Plants

Autumn plant care: how to keep your houseplants happy during the darker months

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Lauren Geall
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A woman wiping the leaves of her fiddle leaf fig.

As autumn arrives and the number of daylight hours decreases, it’s time to mix up your plant care routine to keep your leafy friends happy and healthy throughout the darker months.

It’s safe to say that autumn has well and truly arrived in the UK. Forget the warm, sunny days of August – if you haven’t already, you’ll probably need to crack out your raincoat, jumpers and stomper boots pretty soon. 

However, as the weather gets more miserable and the nights draw in, we’re not the only ones feeling the impact of the changing seasons. Our plants feel the arrival of autumn, too – and just like us, they need a little extra help to get them through the next couple of months.

While houseplants aren’t as vulnerable to the change in season as the plants you might find in your garden, there are still a few key changes you should make to your care routine to ensure they’re getting everything they need to thrive throughout autumn and winter. 

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With this in mind, we asked Meg Spink, Patch Plants’ resident plant doctor, for her top tips on how to keep our plants alive and well throughout autumn. 

“Just like us, our plants are a bit less active over winter,” she explains. “As we get ready to embrace quiet, cosy nights in, our plants are preparing for their own dormant period.”

From making sure they get plenty of light to mixing up our watering routine, here’s what she had to say. 

1. Move your plants closer to a window

As autumn approaches and the number of daylight hours decreases, it’s harder for our plants to get the amount of light exposure they need to stay alive and healthy.

“To help your plants absorb as much light as possible, wipe their leaves to remove any dust and move them closer to a window,” Spink recommends.

“Just be sure to check your plants aren’t next to any drafts – they hate cold breezes as much as we do!”

A collection of houseplants on a window sill
Autumn plant care: moving your plants closer to a window will help to ensure they get enough light during the darker months.

2. Apply your last pump of fertiliser

Thanks to the fall in temperature and reduction in light levels, autumn and winter mark a dormant period for many houseplants, meaning they slow down their growth in order to conserve energy. As a result, you can cut down on feeding your plants during this time.

“This is the last month you should add a squirt of fertiliser to the soil,” Spink says. “Because plants don’t grow very much in winter, they won’t need feeding again until Spring.”

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Continuing to feed your plants in a time when they’re not actively growing could actually cause damage to their roots because the nutrients in the fertiliser won’t be used up.

3. Cut down on watering

If you’ve been paying attention to your plants over the last couple of weeks, you might have already noticed they’re not drying out as quickly as they did during summer; plants are less thirsty at this time of year because temperatures are cooler and they’re not producing as much new growth.

“Be sure to reduce the frequency of watering,” Spink says. “Remember to do the finger dip test before you water, only watering when the top two inches of the soil feel dry.”

If you don’t trust your watering instincts, you can also pick up a soil moisture meter which can tell you when your plants are in need of a drink.

A woman watering her plants
Autumn plant care: pay attention to how much you're watering your plants and cut down where necessary.

4. Avoid drastic temperature changes

Although switching on the heating can be a good way to regulate the temperature for your plants, it can also do them damage if you’re not careful.

“Make sure your plant isn’t near a radiator because the high temperatures can dry out their soil faster,” Spink explains. “If you’re lucky enough to have underfloor heating, this can upset your plants by keeping their roots too warm. Plant stands are a good way around this problem.”

If you do have to keep your plant near(ish) a radiator, make sure to pay attention to its soil and provide extra water where necessary.

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Lauren Geall

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