As we close in on the first frost, it is time for you to bring your houseplants back inside from their summer vacation on your deck or patio. The best time to do this is now, in early October. The first thing you need to do is prepare the area where your plants will be kept for the winter. Clean all windows to let the best possible sunlight into the room and set up plant lights if necessary. Your plants will most likely be taking a 50 percent reduction in light, so make the transition as easy as possible. Don’t be alarmed if leaves drop after a few days. This is common and eventually the plants will come back to normal as they adjust to the lower light. Houseplants do not like dips in temperature below 40-50 degrees, so you want to make sure you keep an eye on nighttime temperatures.
Being out in natural sunlight and temperatures, your houseplants probably thrived over the summer and grew. If they have gotten leggy and overgrown, prune them back. If you need to transplant them, now is the time to do so. Always make sure your planter is in proportion to the size of the plant, and try not to go more then 2-4 inches bigger in pot size as you upgrade. Always use fresh potting soil when you repot, not the soil from your gardens, as it can contain insects that you don’t want to bring into your home.
Before you bring them in, we suggest a thorough inspection of the plants to check for insects like aphids, mealy bugs, whitefly and spider mites. Sometimes you can’t always see what is lurking about on the plants so we recommend spraying them with Bonide Insecticidal Soap. This will destroy anything that may be attacking the leaves. As a preventive measure, apply Bonide Systemic Houseplant Granules to the soil. This will be taken up by the roots and into the leaves and get anything you may have missed when you sprayed as well as kill what may hatch from eggs left behind by the adults. If possible pull your plant out of the pot gently without destroying the root pack. Inspect the soil and see if you have any insects crawling around. If so, do a soil drench with Bonide Eight insecticide.
Many people ask us if they can bring their flowering annuals inside for the winter. The answer is yes. If you don’t want to deal with bringing what is probably a very large plant inside, we suggest you take cuttings of the flowers and root them inside. Plants such as impatiens, coleus, begonias, and geraniums will root very easy from cuttings taken from the original plant. Use a sharp knife or razor to make your cutting, not scissors as this can pinch the stem. Make the original cutting around 8 inches long. Cut the top and bottom portions of the cutting using diagonal cuts so you end up with a 6 inch piece with 4-6 leaves. Place the cutting in a jar of water to root. You can also use potting soil to root your cuttings. If you decide to do this, use Bonide Bontone Rooting Powder. This helps speed the rooting process.
It is very important not to overwater your houseplants as you bring them back inside. Over the summer, you probably got used to watering them every day. This is not the case inside the house as temperature and humidity are much different. Always check the soil for moisture first before you drench them. DO NOT go on a watering schedule such as once a week. This is the kiss of death for a houseplant. Do the “pencil test” on your plants before every watering. Stick a pencil down 4-6 inches into the soil. If it comes up moist and wet, then you know it isn’t time to water. If you can’t gauge using the pencil, we sell very inexpensive water meters that will give you a much more accurate reading of moisture in the soil. Overwatering is the #1 killer of houseplants. Make sure you get this part of the job right. We also suggest fertilizing every 4th time that you water. This will keep the nutrients at the proper levels in the soil for the plant to use and stay green and healthy.
In the dark days of winter, there is no reason you should not have a tropical paradise inside your home. With proper care and technique, you can keep your plants healthy and thriving throughout the year. If a problem starts, don’t wait to ask us. Bring your plant into the garden center or email us a picture. We can usually solve most problems and get you on the correct path.