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Seasonal Tip

Fall Houseplant Care
September 21, 2009

Labor Day weekend generally marks the beginning of two yearly events – we send our children back to school, and we prepare our houseplants to come back inside for the fall and winter.

While the back-to-school process is a matter of individual choices, styles, and needs, houseplant preparation is more structured.

To help your plants adjust to the decrease in light that they are going to experience, it is important to place them on the east side of your home or property. The eastern side is the side that gets the morning sun and is generally shaded in the afternoon. The plants should sit in this area for a few weeks. (Be sure to complete the move before nighttime temperatures reach 55° F.) This is important because the strength of light, even in a room with full southern exposure and plenty of windows, is only about 60% of the natural light that is present outside. In an eastern or western facing room, it can be as low as 40% of the strength of natural light. The shock of such a dramatic change in light results in plant stress, yellowing, and leaf drop. By giving the plant a grace period of lower light, it has a chance to gradually slow its growth processes, making the transition much more tolerable.

Before bringing your plants back inside, it is also a good idea to replace the current potting soil and to treat the plant with an insecticidal soap. This will prevent the introduction of insects, bacteria, fungi, etc. into your home. Because plants tend to go somewhat dormant in the winter, it is not a good idea to increase the pot size at this time. That is best left for the spring when the plant is about to enter into active growth again. Our purpose at this time is to provide clean potting soil after a season of exposure to the out-of-doors.

Once your plants are back inside, you may need to adjust your watering practices. Remember, it is better to let plants become slightly dry than to drown the roots with too much water.

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