Bringing Your Tropical Foliage Indoors for Winter
It's like a little vacation, your foliage plants get to spend nearly 6 whole months outside, breathing the fresh air, getting some sun and warm humid temperatures. But wait... now it's getting cooler outside. It's time to bring them inside! Do you have a nice spot for them in your home? What do you need to do? What should you check for? What can you expect while acclimating them to the new environment?
We get it. It's going to be hard for some of you. Your plants did so well this year, especially since it was a nice mild summer. Some plants will need a little extra attention. Hopefully we can help.
1: Decide on a new location for your plants. Were they getting a little bit of sun in the morning or late afternoon?
Great. This should be easy. Just put them in a bright window. You might want to put a sheet under their pots for a few weeks. Expect some leaf drop as they acclimate.
Did they get mostly full sun outside? Then find the sunniest window you have and put them straight in it. You might need to get some additional grow lights to help them acclimate.
2: They might have insects in the soil or on the leaves. Check
carefully for ants, spiders and gnats in the soil. Drenching the soil with some systemic pesticide will help, or just try to let the soil dry out completely before returning inside. Bugs usually dwell in moist soil or rotted material inside the pot. Pests you really need to check for are Aphids, Mealybug, Spider mites and Scale. Hosing it down with water and Ivory liquid soap might help, But I always use a good shot of spray pesticide. Spider mites are the most difficult to spot, as they are about the size of a pen dot. Look for little tiny webbing at the base of stem meets stalk area, another foolproof way is to draw a circle on a white sheet of paper, then flick the leaf with your fingers, aiming over the white paper. If the dots move (the circle will help you see if they are moving) then you have spider mites. Look for chemicals or alternatives that will kill these rapidly multiplying pests.
3: Not really a problem, but you may want to check for soft soil leading to a small tunnel in the soil.
This is a true story. I once had a peace lily on my porch, in the shade all summer. Peace Lilies are tender, and was the first plant to come inside. It sat nicely on a bar stool behind my couch all winter. One January evening I decided to bring it into the kitchen and rinse off the dust in my sink- thus giving it a nice much needed soil soak. Out popped the biggest toad you ever saw- I screamed and it hopped across my floor. It took all night to catch it, then I had to take it over to a warm greenhouse at the Dan Schantz Farm ( It was snowing outside and he would have frozen to death) . The moral of this story is: check your plants well before bringing them inside, or you'll spend all night catching a huge toad and losing sleep by waling to the greenhouse in the snow)
4: It's normal to experience leaf drop once you bring your plants inside. When the heat gets turned on, you'll notice some drying around the leaves. Misting is good, or putting a few bowls of water near your plants. Just as they acclimated outdoors, they will get used to being inside again.
Annuals you have planted outdoors are tempting to bring indoors. Begonias will usually make it inside through the winter, as long as you keep the stems cut back. Plenty of light is the key. Impatiens will probably just make a horrible mess, so just let them die peacefully outside. Mulch your mums, pansies and other hardy plants to "tuck them in" for the winter months ahead.
While you're at it- go ahead and prune your Hydrangeas, Rose Bushes and other woody perennials. A good dose of plant food is a nice idea now- keeps them healthy through the harsh winter.
The last tip is, plants inside will require more or less water than they did outdoors. What was normal to water them daily will be reduced to less than weekly. Unless you live in a heat filled blast furnace, they wont need much water. They wont be growing as fast as they did outside- thus making them not need as much water around their roots. It's not a good idea to repot them into a different pot in the fall. Leave that to the spring, when they can adjust better. We all hibernate a little in the winter...and your plants are no exception.