In my house, when the light starts to hit my eyes later and later in the morning, I know the season is about to change and my plants watering needs along with it. It has taken me years to get to the point of noticing this change in the sunrise but, when you begin to notice, this subtle clue is a great reminder that you're about to enter a period of watering limbo.
When we move into the fall months and the days get shorter, less sun (or more accurately: more dark) is a catalyst for many plants to slow their growth rates and move into the slower growing winter season. More time in the dark means less time for them to gather sunlight to make food, thus, this is the right time for plants to take a rest.
So your watering relationship is about to change...
Be a great partner. Your plant might be clear about their needs, but sometimes it’s hard to read their little green minds. Have they slowed down but you’re still living like it’s summer 1999? Brown edges or brown mushy spots on leaves are a sign that you are overwatering. Take a breath and put down the watering can. Let your plants dry out a little more than you normally would and trim damaged, mushy areas away. When you and your plant are ready to try again, be sure to check the moisture level in the pot before watering. Checking the moisture levels before watering is the best way to show your tropical companions that you are listening and reacting to changes.
Support their watering needs.
You can use moisture meters, your fingers or other ways to check the moisture in your plant family’s containers. We like a hands-on approach, so we like to use the “toothpick trick”. You don't have to actually have a toothpick (I have leftover wooden chopsticks committed to the cause), you can use any item that works for you from wooden dowels to an old butterknife.
For the “toothpick trick”, you simply insert your utensil of choice into the soil about ¼ to half the way down the pot, let it sit for a few moments, then remove it from the pot. Keep in mind that depending on the pot size, you might be checking moisture levels an inch down or several, so be gentle with those roots. When you remove your chopsticks or butterknife, you are looking for the texture of the soil that clings to the utensil (is it dry/dusty, or moist?). If you are using wood, you also want to look for a change in color of the wood as it will absorb some of the moisture from the soil.
After checking your soil moisture level, let your plant guide you on how much to water. Calatheas and ferns will want to stay moist (but not soggy), even on top of the soil, while Philodendron and Pothos will happily dry halfway down (or more) before wanting water again.
So you’ve got your winter watering down...
...but Spring is just around the corner! Yuuup, the next season will bring about another personality change in your plant friends' watering requirements. As more daylight is available to plants, they will want a little more water. Be aware, but don’t worry, as underwatering is typically less harmful than overwatering. Keep an eye out for communication from your plants, such as drooping or curling leaves, and keep up with checking levels of soil moisture weekly.
Go ahead, sleep in!
Want to start getting in tune with seasonal changes but also have those blackout curtains for a reason? You can always search online for sunrise and sunset or daylight hours in your area by checking your local weather.
Using a grow light? Be sure to give your plants time to sleep in too- even though they can survive on less, most plants want about 8 hours of dark. Because, hey! What’s wrong with a little beauty sleep before the party starts again?