There is nothing more exciting than the awakening of plants in the spring. Right now I have winter aconites blooming outside my front door and other plants peeking out of the ground, seeing if it is safe to venture out. Inside, the plants are doing the same, waking up and sending out new growth. Because they are beginning to grow, we can up-pot, fertilize, and start getting them preened and pruned for spring. Is spring different than other seasons for our houseplants? Yes! And how do we care for them differently now? Let’s talk about how to care for your houseplants this spring, but first, let’s look at some plants waking up from their winter slumber. It’s time to “spring clean” our plants like we do our homes at this time of year.
Houseplants under lights
This morning I spent some time cleaning up the plants growing on my light stand, washing leaves, checking for insects, and pruning leaves. I have phalaenopsis orchids, succulents, African violets, and other plants growing under lights and they needed some attention. If you have houseplants growing under lights they will still know (I don’t know how) the seasons are changing and react somewhat, but as a rule, because the light is the same all year, the change of seasons isn’t as significant as plants grown in natural light from our windows. But as it is spring, you should still take the time to check them over and re-pot if needed.
Now is a good time to check your plants for insects and other pests. Check for scale, mealybugs, and spider mites. This should be done on a regular basis, obviously, but definitely check now as you are grooming your plants. Give them a good cleaning, taking them to the shower or sink if possible to get all the dust off. Here in Michigan, the furnace had been running all winter and though I change the filter regularly, it can still get dusty in here. Plants need the dust removed so they can photosynthesize and make food unimpeded by dirt. Washing your windows and screens is important, too.
As the time the sun is shining gets longer, your plants are waking up and sending out new growth. They are photosynthesizing longer and using more water, so check your plants often and add water when needed.
As long as my plants aren’t actively growing, I don’t fertilize. When new growth starts in late February, early March here in Michigan, I think about adding some fertilizer. New growth might start earlier or later where you live. I don’t ever use the full amount they recommend on the container and definitely never more than they recommend, using 1/2 to 1/4 the amount. Fertilize approximately once a month or every 4th watering starting now through approximately September or so.
Repotting and Up-potting
Spring is the time to re-pot and up-pot your plants. I talk about doing that in the fall here, but as a rule, it is best to do it in the spring when your plant is waking up, sending out new growth on the top and on the bottom sending out new roots in the potting medium. Check your plants by pulling them out of their pots and seeing what is going on with the roots. If they are filling the pot or as in the left picture coming out the bottom and wrapping around in the saucer, it is time to move them up into the next size pot.
Up-pot one size at a time
As you choose a pot to up-pot your plant into, choose one only one size larger. If it is extremely root bound, you may want to go up two sizes. Moving your plant up to a size pot that is too big can cause problems. Too much wet potting mix around the roots can lead to root rot if the roots can’t use all the water in a timely manner.
Spring is the perfect time to check your plants for potting needs, clean them up, and start fertilizing. Choose a good potting mix, the right size pot, and the fertilizer that works for your plants, whether it is organic or synthetic. It’s your choice.
Happy spring! Have a great week!