For houseplants, the transitional seasons are some of the most critical periods for growth. While spring changes are usually for the better, fall is a period of great risk. Decreased sunlight hours and light quality, fluctuating temperatures, and the start of the heating season all require special adjustments to care regimens. The foundation of successful fall care for houseplants is constant monitoring of their condition and their slowed growth rate. You will learn Tips for Indoor Plant Care in Autumn in the ThumbGarden article.
When Do Houseplants Start To Enter Autumn?
Fall is a transitional period for all houseplants, even winter-flowering species. However, most houseplants have a completely different stage of development during this time, and the process of slowing down of active vegetation begins in the fall. Even if plants do not enter a full dormant phase, they still stop growing and their needs change accordingly.
It is not only difficult but impossible, to name an exact date or period when care will change based on a slowdown in growth. Every year, every fall is special and unique. The number of cloudy days, temperature readings, and the start date of the heating season also have a direct impact on the exact transition of plants from summer to winter and how long it is in between.
The best advice you can follow in the fall is to carefully observe how quickly the plants and soil dry out so that you can synchronize your care with the signals from the plants themselves.
As early as the end of August, you should start actively monitoring changes in the rate of plant development. Sometimes the actual fall starts earlier than the calendar and all plants respond differently to seasonal changes. From September onwards, be very careful when watering.
For all plants, it is worth checking advice on winter preparation and reduced dormancy care, developing a schedule, and dividing your plant collection into species that overwinter in normal rooms and those that require cooler conditions. For the latter, as with succulents and winter-flowering plants, autumn should be approached differently.
All Eyes Are On Prevention
Fall is the most dangerous season for pest and disease risk. All houseplants are usually at particular risk when the heaters start running: the dry air creates an ideal environment for the spread of spider mites, mealybugs, aphids, and scale insects.
Infected plants should be quarantined, and preventive insecticide sprays are better for the rest of the collection. However, the most important means of preventing pests are to increase humidity, correct maintenance at the right time, and keep plants clean.
Of these diseases, rot is the most dangerous in the fall. Improper watering is the most common. Drying the root ball immediately and changing watering patterns later can help avoid emergency replanting and the use of fungicides.
Caring For Houseplants That Do Not Require A Cold Dormancy Period In The Fall
For all basic houseplants that have stopped or almost stopped growing for the winter but do not require cold overwintering, general recommendations can be followed when caring for them.
As growth slows, temperatures drop, and the light intensity decreases so does the rate of water use. If the soil is slowly drying out, it is very dangerous not to water. As a rule of thumb, watering should be reduced to make it more economical and less frequent, in proportion to the degree of slow growth.
One thing to keep in mind: the degree of dryness of the soil, check the degree of dryness preferred by the species before each subsequent watering.
The best strategy is: to reduce the amount of water and water more moderately, rather than heavily.
A less active growing season means that the plant’s nutrient requirements and ability to absorb nutrients efficiently will also change dramatically. While watering decreases according to the rate of water depletion, nutrients are not as easy to monitor, as visible signs of over-or under-fertilization may take months to show.
What to look for: There are no symptoms and you must look at the plant’s growth rate.
Best strategy: Starting in September or at least mid-September, fertilization should be gradually reduced and stopped altogether by the end of fall. Exceptions are plants that bloom in autumn. The guidelines for the species in question must be strictly adhered to: do plants need a sudden “break” or a gradual reduction through the winter?
3. Keep the leaves clean
Hygienic measures are crucial in autumn. The risk of pest infestation is already very high during this transitional season and increases several times with the start of the heating season. If the temperature is very low, “wet” treatments are not advisable.
One thing to keep in mind: watch for dust buildup and dried leaves.
The best strategy is to: clean plants weekly to avoid plant debris from accumulating on the soil surface and perform timely and sanitary pruning.
4. Air temperature
In the fall, indoor temperatures, especially near the beginning of the new heating season, are not stable. And more often than not, we’re talking about a drop in average temperature, which is especially noticeable at night.
Carefully monitor the temperature readings in the room and, if possible, try to take steps to stabilize the soil temperature – by moving the plants to a place where they will be comfortable.
What is the goal: room temperature readings.
The best strategy: place containers on stands, move plants away from windows whenever they touch a cold surface, move them to a more secluded area, and take steps to protect them from the wind.
5. Air humidity
It is worthwhile for any plant to maintain an optimal environment based on personal recommendations, but once the heating season begins, everything should be done to compensate for the changing conditions.
One thing to watch out for: drip meters or dry leaf tips.
The best strategy: install simple humidifiers in the form of trays or special appliances of moistened expanded clay and pebbles, spray, protective screens and keep the plants away from heaters and radiators.
And don’t ignore changes in light or wait for branches to elongate and leaves to lose their color. For any indoor plants in the fall, you should try to maintain normal and customary light levels.
As daylight hours change and cloudy weather approach all plant species that cannot receive the seasonal reduction in light should be moved to a bright windowsill or provided with additional light. The needs of each plant should be considered individually.
Fall Care For Cool Overwintering Species
Citrus, oleander, conifers, roses, ivy, pomegranates, and much other spring and summer flowering plants require cool or cold overwintering conditions for proper development, flowering, and fruiting.
In the fall, care for them according to the general rules, but at the recommended time for each species, move them to a cooler location – a balcony, insulated terrace, winter garden, or cool room.
The average low overwintering temperature is 50-59 °F (10-15 °C). It’s worth making sure that all undefoliated plants get enough light to remain ornamental. And don’t forget the incompatibility of cool housing with high air and soil moisture.
If plants have spent the summer in the garden, moving them back to intermediate conditions at the end of the quarantine period immediately provides an ideal environment for the dormant period.
Fall Care For Cacti And Succulents
To keep cacti comfortable during the autumn and winter months, they must be moved to the brightest part of the house before mid-autumn to avoid contact with cold surfaces and heaters if there is a sudden drop in light. They are almost never watered.
For all non-forest succulents, the standard is the same. If cacti and succulents are flowering species, bright light must be combined with a cold overwintering and a strict dormancy period.
Fall Care For Flowering Houseplants
Fall care for plants that continue to flower after October should be handled in the same way. There is one exception: watering and fertilizing should not be stopped for such crops, and individual recommendations should be strictly followed.
There are several nuances to be noted.
- the temperature of the water (it should be much warmer than the room temperature)
- by preventing the substrate from drying out completely and limiting the maximum water content.
- by moving it to a south window or compensating with extra light.
- by reducing the concentration of fertilizer.
- By carefully controlling the stability of air humidity.
All tuber and bulb plants that flower in winter should be rotated toward the light source. On the other hand, shrubs and other plants should not be moved.