Tuesday, October 17, 2017 By: Ask A Master Gardener

How to Prepare Tropical Plants for Moving Indoors for Winter

Moving Plants indoors for Winter
Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener
Tuesday October 17, 2017
Q: I moved my indoor plants outdoors for the summer as they seem to enjoy it out there. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I want to move them back indoors. What do I need to do to make that move a success for them? Lisa M., Tulsa
A: Houseplants that spent their summer vacations outside are nearing time to be brought indoors. Because tropical plants may be damaged if nighttime temperatures drop into the low 40s, start bringing your plants in when nighttime temperatures start dipping below 45 to 50 degrees.
While outdoors, your plants may have picked up one of several insects, such as spider mites or mealybugs. Inspect the leaves for insects or evidence of insects, such as webbing, wet sticky areas or yellow-speckled leaves. Look in the top layer of potting soil for pill bugs and slugs. Inspect and thoroughly clean the sides and bottom of the pot and its saucer.
If you find insects, a chemical insecticide may be needed. However, if there are only a few insects, consider a different approach. A cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol is excellent for removing small numbers of insects. Be sure to follow this by thoroughly hosing the plant with a stream of water, even if you do not see insects, as this will help remove any hidden pests, as well as clean the leaves.
For further pest avoidance, you may wish to spray the plant with an insecticidal soap or light horticultural oil according to the product’s label. You may also mix a dilute solution of an insecticidal soap and pour through the soil, then flush the soil after 15 minutes with fresh water.
Before moving the plants indoors, especially if they have been in the sun, first move them into shade, gradually reducing lighting for at least one month before bringing them inside. Plants, especially ferns, may drop some leaves due to this transition from sun to shade. Once they are brought back into the house, be aware of how much light they are receiving.
For regularly fertilized plants, now is also a good time to leach the soil. Fertilizers cause accumulation of salt residues in potting soil, which is bad for the plant’s health. Running water through the soil and allowing it to completely drain will remove these salts. Irrigate with a volume of water approximately twice the size of the pot. Do this twice yearly.
Reduce the amount of watering and do not fertilize during the winter months. Plants do need some moist air, so a humidifier or bowls of water nearby will help to keep them healthy, but never put them near a heat vent. Plants will typically do better in a 60- to 70-degree environment, rather than overheated rooms. Finally, unless they are extremely overcrowded in the pot, it is best to wait until spring to repot them.
In the spring, wait until outside temperatures are above 50 degrees, then place them in a protected area out of any sun. Repot, fertilize, water and enjoy. Do keep in mind that some houseplants want to stay inside all year, so look up your plants’ needs in a good indoor garden book.
Garden tips

Peonies, daylilies, and other spring-flowering perennials should be divided or planted now.

Dig and store tender perennials like dahlias and caladiums in a cool, dry location. Cannas and elephant ears can also be dug, but most will survive the winter fine if mulched heavily and in a sheltered area.

Plant fall mums and asters and keep them watered during dry conditions. Don’t crowd because they take a couple of years to reach maturity.


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