The scorching heat of an Australian summer is a lot to handle, not just for us but for our houseplants, too. As the mercury soars across the country, now is the time to put your summer care plan into action and give your indoor greenery the help it needs to battle the heat.
In most cases, you’ll need to step up your watering routine as high temperatures and airconditioning will lead to soil drying out faster.
“A good way to check if you need to water is by inserting your index finger approximately 5cm into the soil – if it’s dry, water well, but if it’s moist, leave watering for a few days,” says horticulturist Tammy Huynh, founder of Leaf An Impression. “You can also use a moisture meter if you prefer to keep your fingers clean,” she adds. In cooler climates, such as Tasmania and Victoria, you may not need to water any more than usual, but your best bet is to monitor the soil regularly just in case.
We all love to catch a bit of sun, but there is such a thing as too much. “Plants can (and do) get sunburnt,” warns Alana Langan, author and co-founder of plant emporium Ivy Muse. “Try to keep your plants away from the hottest spots in your home and out of the scorching direct sun.”
Plants that loved the gentle winter sun such as the peace lily and fiddle leaf fig won’t be able to handle the harsh summer rays. “If you had your plants sitting in a spot where they received the afternoon sun during winter, it’s a good idea to reposition it now,” says Huynh. “The afternoon light in summer is harsh and on hotter days, can cause leaves to wilt and burn.”
Save your electricity bill and your plants by using your home cooling system more consciously. “Typically, indoor plants aren’t a fan of the airconditioners and fans we blast in summer, so it’s natural that some end up looking a little worse for wear,” says Langan, who suggests keeping an eye out for overly dry, cracked soil as a result of overdoing it.
“Most indoor plants originate from tropical or subtropical regions, which means they feel very much at home in tropical places like Queensland, where the environment is naturally more humid than drier states like Victoria and Tasmania for instance,” she explains. Plant owners in those drier states should look to increase the humidity within their home, so plants feel nurtured. “You can do this by misting them daily directly onto their leaves, adding a humidifier or sit them on a pebble tray,” says Langan.
Check for vital signs
Keep watch for symptoms of stress – wilting leaves, crispy brown tips, and dropping leaves are all signs that something is wrong. “If they’re looking sad and dry no matter how much you water and care for them, it’s likely potting mix has become hydrophobic and is no longer properly absorbing water,” explains Huynh.
“To help fix this, fill a bucket with water and completely submerge the pot – use a rock or similar to help keep it underwater and leave for a few hours,” she says. Allow the plant to drain well and return to its original spot – leaves should perk up again over the following days.
Forecast showing a heatwave on the way? Use seaweed to get ahead. “Adding seaweed to your watering can in the week leading up to the hotter days will help reduce shock and also aid with recovery,” advises Huynh. Avoid repotting or fertilising until the plants have made a full recovery.
More is more
Everyone likes company, even our plants – and it’s party season, after all, so get your greenery some friends. “Summer is a great time to add to your plant gang,” says Langan. “Plants are in their growth season, which means there’s lots of exciting activity to watch as a plant parent. Add sun-loving plants to your collection, like hoya, who need 3 or 4 hours of direct sunlight to flower or succulent plants, which are hardy and low maintenance.”
If you’re planning a getaway, avoid investing in anything too high maintenance until you return to give it the care it needs.