Houseplants make your house more attractive and relaxing, so you need to take care of them to keep them healthy. For example, plants naturally grow toward the sunlight, which helps them facilitate the process of photosynthesis (i.e., the conversion of sunlight to energy). One way to help your plants out in this regard is via rotation.
You should rotate houseplants. Doing so ensures the plants will have a healthy, even growth since they have a better chance of being exposed to the sunlight they need. Otherwise, their parts will not grow evenly, and the plants cannot grow optimally.
This article will explore in more detail the reasons for rotating your houseplants, the health benefits of rotation, and how to recognize when rotation is needed.
Why You Should Rotate Houseplants
Solar energy is used during the process of photosynthesis. It provides energy for plants to convert into chemical energy (i.e., the “food” of the plants). Chemical energy is dispersed throughout the stem and leaves, feeding the plant to promote healthy growth and blooms.
When only part of the plant is exposed to sunlight, it compensates by producing excessive leaves and blooms on that side to absorb the amount of solar energy it needs to survive.
Rotating your plants balances the distribution of light to all parts of your plant, ensuring your plants stay healthy and grow symmetrically. The sun’s location changes as seasons change, so keep that in mind when positioning and rotating houseplants for optimal light exposure throughout the year.
If your houseplants are leaning, bending, or twisting, these positions put stress on the roots and the plants’ ability to grow because they’re unable to maintain proper support and balance.
So, rotating your houseplants is all about balancing the sunlight, the amount of light exposure, and growth.
The Benefits of Rotating Your Plants
Rotating helps your houseplants by:
- Preventing them from growing into a leaning, bending, or twisting position
- Preventing damage to your houseplants if they end up growing awkwardly towards the light
- Preventing stress on the root system and growth
- Ensuring sun exposure is balanced throughout the plant’s parts
- Giving you time to assess if pruning or thinning out is needed to keep them healthy
When and How to Rotate Your Houseplants
If you search online, you’ll find conflicting ideas on how often you should rotate houseplants. Some say it’s best to rotate every week or two, and others say to rotate every two to three months. There’s truth to both of these suggestions.
Because every plant species has different light requirements and some plants grow differently, you can rotate your houseplants a quarter to a half turn each time you water them.
If you want to learn more about how often you should rotate your indoor plants, check out my other article. I’ll specifically discuss the telltale signs that show your plant needs rotation: How Often Should You Rotate Indoor House Plants?
Factors That Affect the Rotation Frequency of Houseplants
I’ve already mentioned that your plants’ species can affect how frequently they require rotation. Aside from that, your plants’ rotation requirements also depend on how much light they’re exposed to throughout the year and the seasons.
Since plants are fixed in their pots and stuck indoors, they’re relatively limited in their ability to grow compared to their outdoor counterparts. When plants are outdoors, their exposure to sunlight is even no matter where the sun is in the sky.
In contrast, indoor houseplants are only exposed to light through a window or glass door.
Light requirements differ per plant, and the amount of light exposure affects their required rotation frequency. For example:
- Plants that thrive in brighter light may need to be rotated less frequently (e.g., every two to three months).
- Leafy plants that can survive under medium light, such as pothos and philodendrons, may only need to be rotated about once a month.
- Plants that thrive in low-lit areas may need to be turned more frequently (once every week to two weeks) to promote healthy, even foliage.
I should add that the above is simply a general guide. You should always check your plants every time you rotate and water them to ensure they’re healthy and growing properly.
Seasons and Rotation
Seasons affect houseplants — specifically, how they grow, reproduce, and rejuvenate. There are certain times of the year when rotation should be more or less frequent. These include times of faster growth and dormancy, such as from spring to fall.
As the weather starts to warm up, more sunlight is available to facilitate the plants’ springtime growth and blooming. Fast growth typically happens once your houseplants break dormancy. So, your plants may need to be rotated more frequently to ensure growth is happening all around during their growth spurts.
Awkward growth (such as leaning) often happens during the winter because there’s more darkness and less sunlight. Even though your houseplants are dormant and not growing as much during this time, you still need to keep an eye out for those plants looking for more sunlight.
If you see plants “reaching” for a light source, relocating them to an area with more sunlight and turning them can help prevent the leaning.
So, you need to pay attention to your houseplants to understand how they’re growing, how fast they’re growing, and whether their growth trend is a cause for concern.
Signs Rotation is Needed
There are a few signs houseplants need rotation.
- They appear to have a hard or soft lean, twist, or bend towards the area sunlight touches.
- They’re losing or not growing leaves on the side with little or no sun exposure.
How To Fix Your Awkward Houseplants
Whether you forgot to rotate your houseplants as needed, or you realized you needed to rotate them at all, you should be able to ‘fix’ your leaning or half bald plants in a jiffy.
Here’s how to fix houseplants that lean or are half bald.
Phototropism causes the ‘lean’ effect due to hormones called auxins. When auxins receive enough sunlight, they enjoy steady, sturdy growth, while auxins that aren’t exposed to enough of the same grow taller towards the sun. In the process, they can potentially destroy some of the auxins exposed to more light.
A common way to fix your leaning plants is to use a stake (or a similar tool that’s sturdy like a tree branch), and follow these steps:
- Measure the plant height and add about 6 inches (15 cm) or more for the stake length to allow support and growth.
- Place the stake close to the base of the plant, slowly pushing it into the soil. When submerging the stake in the soil, be careful not to jam it in there and damage the base of the plant and root system.
- Use a piece of string to gently pull the plant closer to the stake and secure it. It’s important not to force the plant to align with the stake, as doing so can cause damage. The purpose of this step is to “train” the plant to straighten up naturally without adding stress.
- Turn the plant towards the sunlight, so it grows the opposite way it’s leaning.
- As the plant straightens, pull it closer to the stake and secure it as many times as needed until it can better balance and support itself.
The stake will help keep the plant balanced and supported while it straightens as it grows. It may take a month or longer — depending on the season and the speed of your plants’ growth — to remedy the leaning issue. Don’t forget to relocate your houseplant to an area that receives more light to promote growth.
For houseplants with a “bald” side, don’t just hide it because it’s unattractive. You need to rotate the plant so the bare side receives more sun exposure. If it’s in a low-lit area, move it to a brighter place. Plants located in a darker area, like a corner, can experience balding and thinning on the side with little to no light exposure.
Less light on one side can also cause houseplants to lose their vibrant color or variegation. Rotating them often should prevent this issue from occurring.
Don’t be discouraged if you’re trying to correct the bald spot during dormancy, and it seems like it’s not working. Plants typically rest during this time, and growth is slow or non-existent while they rebuild themselves for the next growing season. Be patient because once your houseplant comes out of dormancy, it should experience growth on its bare side.
Rotating houseplants is necessary for plants to have lush, even growth. Get into a routine of rotating your plants as needed, and adjust your routine accordingly. Plants need balanced sun exposure all around to grow properly and prevent awkward growth or bare sides.
You should pay attention to the needs of your houseplants because they show signs when they’re stressed or unhealthy.