It’s spriiiiiinggg! Time for the weather to start warming, the days to start lengthening, and your houseplants to start growing! Northern hemisphere growing season is typically March to October, and it is so rewarding to see your houseplants grow and thrive. Now is the perfect time to talk about the best spring plant prep and make this season as successful as possible for your green, leafy babes.
Maybe it is just a general trend or maybe it is like banana bread during the pandemic, but houseplants have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years. There is a TON of information out there about how to care for your plants and a ton of that information is wrong and sometimes even downright harmful to your plants. (Pleeease DO NOT put mayonnaise or coconut oil on your plants!!) I don’t have a degree in horticulture that makes me a pro on the matter, but I care a lot about my plants and do a lot of research to weed out the phony info and bring you info that is going to help your plants thrive.
Let’s start off our spring plant prep with a little spring cleaning. Depending on the size of its leaves, you may notice that your plant has gotten veerrryy dusty over the winter months. As we all learned in grade school, leaves are where plants take in their nutrients from light for photosynthesis. When the pores (stoma) on the leaves are clogged with dirt and dust, they take in light much less effectively. There is a reason in every season why you should regularly clean your plant leaves, but in this case, we want to give our plants the best opportunity to take advantage of the longer, warmer days, by making sure their pores are ready to take in all those nutrients.
Tropical Showers For All
The easiest way to clean the winter grime off your plants is to give them a nice, mild-temp shower. If you live someplace where you can take all of your plants outside, this is the easiest method to quickly give them a good rinse on both the front and backs of their leaves. Little pests like spider mites tend to make themselves comfortable on the back side of the leaves, so don’t forget that area!
Your houseplants aren’t used to outside weather, be it cold temps at night, or direct sunlight during the day, so keep an eye on them while they dry out and don’t forget to bring them back inside.
If you are in an apartment like me, an outdoor rinse is not really an option. Not to worry though, a bathtub or shower will do the trick just fine, especially if you have a hand-held shower head. Let your plants chill in the bathtub together for the day, drip-drying and enjoying the humidity from each other.
For shower temp, try to give them a nice mild, tropical rainstorm temperature. Not too warm, and not icy cold either.
But What if It’s Too Big?
I’m with ya. I’m not moving my fiddle leaf fig anywhere. My monstera might be joining this club soon too. The last thing you want to do is move a plant that is too large and accidentally damage it or hurt yourself. For these guys, we will just wipe down their leaves individually with a soft cloth and a spray solution of neem oil, water, and a small amount of dish soap. The water gently cleans the leaves and the neem oil helps with pest prevention. The touch of dish soap is simply to help the oil and water to mix. The best way to do this is to shake your spray bottle, spray a section of your plant (both front and back of the leaves), and then use two cloths, one in each hand, to gently wipe the front and back of the leaves simultaneously.
Yes, I know, neem oil is not exactly the scent of the year, but your plant will be thankful and so will you, when you are not spending two months of your plant parenthood trying to rid your babe of a pest infestation. Great thing is, it is spring and you can open the windows to get some fresh air!
Who knew you are supposed to repot your houseplants once a year!? I certainly didn’t until recently, but we are going to jump into new healthy habits for our plants together during this spring plant prep. So why is this so important? Potting soil is made up of many different components, one of those being fertilizer. The fertilizer in soil will last for about one to two years, after which is pretty much gone and your plant is no longer getting any supplemental nutrients. In addition, potting soils contain a wetting agent that helps combat the hydrophobic nature of peat moss (a large component of potting mix). Over time, this additive washes out of the soil, and it becomes much more difficult for your potting mix to retain the water needed to hydrate your plant.
In short, repotting your plant into fresh potting mix will give it fresh, nutrient and fertilizer rich soil, and help it to drink up water instead of drain straight through. While you are repotting, be sure to break up the root ball to encourage the roots to expand rather than grow into a tangled coil.
But What if It’s Too Big…Again?
Obviously you are not going to be able to repot trees and XL houseplants that you can’t safely lift and move (for your or the plant’s safety). In this case, take off the top two to three inches of soil and give it a fresh, new layer of potting mix.
Repotting vs. Potting Up
Repotting your plant doesn’t mean that you need to increase the pot size. It is simply to refresh the soil. However, repotting is also a great time to check on the health of your plant’s roots! You might take your plant out of it’s pot and go, “Wooooaaahh! This guy is SUPER root bound and I didn’t even know!” If this is the case, it’s the perfect time to size up one pot size (only), aka “potting up.” This is when it is super important to break up the root ball (even snipping a few chunks if you can’t get them to loosen) to get it’s roots to start to grow out, and not just round and round in the ball. Roots are very resilient. Don’t worry. You will lose some roots if you need to snip them, but it will be ok.
Side Note – Go ahead and toss your old soil. All of it’s extra nutrients are used up, so you won’t want to use it again. Unless the plant had a pest problem, you can dump it into an outdoor garden somewhere!
Pruning & Propagating
Grab those pruning shears you added to your collection last week from my post on essential houseplant tools. Next on the agenda for spring plant prep is pruning back your stringy, leggy plants, encouraging them to fill out and become more lush during the growing season. Plants can become sparse during the winter months due to the shorter days and lower light conditions. Think of this like a hair cut – trimming off dead ends to promote new, healthy growth.
Depending on the plant you are pruning, this can also be a great time to start a propagation from a cutting. Pruning a plant can encourage branching and you will also get a fun new baby plant out of it if the cutting is healthy! Spring is the best time for both the plant and the cutting to begin to grow.
Ready, Set, Hydrate
Lastly in our spring plant prep, watch your plants closely to see if you need to start watering them more frequently! The days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer. Your plants are going to start absorbing water more quickly, and as a result, will dry out more quickly. Be sure to check the soil more often to see when it is time to give them their next drink. If you need some guidance on when to water, check out my post on houseplant for beginners.
This post was prompted by super timely questions from you all! I love hearing from you so feel free to ask questions about your decor, houseplants, hosting, or DIY interests! Even if they don’t end up on the blog, I’d love to do my best to answer them for you personally. xoxo Caroline