In issue 79, I shared two house plant combos that easily grow outdoors in summer. But what do you do with them when the weather cools down in fall? Read on.
The first warm, sunny days in spring are great. But as much as you enjoy the warm weather, you wouldn’t suddenly move your favorite house plants out into the bright sunshine, would you? It’s much better to ease them outdoors gradually. Well, it’s even more important to ease your plants back into the house in fall. Remember, they’ll be going from bright, cool, moist conditions outdoors into the darker, warm, dry furnace-heated conditions inside. Most plants need a bit of time to adapt to their winter surroundings. Here’s how you can help them.
LOWER THE LIGHT For most house plants, you should start bringing them in when nighttime temperatures get down to the lower 50s. Brought in suddenly, it’s common for plant leaves to yellow or drop off. Plants can wilt or even die. Instead, expose your plant to less lighting a little at a time. Every few days, move the pot to a place with successively more shade.
Inside, your plant will lose some foliage, but it should grow new leaves that are more adapted to the lower light levels. Put plants in the brightest area in your house but not near a heat vent. If you set the pot near a sunny window, make sure the plant doesn’t touch the window during the winter. The cold glass will damage the leaves.
LOSE THE BUGS The other thing to watch out for when bringing plants inside is unwanted “guests” riding along. Before you bring the plant in, check it over closely for signs of pests and spray the entire plant down with the garden hose. A good dose of insecticidal soap on all surfaces of the leaves and stems will also help do away with potential problems.
If you can do it easily, pop the plant out of its pot and look at the roots for webbing, bugs or eggs. Remove them or repot the plant in a new container of fresh potting mix. For a plant that has become leggy over the summer, prune the roots and the top back slightly while you have it out of the pot, before replanting. Plant or container too large for all this hassle? Just soak the pot, plant and all, in a tub of water for 15 minutes to drown any soil-dwelling pests.
WATCH THE MOISTURE Once in the house, the plant will be in less light and it’ll grow more slowly. You won’t need to water it as often. Let the surface of the soil dry out before you water again. Include a dose of liquid house plant food once a month to give plants a boost through the winter. Dry indoor air can take a toll on plants, so place the pot on a tray of pebbles out of the draft from heat vents. Keep water in the tray up to the top of the pebbles to increase the humidity around your plant. Grouping several pots together on the tray increases the humidity even more and helps to keep your favorite plants healthy and strong all winter long.