It’s Time To Bring Those Plants Indoors!
If you live in the Midwest, you’re not surrounded by an especially warm climate and the first freeze of the year can sneak up on you faster than you think. Every Autumn there’s a routine you have to follow: bringing your outdoor plants inside. Planning ahead and creating a new indoor layout for your plant friends can save you a lot of grief when moving day comes. It may be a pain, but it’s usually necessary if you want your potted plants to survive the winter.
When To Bring In Potted Plants
Some especially hardy plants can spend the winter outdoors in containers. It’s important to remember, though, that containers raise a plant’s roots up out of the protective ground, leaving their roots more exposed to cold weather .The best time to bring plants inside is before nighttime temperatures start to dip below 55 to 60 degrees F (12-15 C.).
Check For Pests
Before bringing container plants indoors, check for pests that may be living in the soil. Submerge each pot in water a touch warmer than room temperature for 15 minutes to drive any insects or slugs to the surface. Wipe down leaves with a microfiber cloth to remove dust, dirt and pest eggs. Fungus gnats tend to be the most annoying pests because they leave the surface of the plant and fly around your home. If gnats are hovering around houseplants or crawling in your potting soil, the issue is likely due to overwatering.
The best way to treat a mild case of gnats is to sprinkle cinnamon or chamomile over the top of the soil of your plant. Chamomile and cinnamon are powerful natural fungicides, which kill off the gnats’ primary food source, therefore making the soil inhospitable. Place a few sticky traps around the edges of your infested plants, as the gnats leave soil they will crawl up the traps and become stuck. You can then throw away and replace the traps as necessary until the gnats are gone.
Another environmentally friendly and natural alternative to pesticides is nematodes. Beneficial nematodes are microscopic roundworms that live in the soil and are natural enemies of fungus gnats. The nematodes hunt down and kill fungus gnat larvae in the soil, but are completely safe for people, pets and plants. They are available as a product you spray as well as a solid formula which you apply as a topdressing.
When you bring your plants inside, place those that need the most light in south-facing windows. If your plant needs more than eight hours of direct sunlight a day, you may find yourself investing in grow lights. Plants that need the least amount of light can go in east or west-facing windows. Need direct light all day? Try a north window. No matter where they go, the light will be less intense than it was outside.
Plant Growth During Colder Months
As the fall and winter days grow shorter, so do our hours of sunlight which can stunt the growth of your plant and cause some leaves to yellow and drop. Once your plant gets used to the new light level, it should grow new, healthy leaves. But, don’t stress if it doesn’t (yet). Many plants will go dormant starting in the fall and continuing through winter. What does this mean? For plants, dormancy declares when to prepare their soft tissues for freezing temperatures, dry weather, or water and nutrient shortage. Instead of exerting energy in an attempt to grow, they know to stop growing and conserve energy until mild weather returns.
Don’t water your plants as often as you did when they were outdoors– it will evaporate less quickly indoors. A good rule is to check the first two inches of soil with either your finger, a spoon or a ruler. If the soil is still wet-don’t water. On the other hand, if the soil is dry and crumbly this is a great indicator that it’s time to give your plant some hydration.
Desert plants, like succulents and cactus, will need even less water than before since they store water in their bodies/petals. During the low-light winter months, cacti and succulents should be watered only enough to prevent shrinking and withering. When watering, do it thoroughly. Water should flow through the drain holes, and the excess should be discarded after a few minutes. Do this about once every three weeks in the fall and once every 4-6 weeks in winter.
Do you have plants that love humidity but don’t have a greenhouse? The air is likely to be less humid inside your home so placing your pot in a dish on a layer of gravel that is kept constantly moist should help with this problem. Just make sure the level of the water in the gravel doesn’t sit higher than the bottom of the container, or you run the risk of root rot. If you have multiple or larger plants, try setting up a humidifier 3-6 feet from your plant and keep it on 1-2 hours a day to create a moist environment. The easiest fix? Put your plants in a bathroom from time to time to enjoy steam from the shower.
Midwest temperatures are dropping faster than usual. Now is a great time to bring your plants inside before we have our first freeze. If you’re unsure of how to care for your plants in their new environment, we have a couple great books available in the shop that can teach you the how-to’s when it comes to your plant. Check out Plantopedia:The Definitive Guide to Houseplants as a guide to keeping happy, healthy houseplants in any space. It features more than 130 plant profiles including foliage plants, succulents and cacti, as well as rarer gems of the plant world. Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants is a book perfect for those who may be unfamiliar with how to care for their plants’ new lifestyle indoors. And, as always, we are happy to help you with any plant related questions you may have if you call or stop into the shop.
BioLogic. Getting Rid of Fungus Gnats: A Green Alternative for Interiorscapes and Potted Plants, 2016, https://biologicco.com/blog/getting-rid-of-fungus-gnats-a-green-alternative-for-interiorscapes-and-potted-plants/
Sweester, Robin. How to Bring Outdoor Plants Indoors, 2022, https://www.almanac.com/how-bring-outdoor-plants-indoors