If your houseplants have been vacationing outdoors, keep an eye on the thermometer. It may be time to move them back inside.
Cold weather’s on the way, if it hasn’t already arrived in your garden, and you don’t want to wake up one morning and find your favorite ficus frostbitten and dead.
But you also don’t want to bring insects indoors, or stress your plants when you suddenly move them back into the dry, warm air inside your home.
Use our tips to ease the transition and keep them healthy and happy.
Start by removing faded flowers and dead leaves. If the plants are overgrown, prune or pinch off as much as one-third of the top growth. Slide them out of their pots and cut back the roots by the same amount. Clean the pots and re-plant with fresh potting soil.
- If you have time before the first frost, acclimatize your plants by moving them to a spot that gets less light. Move them again every few days, giving them less and less sun, over a two-week period. Finally, bring them indoors and place them in a window or other location with bright, indirect light.
- Since some houseplants hail from tropical or semi-tropical regions, bring them inside before the nighttime temperatures drop below 45 degrees.
- If you didn’t repot your plants before, check for hitchhikers now. Insect pests can live under leaves and on stems, so knock them off with a stream of water from the sink. Rinse large plants in the shower.
- To remove ants or other troublemakers hiding in the soil, soak the pots, with the plants still in them, in lukewarm water for 15 minutes (skip this step for cacti and other plants that prefer dry soil). When you repot, deter future creepy-crawlies by putting a piece of fine screen over any drainage holes.
- Spider mites, mealybugs, and other pests may return after they’re washed off. If they persist, step up to an insecticidal soap.
- Heated air from your furnace takes a toll on plants. Help keep moisture around them by grouping pots together, and sit them on top of pebbles in saucers filled with a little water. Don’t let the pots touch the water, which can lead to root rot. Some gardeners mist their plants regularly, or keep them in a steamy bathroom or near the kitchen sink. Try a humidifier if you have lots of plants.
- Eastern exposures are usually best. If your plants sit in windows that face west or south, be sure they don’t get overheated on sunny days. Clean dirt and grime from your windows so the plants get good light.
- Avoid letting leaves touch windows, which can become cold enough to damage them, and keep your houseplants away from drafts.
- Rotate your pots weekly, so the plants don’t lean toward the light.
- Don’t be surprised if your houseplants lose some foliage when they come back inside. They should produce new growth as they adjust. If they don’t, and they seem to struggle, use grow lights to help them through the winter.