Bring in Houseplants While Windows Are Still Open

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Your houseplants may be enjoying their summer outdoors, but at some point you need to consider bringing them back in! Photo: Pilea, http://www.pinterest.ca

What goes out must come in. That’s the rule with houseplants you’ve put outside for the summer. Hibiscus, palms, cactus, ferns: they all enjoy a summer outdoors, but eventually you have to bring them indoors, usually long before fall frosts occur.

But when, exactly? 

Here’s a simple tip on that subject. Bring them in while you’re still opening your windows at night.

Once you start finding evenings getting too chilly and closing the windows at night, that’s a sign it’s also becoming too cold outdoors for your houseplants. So, give them a thorough cleanup (read Bring Your Plants Indoors Without the Bugs for more information on that subject) and bring them back indoors!

You don’t open your windows? Here’s another way to look at the subject: if you find you need to put on a jacket in the evening when you step outside, then it’s becoming too cold for tropical plants to be outdoors.

It’s the same tip, really, but just a different way of looking at the subject.

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Time to Bring Your Houseplants Back In

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20170904A.jpgAny houseplant that summers outdoors necessarily has to come back indoors again in the fall. But when?

Be aware that many tropical plants adapt to the cool nights and high humidity of fall without much trouble, but when you suddenly bring them back indoors to a vastly different environment, the hot, dry air created by heating our homes (the situation in October and November), they’re in for a major shock. Often leaves start to turn yellow and drop off.

That’s why it’s best to bring tropical plants back indoors very early, in early September or even at the end of August, when the humidity and the temperature outside and inside are pretty much equal. That makes for a smooth transition, with no shock or leaf loss.

Of course, you won’t want to bring insects back in with the plants. To learn how to control them, read Bring Your Houseplants Indoors Without the Bugs.

Time To Bring Your Houseplants Back In

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20160902COkay, it may still seem hot and summery outdoors, but for how long?

Early September is the ideal time to bring the houseplants you placed outside for the summer back inside. For a smooth transition, you’ll want to do this when the nights are still warm. If you wait until the nights start to become chilly, the plants will become acclimated to that and may react badly when brought back suddenly into the warmth, losing leaves and flowers. It’s better to make the transition between outdoors and in when the conditions in both environments are essentially identical… and in many climates, that’s early September.

Of course, there are a few exceptions, houseplants that are more subtropical than tropical and that therefore actually enjoy cool to cold (but not freezing) temperatures in the fall. You can leave these out until frost truly does threaten. For more on the subject, read Some Houseplants Like It Cold.

Preparation

If the plant has grown considerably over the summer, you might want to prune it back before you bring it back inside… or to repot it into a larger pot.

And in some circumstances, it’s easier take cuttings and bring them indoors rather than the whole plant.

Bug-free Plants

20160902BRinse your plants thoroughly with a fairly strong jet of water to get rid of dust, grime… and most bugs. Then, to make sure you got all the critters, spray both sides of the leaves with insecticidal soap.

20160902D.jpgSo much for the foliage. To eliminate the insects hidden in the soil, plunge the pot into a tub of soapy water, and soak the roots for 15 to 30 minutes (use rocks or bricks to hold the pot underwater). Soap is toxic to insects, but does little to no damage to the roots, so the treatment should dispose of any unwanted underground intruders.

Next, let the pot drain and bring the plant back in. Yes, it’s that easy!20160902A

Bring Your Plants Indoors… Without the Bugs

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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!