Bringing Houseplants Back Indoors

It’s getting near the time when houseplants–like children being called in for supper–must return indoors for the winter season. They’ve hung out on a porch or patio, soaking up the sun and renewing themselves all summer. Now it’s nearing the time for a well-deserved rest.

Houseplants outdoors
Houseplants on a porch

But there are a few things to keep in mind before bringing them back indoors.To avoid any shock to your plants–brought on by extreme changes in humidity, sunlight, and temperature–you should “wean” them off the outdoors. But when?

Indoor tropical plants, which can’t survive freezing temperatures, should be brought back indoors before the nightly temperature begins falling consistently to 50° F. or lower.

Begin by moving your plants to a shaded location for a few days. That will enable them to get used to less sunlight. By this time you should also have begun to withdraw regular fertilizing. Plants need very little food and water during their dormant season. In fact, over-watering is probably the biggest cause of houseplant failure.

Refrain from dividing houseplants in the fall. Save that until the spring growing season arrives and you are moving them back outdoors.

Get your house ready by washing the windows. Clean windows allow more sunlight to reach your plants. And you should consider flushing the insects from your houseplants before bringing them back inside. To do that, plunge the pot into a sink or container full of water. The insects should emerge from the top of the soil and can be scooped off or disposed of. Drain the potted plants well before bringing them indoors.

Even with these precautions it is still a possibility your plants will show signs of stress. Fig trees in particular will shed many leaves before acclimating themselves to new locations. (Sometimes just moving them from one room in the house to another will trigger leaf loss.)

Other plants–and I’m thinking primarily of those gorgeous ferns that exploded in size during the summer–will not do well at all indoors. And since they are relatively inexpensive to purchase, I usually toss them each fall and begin anew each spring.

© Wade Kingston

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