This summer has given our houseplants a huge boost of energy, but now it’s time to start getting them ready to move back inside for the winter before freezing temperatures decide their fate. Because environmental conditions differ widely between the inside and outside of a home, a gradual reintroduction to the indoors is best for your plants.
Sudden changes in temperature, light, and humidity can be stressful to plants, resulting in yellowed leaves, dieback, wilting, and even death. You will need to bring your plants indoors before nighttime temperatures dip below 45 degrees (F). Most tropical plants will suffer damage at temperatures below 40 degrees, a few even below 50 degrees, so act quickly.
As a first step, I generously apply insecticidal soap onto and underneath the leaves to take care of any hitchhikers looking for a warm home. Our go-to favorite here at the Greensboro store is the Safer brand Insect-Killing Soap in the concentrate, because this stuff goes far by just applying half the dosage. A soil drench is highly recommended to take care of those pests burrowed into the soil like gnats, ants, and other upcoming larve. Sometimes I even lightly scrub the leaves to remove dust and resistant pests.
As my plants are drying off, I start getting my home ready for its guests. Clean the windows–both inside and out if you’re feeling spunky—to ensure that plants will get adequate light this winter. If some of your plants will need repotting, make sure you have potting soil (not garden soil), containers, and the supplies you need on hand. This is also the time to add ceiling hooks for hanging plants, or build that wide shelf in front of the window that you’ve always wanted. If you have a lot of plants that require high humidity, you might want to make the shelf wide enough to accommodate trays to group these plants together. Flat trays or saucers with a layer of moist hydroton retain moisture well for those picky tropicals.
If necessary, repot plants into larger containers. If plants have gotten leggy or just too cramped during their outdoor stay, remove from the container, and gently prune the top and roots in equal proportions. Scrub the pot, add fresh bagged potting soil (not garden soil/uncured compost which may have diseases), and replant.
To prevent shock when you bring houseplants back indoors, expose plants gradually to reduced lighting. Usually, if they’ve been in bright light and you move them into much lower light, expect some leaves to fall off. However, new ones should form as the plants readapt to the lower light. It’s best if they’ve been outside in high light to put them in similar light indoors, like a south window or under plant lights on a timer for 16 hours a day. Our garden consultants in every store can help with lighting options for those who have homes with limited window options like apartment complexes.
Don’t overwater! Let the soil surface get dry to the touch before watering again. If in doubt, don’t water. Actually water succulents less often, when the soil is dry for several days. Don’t water if quite cloudy or rainy weather, as plants won’t get sufficient light indoors to dry out.
Finally, give your plants a boost of fertilizer, according to the directions on the product label. Plants that have been repotted with soil containing fertilizer will not need to be fed again for two to three months, or according to label directions. Keep in mind that often plants grow more in winter indoors, receiving more light between snow reflection and leaves off of trees.
Houseplants help purify and humidify our indoor air, as well as impart beauty and a little life during those cold, dark winter months. With a little care and attention, they should be able to make the transition from summer to winter just fine!