Now that it's officially fall, it's probably about time to bring your green friends inside for the season. I'm talking about the houseplants you put outdoors to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. But if you've ever gone on a tropical vacation during the winter, then flown home to snow, you'll realize that sudden changes in climate and temperature can be shocking. Since plants don't have the luxury of turning down the thermostat or taking a hot bath, it's best to try to make the transition as smooth as possible. Here are some tips for how to accomplish that.
Preparation and Planning
Here are the most common things people do when bringing plants in for the colder season:
1. Waiting Too Long: You'll want to move your plants indoors when temperatures regularly drop below 60, and definitely before they get as low as 45 degrees F. If you can, plan to gradually transition your plants indoors, putting them in a shady spot for a few weeks before bringing them inside.
2. Sticking Them Anywhere: Decide where the plants will go in advance. Try to match the conditions outdoors, putting plants that were in bright sunlight in south-facing windows. If that's not in the cards, at least try to gradually move plants to lower-light areas over a few days or weeks. They may still lose leaves in response to the reduced light, but you can try to minimize the loss.
Note: Without any windows in the way, plants get more sun outdoors than they do inside. So use this as an excuse to clean your windows (inside and out, if possible). Your plants will appreciate it, and if it's been a long time since you cleaned your windows, so will you!
3. Neglecting To Repot if Needed: Inspect your plants to see if any have outgrown their pots and need to be repotted. If they do, be sure to choose a pot with drainage holes, and the appropriate new potting soil. Lightly prune plants that have gotten leggy while outside.
4. Ignoring Insects & Disease: It's really important to inspect your plants for pests and problems before you bring them indoors. Soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for 15 minutes to force any pests out in search of air. Drain thoroughly before bringing indoors. If you want to be extra sure that you're not bringing in any uninvited guests with your plants, you may even want to quarantine them in a room separate from other plants for a few days.
5. Failing To Adjust Water: Once you've got your plants transitioned indoors for the season, be sure not to overwater. For most plants, that means letting the soil dry to the touch before watering. I actually find that the dry indoor air from my heater means that my plants need nearly as much water in the winter as they do in the summer, but your conditions may be quite different. Since they'll grow less in response to less light, fertilizing monthly or bi-monthly during the winter should be sufficient.