After spending day after day enjoying the sunshine outside, it’s time to start buckling down for the fall. The kids are back to school, the Halloween costumes are out at Costco, and the nights are getting cooler too. Bring on the soups and stews! Much like our transition back into life indoors, it’s also important to start thinking about how to help your plants adjust to their upcoming environmental change.
Many of us move our houseplants from our living rooms to the balcony or back porch for a bit of a vacation over the summer. It’s a good way to treat them to the heat and humidity they crave, plus, it makes the outside of your house look pretty. But as the cooler seasons creep closer, you’ll need to move the plants back inside, preferably, before nighttime temperatures dip below 45°F (to be safe, bring them in before they dip below 50°F).
If only it were as simple as opening the door and carrying the plants back into the house. The University of Vermont’s Department of Plant and Soil Science recommends a gradual reintroduction to life indoors. Dr. Leonard Perry writes that plants can be traumatized by sudden changes in temperature, light, and humidity. You’ll know your plant is reacting poorly if you notice yellowed leaves or wilting.
Dr. Perry recommends the following before bringing your plants inside for the winter:
- Clean the windows, inside and out, so you can help your plants get the best lighting possible.
- If your plants need repotting, make sure you use potting soil and not garden soil.
- Choose nice, sunny spots in windows for your plants. Build or buy shelves for them to sit on, or install ceiling hooks for hanging plants.
- Your plants may have become somewhat leggy during their time outdoors; if that’s the case, prune the top and roots in equal portions.
The most important tip of all? Check your plants over for insects and diseases before they come into the house. Dr. Perry suggests soaking your potted plant in a shallow tub of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. This will force the bugs out of the soil so you can see what you’re working with.
If after performing this test you notice a few different creepy crawlers trying to make their great escape then it’s a very good idea to repot your plants with potting soil. Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and other Outdoor Plants, recommends hosing your plants down and even using an insecticidal soap or spray before even considering bringing them into the house. Pick an all-natural, organic pest control, but be sure to read the label carefully before application. Horticultural and botanical oils are also a good choice, as they work by smothering insect eggs, or as deterrents and contact poisons.
Once you’ve checked for bugs, washed the plants down, and even repotted them into fresh, clean potting soil, think about giving your shell-shocked beauties a drink of fertilizer. Again, follow the directions carefully. Houseplants in soil containing fertilizer really only need to be fed every three months or so.
It’s well worth the effort! Those healthy-looking plants and flowers around the house will be boosting your spirits all winter long.