Advice on bringing outdoor plants indoors this fall

October 24, 2012
Rex Begonias have leaves with curious colors, designs, and textures that add interest to the winter indoors.

Not all spies are dashing, romantic globetrotters who defend freedom, justice and the American way. The novel, “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold” showed the seedier side of life when a dispirited British secret agent comes in from "the cold" (meaning he is pulled out of field operations) to become an undercover agent.

While good does not always conquer evil, the gardener can be sure that warm conquers cold.  Even if a light frost has hi,t you may be able to bring some plants in from the cold. Many outdoor plants will perform well as indoor houseplants.  For most plants, it is best to bring them inside before freezing temperatures hit.  However, if a frost has nipped them, there still might be hope.

Often the roots are still very much alive long after the leaves are dead. That said, even a healthy outdoor plant will experience a bit of shock when moved into a warm house.

Green, healthy leaves may fall off. Keep watering the plants, but stop all fertilizing. Only fertilize plants when they are actively growing and winter’s shortened days just are not conducive to plant growth.

Light is the key, so give your plants as much light as possible.  Indoor air is usually drier than outdoor air, thanks to space heaters and furnaces, so keep humidity higher with a humidifier or at least trays of water under the plants.

Potted ferns, hibiscus, crotons, and begonias will all do well indoors.  You can pull up entire geraniums and pot them for winter, or take cuttings to root.  

Begonias grown outdoors can become excellent indoor foliage plants.  Even if some of your outdoor rescued plants do not bloom indoors, and many will not, the leaves and greenery will brighten your home.

Rex begonias have leaves with curious colors, designs, and textures that add interest to the winter indoors.  Because rex begonias like high humidity, mist them often and set the pots on trays filled with pebbles and water. Let your rex begonias dry out slightly in between waterings. Luckily, rex begonias only need moderate light to prosper, so they do well in almost any indoor room.

Even though outdoor fuchsias have a delicate tropical look, they in fact do well in cooler rooms indoors.  Let your potted fuchsias rest over the winter.  After you bring them indoors, cut them back and set them in a low-light room.  Only water fuchsias when the soil feels dry. Come spring, set them in a sunny window and water regularly to spur new growth.  As the days lengthen give them weekly liquid fertilizer.

Let the geranium cuttings harden off for a day or two to callus over.  Dip the cuttings in a good rooting hormone and pot them up.

Put them in your brightest sunniest windows, and they will blooms throughout the winter.  Only water when the soil is dry and feed them lightly to encourage blossoming.

Good old-fashioned coleus prefers shade over sun outdoors so does well in lower light of the home.  You can easily root coleus branches in water.  Keep their soil moist, but not soggy.  Feed them with a good diluted liquid fertilizer about every month.

Pinch off any coleus flowers, because if they bloom and go to seed, the plants won’t do well.

Don’t stop with flowers.  You can bring peppers indoors.  Some have been known to bloom and produce fruits for years.

Keep their soil a bit on the dry side and go easy on the fertilizer or you’ll get lots of leaves and few peppers.  These hot-weather plants need lots of light to bloom and set fruit.

Several herbs do well indoors. Basil, parsley and sage can all be potted up with the advantage that even if they languish and never grow, you can still snip off the flavorful leaves to eat and win the gardener’s version of the cold war.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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