Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

Bring Your Plants Indoors… Without the Bugs

285.KI know, I know, it’s only the beginning of September, your outdoor gardens are thriving and autumn seems soooo far away, but… the time has nonetheless come to think of bringing the houseplants you placed outside for the summer back indoors.

Why so early? Because plants adapt better to the transition from outdoors to indoors when conditions are similar. Presently its fairly hot and humid outdoors and fairly hot and humid indoors: your plants won’t feel the change! If you wait until cool nights set in or, worse yet, frost threatens, the shock of leaving a damp (as outdoor temperatures drop, humidity tends to rise) and cold outdoor environment to a warmer, drier indoor environment can easily lead to a massive drop of leaves and flowers. At the very least, plants so treated will tend to sulk and look unhappy. So, it’s better to start soon, before mid-September in colder areas, and before mid-October in milder ones, even though outdoor conditions may still seem nice and warm.

Bring in Plants Without the Bugs

But how can you bring houseplants indoors without bringing unwanted critters in along with them? But it’s actually not that difficult. Here’s what I do… and I bring in literally hundreds of houseplants: about 300 or so.

Most plants – the ones I don’t feel are likely to host bugs – simply get a thorough rinse with a garden hose spray gun, plus a good wipe-down of their pot.

For plants that I know have chronic insect problems, like fuchsias and pelargoniums (whiteflies love them!) or hibiscus and palms (prey to spider mites), just dousing them with water will not be enough. I give them a thorough spray with an insecticidal soap solution too.

287.KThen come the hard cases. If I have any doubt the plant may infested with something more serious, such as mealybugs or scale insects, I carefully wash them leaf by leaf with a cloth soaked in a solution of insecticidal soap, then I rinse well. Plus, they go straight into quarantine indoors.

288.KAs for controlling soil insects, I just immerse the pot in a large bucket of soapy water (insecticidal soap is less harmful to plant roots and therefore the best soap to use) and let the root ball soak for half an hour. If you try this, note that it may be necessary to put a brick or rock on top of the rootball to keep it underwater. Afterward, remove the pot from the bucket and let it drain well. Combining 30 minutes of drowning with the presence of insecticidal soap ought to overcome even the toughest pests.

A Few Final Steps

Make sure you wash the pot, not only the sides but also underneath, with soapy water to remove soil, algae and foreign matters. And pick off yellowing leaves and anything that has fallen into the pot (dead leaves, small branches, etc.) Finally, since many plants grow considerably while outdoors, you may need to do a bit of pruning to bring them under control or repotting, if you feel they’ve become too big for their pots.

And there you go! Just a few efforts as you bring your houseplants back indoors and you’ll find they’ll grow happily and insect-free in your home right through the winter!

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