it’s important to know and follow the basic houseplant care guide. If you know how to monitor your soil moisture content and the amount of water you apply each time, you’ll end up naturally adjusting your schedule to fit the season. Watching your houseplants for signs of discoloration, withered growth, waterlogged leaves, pot-bound stress, and pest infestations will also help you identify seasonal houseplant care that you may have missed along the way.