Time to bring houseplants indoors for the winter

November 8, 2023

Most houseplants come from the tropics, where they typically grow in filtered sunlight with high humidity. Indoors, they tend to grow slowly, unlike the Burmese bamboo (Bambusa burmanica), which can grow up to 35 inches each day. It is so fast, you can actually watch it grow.

Autumn is when we often bring plants indoors. If you put houseplants out on the patio or porch, or in the garden for the summer, you will have to acclimate them to the indoors when taking them back inside. Try keeping them in a sheltered area away from direct sun, out of drafts for a few days. An unheated garage or a corner of the porch should work well. Of course, if it is going to frost, you need to protect them and take them indoors. You need to move your houseplants indoors before night temperatures get below 45°F. If it drops colder, it can damage the plants, especially the tender new leaves and tips of the stems.

If the weather is mild, you can bring the plants inside at night and put them back outside during the day.

Before you move any houseplants indoors, always check them carefully for insects. Look over the tops and bottoms of leaves to check the undersides and even inspect the stems. You can spray any infestations with insecticidal soap. Even if you don't see any bugs, it is a good idea to rinse your plants with a strong spray of water from the garden hose. You don't want any pests to hitchhike on the plants you bring in for the winter and infest your other houseplants.

This is the perfect time to prune back any overgrown plants before you bring them indoors. Cut out any dead leaves, and trim back tall or lanky stems. You can also use this time to repot any plants that have outgrown their containers.

Because plants won't be actively growing during the winter, you can cut back on fertilizer. Think of winter as a rest period for your plants.

You might have to decide what’s worth keeping and bringing indoors. Think of which plants are hard to find or perhaps family keepsakes. You might want to save the most expensive plants. Always only keep the healthiest plants; never bring indoors any with disease or pest problems. Your indoor lighting will be critical, too. During the winter, even a west or south-facing window has only the same amount of winter light intensity as a shady outdoor area in the summer.

Once indoors, a good daily misting will keep the humidity up. Also, try setting the pots on a tray of pebbles that you can add water to. As the water evaporates, it will release humidity into the air, helping the plants.

Place houseplants away from heating vents and out of drafts. Most houseplants do best with indirect sunlight; in fact, many will actually burn their leaves in the sun.

Now that winter is near, bring your tender plants indoors to enjoy all year long.

  • 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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