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Potting

5 Fall Houseplant Care Tips

By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms

Keep your houseplants healthy as the season changes. Dig into these simple tips to keep your houseplants looking (and growing!) their best through autumn and into winter.

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1. Watch the Watering
The more plants grow, the more water they use. So in fall, as days get shorter and light intensity decreases, you might find your houseplants need less water. But keep in mind the reverse can happen. If you have a big deciduous tree outside your window, you might find your windowsill plants actually need a little more water since the tree isn’t blocking light. Either way, as the season changes, pay a little extra attention to how long it takes your plants to start to dry between waterings to ensure they’re getting just the right amount.

2. Pay Attention to Humidity
Plant parents in many areas don’t really need to think about humidity during the summer months (sorry West Coast!) unless their air conditioner is running constantly. As you turn to the heater/furnace/fireplace to keep your home cozy, though, humidity levels start to drop. In general, plants with thicker leaves (think ZZ, Snake Plant, or Pothos) can handle this pretty well, especially if it happens over time. But thin-leaf plants like ferns or Calatheas can suffer, particularly if humidity suddenly plummets. Group your houseplants together or get a small humidifier to help keep relative humidity levels comfortable for both you and your plants (40 to 50%). 

3. Watch for Pests
Fall is an ideal time to give your plants a close inspection for insects. Examine plants for physical signs of pests, as well as fresh symptoms of damage, and treat as necessary if you see anything. Treating early can make a big difference in preventing a pest infestation from being an annoyance to becoming a full-blown problem, especially if you see spider mites or mealybugs. 

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4. Repot if They’re Rootbound
Some folks may tell you to only repot your houseplants in the spring, but fall is a great time, too (or anytime they need it, really). Autumn and winter conditions are often more stressful in our homes for our plants, so adding extra stress from being rootbound isn’t ideal. Not sure if your plant needs to be repotted? Slip it out of the pot. If you see more than about 75% roots (versus soil), then bumping your plant up to a bigger pot will be beneficial. Need repotting tips? 

5. Dust Their Leaves
A layer of dust on your plants looks unattractive, but it can also be detrimental to their health. The dust layer acts like a screen or filter, reducing the amount of light available for photosynthesis. Periodically washing or dusting leaves ensures they’re getting as much light as they can—and keeps them looking lush and healthy. If your leaves need a deep cleaning, try a weak solution of vinegar and water.


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