I wrote this article originally for The National Garden Bureau, of which I’m a proud member. However, the info is so important, I asked to reprint it here for the benefit of my readers too . I hope you enjoy it and find a few tips for making the transition from garden plant to houseplant, a smooth one. You can find much more information on bringing them back outside in the spring in Tropical Plants and How to Love Them. – MW
If you’ve been using your houseplants outside this season, by the end of the summer, many of those indoor/outdoor plants are looking their very best, having enjoyed elevated levels of warmth, light, humidity, and fertilizer over a long season. Added sunshine, rain, and ventilation is just the spa vacation we all need after a winter cooped up indoors!
Bottom line: The longer you wait to start the process, the harder it’s going to be on your plants – and eventually on you. Here’s five easy steps to make it super successful.
1) Make the transition less painful – Start sooner than you think
To make the transition less painful, give the plants as little change in environment as you possibly can. That means moving them inside before those indoor/outdoor differences become too great – particularly nighttime temperatures.
Though you may not notice any differences in your houseplant-to-be, and let the days get away from you, metabolic changes are happening within the plant to cope with lower temperatures. If you wait until the 11th hour on the night of your first frost and haul them indoors to a drier, warmer, lower-light position, they will most likely react by dropping a lot of leaves.
This isn’t the best way to begin an indoor romance. Or stay in love with the houseplants you bought this season.
Watch your outdoor night-time temperatures. Before they are consistently in the low-sixties, do some ‘furniture rearranging’ outside with your other plants, add a few fall fillers from your local garden center, and quietly remove and protect the houseplants that will function as houseplants for the next few months indoors.
2) Bathe, Inspect and Evaluate
- washing off dust and debris,
- thoroughly soaking the growing medium, and
- perhaps most importantly, inspecting each leaf and treating the plant for visible pests.
Treating a plant under drought stress or in direct sunlight is never a good idea.
Assess. Assess. Assess. Do you love it enough?
This check-up allows you to re-evaluate your romance with this plant. Do you want to commit the time, space, and energy to maintain this particular plant as a houseplant?
No guilt. Our feelings about a plant and whether it still works indoors can change based on the overall health of the plant, our life circumstances, and even summer furniture acquisitions. We have a much better winter when we pay attention now to the little feelings that tell us a relationship is over.
If you’ve allowed pests to become a major problem on the plant, this could be one of those red flags. And this is why we start two weeks before the plants are coming inside.
3) Treat, and Then Treat Again
Hitchhiking pests such as aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs, and scale can rapidly become a problem in a warm indoor environment without insect predators, as the population has the ability to go through several life cycles. Inspecting and treating the plant using an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach, and doing so again two weeks later, gives you the best chance of keeping pest populations low indoors.For the most part, healthy plants mean low pest populations, and you’ve just spent a summer giving them the healthiest conditions you can. But this doesn’t mean that a few pests don’t lurk in the shadows.
Use an IPM Approach
Start with horticultural soap to try and remove the majority of insects using your fingers, rinsing with a hose afterwards – this is why it’s most practical to take care of these treatments while the plants are still outdoors. Then, spray with horticultural oil, using your hands to make sure it coats all parts of the plant, including the front and back of the leaves. Remove any leaves that are yellowed and/or heavily infested with insects, instead of trying to treat them. Do not forget to inspect the sides, bottom, edges, and rim of the pot too.
4) Find The Perfect Place & Don’t Forget Your Saucers!
Sometimes, a poor position will kill it – such as giving a maiden hair fern just the right amount of light near an east-facing window…and directly over a heating vent. Know a plant’s rules before you bend them.
Water issues are not just about drips. Condensation can build up between the saucer and the floor and cause mildew and disfigurement of the surface. Small spacers placed between the surface and the saucer will keep airflow from allowing this to happen.
5) Give Yourself a Schedule. It’s a Long Winter
Do a little research on your houseplants to see if they like it on the dry side or on the moist side (usually on the plant tag), and use that information as a guide only. Your house is different than other houses, and some areas of your house are warmer than others which will stimulate growth and subsequent water needs.
In general, plants are in their dormant season and do not need as much water as they do when they are growing outdoors. Watch your plants carefully and see how they are responding.
A Full Year of Beauty – Brought to You By Your Houseplants
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