If your houseplants have been vacationing all summer on your deck and patios, now is the time to gradually reintroduce them to indoor life. Herbs from your garden or flowering plants from window boxes can also come inside, offering a welcome dash of flavor—and color—in the coming months.
Sudden changes in temperature, light and humidity are hard on plants so a gentle transition will reduce dropping leaves, wilting or other signs of stress. You can start by moving plants to a shadier area to get them used to less light. Clean your windows—inside and out to maximize the light they will receive indoors. A humidifier can also help with the adjustment as the cooler months bring in drier air.
Any bugs on the plants should be dealt with before they are moved inside. Applying a systemic insecticide 10 days prior to the move is the first step. Insects and disease could be lurking in dead leaves and spent blooms so trim them off. Hosing plants or spraying the leaves and stems with insecticidal soap will also help debug your greenery. For extreme infestations, submerge the plant—pot and all—in a large tub with soapy water. Anything in the soil will drown or float to the top. Allow the plant to thoroughly drain before moving indoors.
If necessary, repot plants into larger containers at least two inches bigger than the original pot. If they have grown leggy over the summer, remove them from the container, and prune the top and roots in equal proportions. Scrub the pot, add fresh bagged potting soil and replant. Remember, use the right kind of soil for your plants like succulents and cactus, African violets and orchids have different soil needs to thrive than regular houseplants.
For the plants’ winter digs, choose a well-lit area away from heating vents or cold drafts. Don’t overwater as you don’t want the plants to sit in wet saucers. Let the soil surface get dry to the touch before watering again. Only water succulents when the soil has been dry for several days. If you have a lot of plants that require high humidity, you might want to group these plants together on a waterproof tray topped with gravel.
To keep your indoor plants healthy and bug-free throughout the winter, give them a quick shower with lukewarm water every six weeks or so. Then, when spring comes around, they will all be happy to move back outdoors again.