5 Things You Shouldn't Do With Your Houseplants During Fall

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Image by Bloomscape

Just as we humans transform in the fall—covering ourselves in chunky sweaters and embracing all things semi-spooky and mega-pumpkin—our houseplants change with the first chill of the season too.

The cooler weather, shorter days, and lower humidity affects your plant pals, according to longtime florist and designated Plant Mom at direct-to-consumer plant company Bloomscape Joyce Mast. Here are her top five houseplant care mistakes to avoid once the weather turns:

1. Don't keep your plants in the same place.

"The light coming into your home will change as the season changes," Mast cautions. "If your plant was near a window shaded by a tree, the sun rays may be more intense once the leaves fall off the tree." To make sure your plant's leaves don't get burned by the newly direct sun rays (yes, plants get sunburns too!), you might want to move them back from the window or reposition them to be in a shadier area.

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2. Don't dry out the air.

Many houseplants are native to tropical climes and, therefore, crave humidity. Once we start to crank on our fireplaces and heaters, the air can become too dry and cause plant leaves to wilt and brown along the edges. You can add some moisture back into the air by moving your humidifier closer to your plants, says Mast. Grouping your houseplants together could have a similar effect since plants actually share moisture when they sit together in clusters.

You can also mist your plants to get the moisture up temporarily or start placing your plant pals on a pebble pedestal. To make a pebble tray, Mast says to, "Place a layer of pebbles in a tray and add enough water so the pebbles are not quite covered. Then, set the plants on top. As the water evaporates from the tray, it increases the moisture in the air around the plant, and the pebbles hold the plant above the water so that the roots are not constantly wet."

3. Don't let your plants gather dust.

The start of fall is a nice time to give your plants a good watering. They'll thank you for the extra moisture and be happy to get rid of any dust, dead leaves, or critters that have collected on their leaves over the summer. Here's a quick guide to watering your plants in the shower. Mast's No. 1 tip? Be sure your water is lukewarm!

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4. Don't fertilize.

One big misstep that people make in the fall is continuing to fertilize their plants. "Many indoor foliage plants go into a period of rest or dormancy for the fall and winter months, so there is no need to fertilize your plants," Mast says. "Growth will slow down or in some cases completely stop; this is normal, and you can do more harm than good if you feed your plants during this time."

5. Don't keep up with a summer watering schedule.

While hot and sunny summer months call for a once-a-week watering schedule for most plants, fall is a different story. Your plant will be growing less since it's getting less sunlight, so you'll probably need to water it only every two weeks or so. To know when it needs water, use the touch test: "Simply push your finger down into the soil about 1 to 3 inches depending on pot size to feel if the soil is damp. If you feel moisture, do not water," Mast says. "If it is dry, water your plants until it flows freely from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure there is never any standing water in the saucer."

You can keep up with this technique through winter to make sure you're not overwatering—which is the No. 1 kiss of death for houseplants, it turns out. Wishing you and your plants a happy hibernation!

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