Bringing plants indoors for the winter

(Question)

I have a couple of tropical plants and a fern that still look amazing after being outdoors all summer. I would like to know what to use, to make sure the bugs are all gone, and how soon I should bring them in.
Thank you

(Answer)

Dear gardener,

Not all plants are equal in terms of their requirements. Generally, tropical plants need to be brought back indoors by the first day of autumn or before nighttime temperatures start dropping consistently below 10C.  Depending on the size of the pot, there are several steps you may want to follow:

  • Inspect your Tropicals for insects and any diseases. Look under their leaves and around the stems. If diseased, treat according to the disease before bringing indoors as you want to avoid infecting your other plants. If you find insects, you can remove them or hose off your plant,  knocking  off any crawling insects.
  • If the pot is small enough to handle, you can soak it for 15 minutes in lukewarm water to force any insects out of the soil. If you find many insects in the soil, you may want to consider repotting.  Always use a fresh bag of potting soil mix to replant.
  • You can spray your plants with a gentle mix of insecticidal soap and water (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
  • You may also do a light pruning at this time. Cut back about a third of the plant’s overall growth to improve its shape, and remove any leggy, weak growth and dead or diseased stems.
  • Place the plants indoor in similar light conditions as they were outdoor (i.e. if they were in direct light outside, place them in a south window indoors). When plants are brought indoor they need to re-adapt and the goal is to prevent them from going into shock. They will naturally lose some leaves as they become accustomed to their new environment but you soon should see new leaves forming.
  • Humidity, light and even air, are quite different indoors than outdoors; therefore, get your plant acclimatized gradually. Do not overwater as evaporation rates indoors are different and it takes plants a bit longer to dry out at this time of the year when the furnace is not yet on.
  • Only water when the soil is dry. As the fall turns into winter, reduce your watering frequency, and from October to March use little or no ( 20-20-20) fertilizer.

It will take a few weeks for your plants to adapt to their new environment. Do not expect a great amount of growth as the low humidity and low light do not stimulate rapid growth. You will start seeing some changes early next spring as the daylight hours and light levels increase.

If you have further questions about the requirements for each of the plants, do not hesitate to let us know what they are and we will be happy to give you more information on their specific care.

You may wish to refer to our Gardening Guide: Beginner’s Guide for Growing Houseplants for general information.

Continue enjoying your lovely tropical plants.