One of the greatest challenges of indoor plant care is managing a plant that starts to lose its leaves. Once we have ruled out disease, incorrect watering technique, pests or the like, we look to the light levels.

Some leaf loss is normal when a plant is relocated as it adjusts to its new environment. However, once a plant is established and doing well in its location, sudden leaf loss is frequently to be associated with a change in lighting, especially in the winter when there is less natural light to support a plant. This is particularly true of plants that demand a high amount of natural light.

Many plants retain a leaf count that is consistent with the amount of available light. If there is only enough light available to support 75 leaves, for example, the plant will keep that number of leaves. When this theoretical plant with 75 leaves decides to put out 3 new leaves, it will then drop 3 older leaves. 

During the winter months, days are shorter and therefore the amount of natural light received by the plant during daylight hours is less. Plants will drop leaves to compensate for the shorter days – less available light energy means that there is less energy available to support the foliage on the plant. 

In spring and summer, plants make the most of the longer days and warmer soil temperatures and grow as rapidly as the available light allows. As the days grow longer and there is more available light to support more leaves, the plants continue to put out new foliage.

This cycle of growth and retraction is ongoing with naturally occurring foliage outdoors. We at Everything Grows like to think that our specialty is bringing the outdoors inside while minimizing the undesirable effects that fall and winter imposes on our tropical plants.