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How Do Indoor Plants Know The Season

All other things being equal, the average plant displays growth patterns that generally follow seasonal changes. The plant will put out new stems, branches, leaves, or flowers when the growing season arrives. Once the weather cools and the days shorten, the plant may go dormant or grow more slowly for a few months. But what about the English ivy growing in the home office or the succulents sitting on the kitchen windowsill – how do indoor plants know the season?

In most cases, subtle changes in indoor temperatures and light exposure are enough for indoor plants to detect corresponding seasonal changes.

If you want to learn more about the seasonal habits of your indoor plants, keep reading!

Do indoor plants experience seasons?

They may not experience the same environmental variations as outdoor plants, but indoor plants can usually detect the seasons as they roll around. That said, you may notice that your indoor plants flower a bit before their outdoor counterparts or that their growing season is longer overall. This is because, as far as they can tell, winter ended early, and fall came late – giving them more time to grow.

Even if the temperate indoor climate and year-round “rainfall” means that the plants could technically keep going all year long, they still try to follow whatever normal annual pattern their species is used to. In addition to targeting periods of growth for warmer, sunnier months, plants also want to bloom when there are more pollinators around – which also happens to coincide with spring and summer.

Can you trick indoor plants into thinking it’s spring?

You can, but it’s easier with some plants than with others. For example, bulbs like daffodils are pretty easy to “trick” into thinking that spring has arrived; all you have to do is simulate end-of-winter conditions for a set time frame, followed by a “spring” with warmer temperatures and more sunlight.

Of course, the process will look different for each type of plant, and some plants may not be as responsive to the strategy as you’d hoped.

If you want your indoor plants to bloom during the winter as well as the spring or summer, you may have to research what each type of plant needs in order to bloom during the winter. With enough research, time, and attention to detail, you should eventually be able to call your efforts a success!

Do all indoor plants go dormant in winter?

You might think your indoor plants would go dormant because that’s just their natural rhythm, but that isn’t quite correct. For most of them, a winter period of slower growth is usually a response to shorter days, less intense sunlight, and lower humidity.

If you notice that an indoor plant has seemingly kicked the bucket once the cold weather sets in, it might be enlightening to confirm whether or not it’s an annual. While perennials will keep going yearly, annuals die and (ideally) come back from their own seeds each spring.

What triggers plants to flower?

It’s possible to pinpoint different chemical processes that plants undergo to flower, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. A more down-to-earth explanation would be that, in order to start flowering after winter, most plants need three things:

  • Longer days – This is one of several indications that the seasons are changing. It isn’t enough to make a plant “think” it’s spring without other seasonal changes, but more hours of daylight per 24-hour period are definitely necessary for a plant to flower.
  • More sunlight – More sunlight equals more photosynthesis, which means more growth for a plant. And what will the plant do with all that extra energy? Depending on the species, you may start to see some flowers appearing!
  • An increase in temperature – Even with long days and more intense sunlight, many plants won’t be interested in growing if the temperatures are too low. As mentioned above, plants depend on the presence of pollinators for a successful growing season, so they’ll wait to produce flowers until it’s warm enough for friendly insects to visit them.

Can plants get too much artificial light?

They definitely can! The suitability of artificial light for an indoor plant will depend on three different factors:

  • The wattage of the bulb – The bulb’s wattage will determine how strong the light is, just like the sun’s angle determines how intense the sunlight is.
  • How close the bulb is to the plant – This is mostly common sense, but some people accidentally dry out (or even burn!) their indoor plants by placing them too close to the artificial light source.
  • How many hours of light the plant gets per day – The same concept applies to both light and water: plants can have too much of a good thing. In fact, some plants require a certain amount of darkness each day in order to flower.

If you’re providing your indoor plants with artificial light, you might want to double-check that they’re all getting the right amount. Otherwise, you could end up with plants that refuse to grow or flower and wonder what went wrong.

How do I know if my plants aren’t getting enough light?

The first sign that a plant is light-deprived will be a decrease in pigmentation; this is due to a lack of chlorophyll production. It may also start growing longer stems, which is an adaptation to help it reach more well-lit areas. Another sign is when the plant starts dropping leaves, which is an effort to prioritize stem growth over maintaining unnecessary foliage.

The takeaway

Plants are pretty good at detecting seasonal changes, even if those changes are fairly subtle. Even so, you can still “trick” your indoor plants into thinking that spring has arrived. If you have an indoor plant that doesn’t seem to be doing well, it may need a different amount of light, heat, or some combination of the two.

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