During summer months, our houseplants need specific care and attention to stay lush and healthy. With more intense sunlight, a few plants may need to be relocated to avoid sunburn, while some of them will benefit from being moved outside for the season to increase growth, stimulate flowering, or produce brighter colored foliage.
Paying attention to lighting changes, adjusting your watering schedule, monitoring humidity levels, and keeping foliage dust and pest free are the essentials of summer houseplant care.
Use sheer curtains or move plants away from windows if they are exposed to direct sunlight. Signs of trouble/sunburn include brown or bleached leaves. If sunburn occurs, remove leaves that have 50% or more damage or wait for them to fall off naturally when replaced by new growth.
Warmer temperatures and brighter light speed up evaporation and cause plants to use more water—plants will need to be watered more frequently in summer than during winter months. However, even during the hottest weather, plants will not want daily watering; maybe a thorough soaking about every 3 or 4 days. Signs of trouble include leaf or flower drop, wilting or curled leaves, and brown leaf tips or edges.
Indoor air may be extra dry due to closed windows or air conditioners (avoid placing plants near air conditioning vents). Signs of trouble include curled leaf edges or brown tips. Increase humidity by grouping plants together, misting regularly, using a humidifier, or by implementing a pebble or humidity tray.
Dust & Pests
Open windows let in dust and pollen that settles on foliage—keep leaves clean by wiping regularly with a damp cloth or dry paintbrush. Neem oil, when sprayed or wiped onto foliage, makes leaves shiny and helps keep them clean; it can also help prevent insects, mites, and diseases when used regularly (or try the convenience of Fantastic Foliage, a plant wipe with neem oil plus). Large plants can be taken to the tub or outside to be periodically hosed off—cover soil or enclose container in a plastic bag to avoid overwatering during a shower.
Plants in direct sunlight or consistently in hot locations may be prone to spider mites. Early signs of mites may include dull or dusty-looking leaves, pale coloring, stunted growth, or very fine webbing on leaf surfaces. Use neem oil or MiteX to control; isolate any affected plants and treat to avoid spreading to other houseplants.
Moving Houseplants Outdoors
Some plants may appreciate their own summer vacation by being moved outside for the summer months. Be sure to slowly acclimate them to their new lighting by gradually getting them used to the conditions, and continue to check on them regularly for water and other needs. Bring all tender, indoor plants back inside by mid-October, but spray them first with neem oil or insecticidal soap to avoid accidentally bringing pests in the house.
- Ficus, Croton, Ponytail palms, Dracaena, and Sansevieria can all grow happily outdoors during the summer and may respond with significant, rapid growth as a result.
- Aloe, Jade plants, and other cactus and succulents do great outside on a patio or as a table centerpiece. Succulents may develop brighter coloration and cacti are more likely to bloom if they spend a few months outside.
- Hoya, Begonias, Orchids, and other flowering plants can also be given time outdoors in mild climates and may be stimulated to produce blooms once brought back inside in early fall.
Houseplant Care Tips for Vacation
Having someone keep an eye on the house, grab the mail, water the garden, and feed the pets is fairly standard stuff. If you are among those who have fallen in love with indoor gardening, you may have added a few more foliage plants to your home or you may even be approaching indoor urban jungle status. Now that your vacation is coming up, do you need to worry about all those houseplants too?
As long as you’ll only be gone for a week or so, the short answer is no—your plants will hardly miss you (no offense)! With the exception of very small containers (2-inch tropicals) or exceptionally thirsty plants (some ferns), most houseplants can easily last at least one week without your care. Nonetheless, you can still be good plant parent and set your indoor plants up for success while you’re gone! Follow these easy tips for vacation houseplant preparation (most practical for one-week vacations or less):
- Thoroughly water all plants the day before you leave and allow them to drain so they don’t sit in water while you are away.
- Close window curtains or blinds and/or move plants away from bright sunlight.
- Clustering plants together can increase humidity, which will be beneficial to most plants and reduce water loss.
- Take down hanging plants, which tend to dry out quickly, and leave them sitting for the week—hanging plants expose the roots and soil ball to more air and light, which causes water to evaporate faster; plants will usually use less water when sitting rather than hanging.
- A layer of mulch over the top of the soil may benefit indoor plants that require regular moisture and consistent watering, such as ferns or peace lilies; mulch reduces water evaporation. Houseplant mulch can be any lightweight covering placed on top of the soil—many people use moss, but you might also mulch with bark, wine corks, or even shredded paper. Always be sure to provide at least 1–2 inches of space between mulch and the stems/trunk of your plant.
There are also many simple DIY houseplant watering projects that may be helpful, but generally, most indoor plants should do just fine being left home alone for the week by following the steps outlined above.