With the cooler months upon us, it is important to touch on changing plant care needs. Autumn and winter can be a challenging time to care for indoor plants. If you are a new plant collector- or just need to brush up on care tips- here are some pointers to get you headed in the right direction.
As the days are starting to become shorter, the location of your plants may need to change. Most of my plants are in a north facing room, which has an abundance of light in the entire room during late spring and summer. With the arrival of autumn, the lighting in the room has changed. I have moved all of my plants as close to the windows as possible to get the best light, even allowing some morning sun to shine on them.
The change in light is due to the sun now being lower in the sky than it was during spring and summer. Sun rays are spread over a larger area, creating a weaker ray of light. Be aware of the changes of light in your home and move accordingly.
We have had a somewhat mild summer here in Sydney due to El Nina. Autumn and winter appear to be on track for this weather to continue with cold and rainy days. If you live in an area where it is rather chilly or cold in your house, this could also affect how your plants cope. Anything below 15 degrees Celsius is too low for your plants to thrive. Plants that were outside may need to be moved indoors and rooms may need to be heated. When using a heater indoors, humidity levels will decrease significantly as the air is drier. Grouping plants together or placing on a tray of water are a couple of ways to help with the humidity levels.
Over the years when talking with customers about plant concerns, watering issues have been the most prevalent. A plant that required watering once every three or four days in summer does not need the same frequency in cooler weather. Watering frequency is variable based on light, pot size, soil, temperature, placement, and even the plant itself. Using a moisture meter can help tremendously. If the surface of the soil is dry, it may still be damp lower down in the pot. I have used Sustee individual moisture meters that stay in the pot for my large plants (20 centimeter pots or larger) during winter, and have discovered that some plants can take weeks to dry out. The Sustees are a life saver and are super easy to use. You simply place it in the soil and it has a window that changes colour when the plant is dry. When watering, use room temperature water instead of cold water to help prevent shock to the roots.
There are many differing opinions on feeding plants in autumn and winter. Plants have slower growth and are in a resting period. They do not expend as much energy. Some people do not fertilize their plants at all during this time and some continue with half strength every fortnight. Choosing whether to fertilize comes down to personal choice.