How to Care for Your Plant in Fall and Winter – Yellowing/Dead Leaves On Your Houseplants

This post is being aimed at beginner plant mamas and papas as a tutorial. But it’s also meant to encourage those experienced plant parents. Complete newbie or professional grower, let me give you a reminder that Fall is the time of year when our houseplants will struggle a bit and start showing us signs of displeasure (ie. an occasional yellow leaf) with the cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours. No worries, your plant is okay.

It’s okay, my friends!

Death of older leaves is inevitable. But when that yellow leaf is dying off of your most cherished and horrifyingly expensive Philodendron…it feels like time to panic. It’s difficult to live through. I get it.

So consider the problems/causes of this leaf loss; less daylight, less intensity of light, heaters inside and cooler temperatures outside; and try to make adjustments to help your plant babies accordingly.

To help with lighting:

Move plants to locations that have more windows or brighter windows. West and South windows that might not be appropriate during the hotter months, may be the perfect location through the Fall and Winter since they will provide the most light exposure.

If you have limited window real estate, consider investing in a grow light. Or if you’re living in a jungle, like me, maybe multiple grow lights. (The grow lights that I use are not necessarily for the plants in your living room because of size. But they work! (Affiliate link.)) Group your plants so that the plants with higher light needs are placed closer to the bright windows and/or growlights. Grouping your plants together also benefits them in the humidity department which we will talk about next. Let me offer one caution for the moving of plants to brighter locations whether they be natural or artificial light locations. Transition your plants to their new brighter locations the same way you harden off seedlings before planting them out in the garden. In other words, introduce them slowly to their brighter spots, taking several days of moving them closer and closer to their new bright light. This will prevent leaf burn. No one wants burnt leaves.

In the Summer months, your plants probably enjoy plenty of humidity. The fall and winter however, bring blowing wind that strips humidity right out of the air. And to compound the issue, we humans are heating our homes which plummets the inside humidity levels to 40%, 30% and sometimes even lower. Our foliage plants will certainly lose leaves if subjected to these low humidity levels. (Just an FYI – If you keep succulent plants and cacti, these lower humidity levels do not present an issue.)

To help with humidity:

Consider investing in a hygrometer. They are right around $10 and can be found at Amazon (here is an affiliate link to the one I own multiples of), Lowe’s or Home Depot. Probably many other places as well, but that’s where I buy mine. Another thing that I like about having hygrometers is that they show the highest and lowest humidity levels from the last 24 hours. I find that to be really helpful.

Another obvious help is a good quality humidifier. And no, not all humidifiers are created equally. There are very few humidifiers that will do the job better than the fabulous, fantastic, unstoppable Levoit humidifiers. I use two different Levoit humidifiers and I will include links for both in this and the next paragraph. The smaller Levoit humidifier holds just over a gallon of water and gives you the control to set the desired percentage of humidity you want it to maintain. I love, love, love this humidifier! It is possible to clean every part of the humidifier inside and out which is almost never the case with other humidifiers. It’s really important!

The larger Levoit humidifier is capable of holding just over 1.5 gallons of water! This one also allows you to set the percentage of humidity that you would like the humidifier to maintain. It is also possible to clean every part of this humidifier inside and out. As an added bonus, this humidifier can handle a larger space. Also it gives you the option to have warm or cool mist. So even though it’s price tag is pretty steep, it may be the best investment for your plants.

Finally, to help with humidity, you should consider moving your plants away from any heat sources. This will help to prevent excess drying of your plant’s leaves. This also applies to the parents of succulent and cacti plants. They do need to stay warm though the colder months, but being super close to a heat source will also cause harm. Just think of a place where you would feel comfortable and that should be perfect for your plant. Sitting your bottom directly on a stove or heater vent…probably not a cozy option. Assume your plant won’t appreciate it either.

The very last thing we must change in the cooler months is the amount of water and frequency of watering our houseplants. I want to caution that this is for the majority of houseplants, but there are a few exceptions that do their active growing in fall and winter. But that topic is for a different blog. Most of our plants will not be photosynthesizing very actively because of lower light levels and cooler temperatures. If the plant is not photosynthesizing as actively, the plant does not want/need as much water.

To help with watering:

Consider using a something other than your finger to measure moisture in your plant’s soil. Our fingers aren’t always an accurate indication of moisture. I use a moisture meter for most of my plants. Especially for my most precious plants. You know what I mean, right? Another tool that I love to use, especially on my most favorite plants, is a moisture sensor. My favorite moisture sensors are these by the Sustee company. They show blue when your plant is sufficiently watered and fade to white when the soil has dried out completely. So you can water again based on your plant’s needs; if it’s a Calathea, you water when it’s a pale blue, a succulent wouldn’t need more water until it becomes white or almost white. Also these moisture sensors come in small, medium and large sizes so that you can make sure that the moisture levels are being measured accurately in the root zone.

Don’t be afraid when you see that your plants aren’t needing to be watered weekly. They are slowing their growth, not putting out tons of new growth and therefore do not need nearly as much water. Trust your moisture meter and moisture sensors and only give water when it is needed. Your plants will thank you!

Mercy, peace and love be multiplied to you.

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