Spring Indoor Plant Care: 5 Steps to Happier Houseplants

Posted on Feb 26, 2016 in Nursery, Projects | 7 Comments

Here in the Maritime Northwest, spring has a habit of coming early. Some call it the “February Fake-out,” with sunny days, temperatures in the high 60’s and the Camellia trees in full blossom. But even if it’s still frosty where you live, the days are getting longer and this means that your houseplants are beginning to wake up from their winter dormancy. It’s time for you to help them wake up with some maintenance geared towards indoor plant care.

Succulents, cacti, tropicals and ferns each have their own specific needs come springtime, but there are a few steps that should be considered for all of your indoor plants this time of year to support them as they wake up. Here’s a few spring indoor plant care tips that we’re doing around the nursery and in our homes this time of year.

Spring Indoor Plant Care: 5 Steps to Happier Houseplants

  1. Re-pot or pot up

    As your indoor plants awake from winter dormancy, they begin to stretch out their arms and legs, producing new growth for the first time in months. This is the ideal time to give plants a bit of extra space to grow, since roots will quickly grow into the extra soil, reducing the risk of root rot and providing a fertilizer boost.

    Assess your plant and decide if it needs to be repotted (kept in the same pot, pruning roots and adding fresh soil) or potted up (graduated into a larger pot). Remember; many plants prefer to be kept slightly root bound, and very rarely should you pot up into a pot whose diameter is more than 1-2″ larger than the old pot.

    Not sure where to get started? Here’s how to pot up and re-pot your plants. Re-potting and potting up is the classic indoor plant care step that’s tempting to skip, but your plants will thank you.

  2. Your plants are hungry. Give them some food!

    If you read our tips for fall houseplant care, you’ll have stopped (or greatly reduced) fertilizing for the past few months, as your plants don’t need extra nutrients over winter and they might actually burn the roots.

    As spring comes on, this is the perfect time to give your plants some extra energy. We like using a liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion or seaweed, but anything organic will do! Err on the side of less, and always dilute your fertilizers a bit more than recommended on the package instructions. You can also add organic material like compost, provided it’s fully broken down.

  3. Prune, trim and curate

    Let’s face it: sometimes our plants just don’t like winter. Most of our houseplants come from very warm, very tropical (or dry) places, where the seasons are felt differently than they are here and growing conditions are more conducive to the plant’s natural rhythms. Plants show this annoyance by yellowing, dropping leaves, browning, wilting… the list goes on. Spring presents the perfect opportunity to get rid of those sad leaves because your plants are about to enter a sustained period of active growth.

    Trim: Cut away any leaves that have or are beginning to yellow or brown. They’re not coming back.

    Prune: Most indoor plants take well to pruning. On vining tropicals, cut off any stems that have grown long and leggy, or have put out only small new growth. New stems will form in their place!

    Curate: Sometimes, we just have to say goodbye. If a plant is truly looking sad, it’s going to bum you out. Donate it to a friend with more space in their apartment, or if it’s actually gone, send it back to the Earth (in your compost bin). Okay, we realize that saying goodbye might not be easy, but sometimes it’s a necessary step in indoor plant care.

  4. Spring cleaning: Dust and wash those leaves

    Aside from making your plants look better, spending some time to give your plants (specifically leafy tropicals) some TLC in the form of washing and dusting actually helps them thrive: dust that accumulates on leaves actually blocks light from reaching the leaves and inhibits photosynthesis and respiration.

    To clean, support the underside of the leaf with your palm, and then wipe the surface with a damp papertowel or soft cloth. Make sure to clean both sides of the leaf. If you’re looking for a shortcut, you can also put your plants in the shower and give them a bath with tepid water, so long as your water pressure isn’t too intense (CAREFUL – don’t overwater. This ain’t for cacti and succulents).

    After your leaves are clean, you can help keep them that way (and help ward off pests and mold at the same time) by spraying them with an organic leaf-shine like diluted neem oil. They’ll look sparkly and thank you for it by staying happy and healthy – indoor plant care at its finest!

  5. Spring Indoor Plant Care - 5 Steps to Happier Houseplants - Pistils Nursery

    Large-leaf tropicals like Ficus lyrata and Ficus elastica accumulate a lot of dust in the winter. Time for some spring cleaning!

  6. Adjust and reposition based on light and temperature needs

    Depending on your home, you probably moved your houseplants around a bit in the fall. Did you move those tropicals closer to the window to get some more light? Or maybe you moved your ficus away from that drafty door to protect its sensitive leaves. Or did you put your jade in the side room to give it cool temperatures and induce blooming?

    Either way, it’s time to think about what each plant needs and move it accordingly. Your south and west windows are going to begin letting in much more light as the days get longer. Don’t let your tropicals get scorched; move your cacti and succulents there instead! Or, check your night-time temperatures. When they’re safely staying in the 50s and above, you might want to start moving some of your indoor plants outdoors to a protected front porch to promote active growth (do this little by little, as the extra light can be shocking).

    Lastly, keep your house in mind. Where are the plants going to bring you the most joy? How has the design of your house changed over the winter and where are some new places that plants would be happy? We like to put them everywhere, and it’s always fun to try to find creative solutions to integrate more green.

What indoor plant care steps do you take in spring to get your houseplant buddies looking great? What questions do you have for us? Let us know in the comments!

7 Comments

  1. Cobb
    March 17, 2016

    For someone whose just starting to keep house plants, this guide is super helpful. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jesse
      March 22, 2016

      So glad you found it useful! Thanks again.

      Jesse

      Reply
  2. Fernando
    July 15, 2016

    Hey,

    Congrats on the article… very good information for a plant newbie.

    I have a question.. I recently purchased a Ficus Lyrata and the bottom leaves are not in very good condition. Some have torn, other have brown edges, etc. If I prune them, will the grow back? I’m afraid to loose the foliage on the bottom of the tree.

    thanks.

    Reply
    • Jesse
      July 18, 2016

      Thanks for the kind words, Fernando!

      If you prune the leaves back, new leaves will not replace the old ones down there. It’s possible that the plant may push out a new stem or branch where it was pruned, but new growth is much more likely to happen at the top of the plant, rather than the bottom.

      Hope this helps,
      Jesse

      Reply
  3. john
    December 3, 2016

    Thank you for this article. It really breaks down plant care to the newbies. Brown and yellow leaves should definitely be cut. Some people believe they will resurrect themselves lol

    Reply
  4. Lindale Tree Care TX
    April 14, 2017

    Great article and very informative! This is really helpful especially to the people who are newbie in house plants!

    Reply
    • Jesse
      April 24, 2017

      Thank you! Glad it helped.

      Reply

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