Houseplants Seasons

Overwintering Houseplants

I like to put my houseplant collection outside for the Summer, being careful that the last frost has passed and they do NOT get sunburned. The plants put on new growth and are easy to water and fertilize without worrying about spills.

Bring Them Back Inside in Early Fall

After a nice outdoor vacation, and as Fall approaches, it’s time to start bringing things into the greenhouse or garage, ahead of a predicted frost. And although Spring is the usual time to repot plants, after a Summer of growth, you might want to prepare to repot some of your plants into larger or new containers before bringing them indoors.If plants have gotten leggy or root-bound during their outdoor stay, remove from the container, and prune about 1/3 of the top growth and roots. You can save those tip cuttings for propagating. Here, I’m thinking mostly about local favorites geraniums (Pelargonium) and fuchsias. These plants are wintered over at local nurseries, in hanging baskets or containers.

Your coleus is no longer a Coleus blumei, but a Coleus scutellarioidea. Photo:

I have a slight Coleus addiction, so I aways take cuttings to root in water and plant in soil. By the way, Coleus has undergone several name changes in the past, but is now back to being a coleus: Coleus scutellarioides. (See the Laidback Gardener column Why plant names change.

If You Need to Repot

You will probably be able to find some pots and soil on sale at the end of the season. Don’t forget the plastic trays to catch the drips after watering. If your new pot doesn’t have holes, just place the old pot inside and cover with Spanish moss. Don’t overwater!

Check the potting sol for slug eggs. They can look like tapioca. Photo: Apurviperssnider1, depositphotos

Start by hosing off each houseplant and pot and inspect individually. Check the bottom drainage hole for worms, slugs and other creepy-crawly things. You can gently tug the whole plant out of the pot to look for slug eggs (they look like tapioca), worms, aphids, etc. And to see if the plant is root-bound. If root-bound, go up a size in a new pot.

Then add some fresh, bagged potting soil (not garden soil which may have insects and diseases), and replant.  Water generously before bringing inside.

Before bringing ANYTHING inside, remember to check for hitch hikers. You’re basically searching for two types of pests: leaf dwellers and soil dwellers. If you have an unheated greenhouse or garage, you can store your plants out of the cold until you have time to organize things. Indoors, provide the best light you can and water weekly. Don’t fertilize until the daylight returns in the spring. Then fertilize weekly, weakly (half strength).

Patrick Ryan is an Alaska Master Gardener and the Education Specialist for the Alaska Botanical Garden. A retired elementary school teacher, Patrick is a member of the Anchorage Community Forest Council and sits on the board for Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom.

3 comments on “Overwintering Houseplants

  1. Donna Bright

    I have a Mandeville that I have overwinter for 4-5 years. Should I hard prune it? Never have but it certainly doesn’t flower as profusely as it did the first year that I had it. Thank you.

  2. Patrick Ryan

    Glad to be of help. Thanks for reading!

  3. Jt Michaels

    Thank you, Patrick! Although not bringing houseplants indoors, just yesterday I’d come across those little balls of ‘tapioca’ while digging leaves into veggie beds (a first for this life long gardener!). I smooshed the balls – just had a sense they were not the eggs of a beneficial insect. Thanks to you, my gut feeling has been confirmed. Nice to know I did the right thing.

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