The essential spring care guide for your houseplants

. . . so they're just as happy about the changing seasons as you are!

By Kristin Guy

Published April 6, 2022 10:00AM (EDT)

 (James Ransom / Food52)
(James Ransom / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

Potted greenery is the perfect way to connect with nature when spending time indoors — my own green roommates have been wonderful company through the winter. Now that spring is here, it's the best time to tend to your botanical buddie — whether you've got a few or 100 — before making a break for the actual outdoors. While proper watering and correct sun exposure are your first priorities when bringing home a plant, there are a few other ways to ensure that your plants continue to grow and thrive through the seasons: soil health, pest inspections, and even a little leaf management are all important habits to add to your seasonal care routines.

I know that tackling a huge to-do list, when all you want to do is head outdoors, can seem daunting, especially if your plants are in the multiples. Try carving out the time to make these tasks enjoyable — break them up into bite-sized goals that you can tend to realistically throughout the week, rather than in one fully loaded day. Turn on some music and put on a mud mask, making it an act of self-care for yourself, too! And who knows, once you're through with your seasonal houseplant duties you might even find yourself in need of a larger pot — or one that needs filling. You've earned yourself a reward at the local plant store for all that hard work!

So, are you ready to spend a little time on your leafy loves? Here's an easy-to-tackle list of planty things to check in on before your attention drifts to the outdoors.

1. Repotting 
Has your plant outgrown its digs? This is a great time to check if its roots are starting to bind (check for any tangling or strangling or if root material is starting to poke out from the bottom of the pot) or if they need more room to grow. Simply swap out for a larger sized pot and gently zhuzh and detangle tight roots with your fingers before planting with fresh potting mix.

2. Soil check 
Your plant might not need a new pot, but its soil tank might be running low. Some cultivars are hungrier than others, and providing the appropriate amount of nutrients and moisture retention is critical. If your soil appears crusty or brittle, and does not absorb water easily, it might be time for a full potting mixture refresh (and not just a top dressing of soil) to bring back necessary nutrients.

3. Feeding and amending 
This is an expansion on your soil health check. Where nutrient-rich soil with good drainage and compost should be enough to keep leaves growing, you might need to add some extra nutrients depending on the state of affairs. Many plants go dormant during the winter months, so spring is an excellent time to feed them while they prepare for new growth. Yellowing leaves and stunted growth might be a nitrogen deficiency; try adding coffee grounds or worm castings into your potting soil as an excellent homemade and organic amendment.

Liquid amendments are easier (and less messy) to apply to potted plants: simply mix into your watering can and saturate the soil on watering day. I love using liquid seaweed and kelp fertilizers for my container plants because the plant not only receives the nutrients it needs, but the soil also becomes healthier, which aids in its natural defense against pests and diseases.

4. Pest inspection 
Bugs . . . they're going to happen. Whether one hitch hiked its way home from the nursery or creeped in from your own backyard, there's going to be a time when unwanted guests find their way inside. Early detection is critical as it makes getting rid of them easier. Move any infested plants away from the others, and remove all visible bugs by wiping with a wet cloth or pruning damaged leaves off completely. Depending on your visitor, you may need an organic treatment such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or sticky fly traps. However, the common aphid can easily be evicted with a vigorous jet of water and a little hand smushing. Do not delay taking care of bugs, as one pest is one pest too many when it comes to indoor plants — and you don't want to be dealing with an entire colony moving in.

5. Pruning 
Good airflow between leaves is just as important for indoor plants as it is for outdoor ones. If there are any decaying, drying or damaged leaves, now is a great time for a little snip, which will make room for new growth. If you are removing healthy leaves with stems that might be overcrowding, try your hand at saving them for propagation. Most clippings will sprout roots by simply placing them in water for a few weeks!

6. Watering adjustments 
It is not uncommon for my kitchen sink or bathtub to be filled to the brim with a clash of sage, chartreuse and kelly green leaves. In fact, I love watering days and truly enjoy getting to know each potted pet while keeping an eye out for that first droopy leaf. However, a shifting season can have an impact on your practiced watering routine.

Watering varies with the weather…or how much you're running your heater. Dryer, warmer environments during the winter months require more watering than those lovely, breezy spring days. On the other hand, more sunlight might cause your plants to dry out quicker and suddenly need more drinks than back in December. Now is the time to establish new routines and check in on your plants a little more frequently until you both find a new rhythm. Don't stress though, most plants can take a little drying out between drinks so most watering missteps are salvageable.

7. Leaf dusting 
Did you know that a little layer of house dust can interfere with your plants) ability to properly photosynthesize? I'm not saying you need to be wiping down every single leaf each week, but a build-up can take its toll if left unnoticed for months on end. To address this, simply cut off a corner of a clean/unused sponge and with just a little bit of water and a clean dry cloth tackle one plant (or one section of a larger plant) a leaf at a time.

8. Rearrange and refresh 
Speaking of spring (and more sun), that indirect sunlit spot might start turning into the sun's blazing surface in the coming weeks. Keep an eye for shifting light and move plants around accordingly. Think of it as a little redecorating to go with your spring cleaning…maybe even swap out pots for a new look in their new location.


Kristin Guy

MORE FROM Kristin Guy


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