© 2023
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Fall Houseplant Care

Tom Throgmorton
Tom Throgmorton

Some outdoor plants need to come inside with the arrival of fall. And they do need some special care and attention to make the adjustment to indoor living. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton has more.

Most of our houseplants spend the summer outside.  We put them in partially sunny spots.  They thrive in the fresh air.  Now that it’s gotten cool, we bring them inside again.

After a month or so inside some of our house plants will be looking rough.  The fig, camellia and ferns will lose leaves.  The Christmas cactus will bloom before Thanksgiving.  But the poinsettia hasn’t begun to color.

Leaf drop on houseplants has a couple different causes.  The most frequent cause is lack of light.  Days are shorter this time of year.  There are just fewer hours of sunlight for houseplants.  Very few windows let in enough light for plants, unless you have a sun-room.  We have bright morning or afternoon sun spots, but no all day sunny spot.  Plants lose leaves to make up for the lack of light.

Drafts are another cause of leaf drop.  Cool air blasting in on a plant when a door opens.  Heater vents shooting warm air on a plant.  Both extremes shock plants and their response is to shed leaves.  If possible, move plants away from drafty areas.  

Thinning houseplants this time of year may help them through their leaf loss.  Thinning is a way to speed up leaf loss.  Prune to shape the plant.  Take out any weak branches.  But don’t take off more than a third of the plants mass.

When plants come inside for the winter we check them for bugs.  We usually miss at least one plant with aphids.  These plants get a good shower to wash off the bugs.  Depending on the plant we may spray with an insecticidal soap mix.  But test a leaf or two on each plant.  Not every plant likes soap sprays.  If the bugs are bad enough we may sacrifice the plant (and the bugs) to the freezing outside temperatures.

Houseplants thrive in groups.  Mixing different plants together adds texture and color to a room.  In our house it also assures they’ll all get watered.  For us it’s easier to water a collection of plants than to wander around the house watering this one and then that. 


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
Related Content