Bringing Houseplants Indoors for the Winter
by Karen Weiland
If you place your houseplants outdoors for the summer, it’s time to be bringing them indoors. A gradual reintroduction to the indoors is best as conditions differ widely between indoors and out. The sudden changes that take place with humidity, temperature and light can have detrimental effects on plants.
First, if any of your plants need repotting, this is the time to do it. Scrub clean the larger pot you will be using, then add some potting soil, not garden soil (which may have diseases). If the plant has gotten leggy over the summer, remove it from the pot and prune the top and the roots in equal proportions, then replant. I like to give my repotted plants a little boost by adding a root stimulator to my water.
Expose plants gradually to reduced lighting to lessen the stress of the move. Once they are inside, a full spectrum light hooked up to a timer set on sixteen hours a day is a good way to help plants with less than optimal lighting. Expect some of the leaves to fall off, this is normal and most plants will adapt in time to their new home.
Inspect plants for insects and diseases. Give them a bath with insecticidal soap if necessary. If you are concerned about insects in the soil, soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes. This will force those nasty critters out. Some folks like to quarantine their plants for a few weeks just to make sure they are free of pests.
To keep humidity at a pleasing plant level, add a layer of small stones to a waterproof tray, add water to the stones and place the pots on top of the stones. One of those plastic boot trays works quite well for plants that are placed on the floor. Resist the temptation to over water. Plants being kept indoors need less water and may only need to be watered once a week. An easy way to check is to stick your finger into the soil about an inch or so to see if the soil is dry.
This would be a good time to take cuttings of some of your annual plants, like coleus, begonias and geraniums. I like to root mine in moist sand or a rooting compound, then after roots are about one half inch long I transplant them into small pots and overwinter them on shelves equipped with plant lights in my basement. Come spring, my cuttings are ready to be placed in window boxes, pots or in the landscape. Tender perennials such as rosemary can be dug up and placed in a pot to overwinter in the house.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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