Plant School: How To Look After Indoor Plants In Summer

Education
13/05/20
Words by Tim

In our Plant School series, our talented team of horticulturists answer some of your most frequently asked questions about plant care. Today the green-thumbed Tim takes on the seasonal dilemma of how to look after plants in summer months.

When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, we tend to think about our indoor plants less as our attention naturally turns to getting outside, spending time in gardens and local parks. This may mean that we end up neglecting our poor old house plants in the summer months. If you want to keep them looking happy and healthy, here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Photography by Nic Kane.

Watering

It should be pretty obvious that when we have warmer weather, your plants may need more water than usual. If you do increase watering (which really, you should), do keep an eye on how quickly the water is being used by the plant and don’t rush to water again until you are sure the soil has started to dry out a little. Even in summer most plants don’t like to be left sitting in water for too long – let’s keep the paddling pools for us humans! A regular early morning misting can be a lovely treat for certain plants.

The inside/outside debate

I’m often asked if it is a good idea to put plants outside in the summer months. Many plant books recommend this as a kind of ‘plant holiday’, however I would exercise caution with this approach. Even if you have a good spot for them, you cannot leave house plants to fend for themselves outdoors. Most plants originate in conditions very different to ours, and moving them outside makes it more difficult to recreate these.

The first issue to consider is the unpredictability of our glorious British weather. Should we be treated to a few weeks of sun, plants in pots will dry out much quicker than plants in the ground which may have developed deeper root systems. Your plants may also get too much direct sun which can burn their leaves – I’m afraid slathering on SPF won’t help here! On the other hand, if we have several days of heavy rainfall the pots may end up totally waterlogged, especially if the plant has been left inside a decorative planter that doesn’t have any drainage holes.

 

Photography by Nic Kane.

Cats, dogs, foxes and birds, not to mention squirrels have all been known to attack plants. Chewing the leaves, digging out the soil, or knocking the pots over is common. And I think we can all agree that no plant deserves that.

To my mind, the biggest reason to avoid putting plants outside in the summer is what can get into their pots when you do. Every time I have tried to give my plants a little outdoors vacation, I have found all kinds of creepy crawlies emerging when I bring them back indoors, from ants to flies that hatch a few weeks later. It is difficult to prevent bugs from getting into the plant pots, and it can be almost impossible to get rid of them when they do.

Photography by Nic Kane.

Holidays

The other big summer question I often hear is what to do with your houseplants if you are lucky enough to be going away for a two-week holiday. Unquestionably the best solution is to find a friend or family member who knows a little about plants and can visit once or twice to water them.

There are various devices for watering plants automatically, ranging from the very simple to the expensively complicated. Put plainly, some of them work, some of them don’t. The less complex ones generally cannot take account of changing temperatures, while the expensive ones are, well, expensive.

For a simpler solution I usually put houseplants in a cool, shady room while I am away. Most plants can manage with reduced light for a couple of weeks and will use less water too. If you have several plants group them closely together to create a micro-climate which will help to keep them from drying out. A bath or a shower can work well as an enclosed space, but don’t leave your plants sitting in deep water for the whole period. With a little thought and planning, you will get back from your holidays to find your plants as happy and healthy as when you left.

With these tips you can easily keep your indoor plants in mind even when you’re out enjoying the good weather – all it takes is a little extra effort. A few simple steps will mean your houseplants will be able to bring a splash of green into your life all year round, even when the last of the summer rays have faded.

Need advice? Get in touch today to speak to our team about your planting needs.