Bringing Plants Inside

Bringing Plants Inside

Although there is no rush, the cooler nights in September have many thinking about when and how to best bring houseplants or tender tropicals indoors. Maybe you’ve sent your interior plants to summer camp. Perhaps you’ve grown a tropical hibiscus or other annual that you’d like to save for next summer. Or it could be that you’re wondering if the Amaryllis that went outdoors in May should be put in the garage or in front of a sunny window.

Here are some frequently asked questions about bringing plants indoors.

Q. Should I bring my plants inside now? Later in September?

A. Let the night-time temperatures be your guide. If the temperature at night is well above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, leave the plants outside. But when the long-range forecast shows those night temps dipping to 50 and below, it’s time to move houseplants and tropicals indoors. This is because you want those plants to be inside the house for at least two or three weeks before your heating comes on. That way the plants have a few weeks to get accustomed to the reduced levels of light before they also have to adjust to heating and less humidity.

Q. Should I treat my plants in some way before they come in so that I’m less likely to bring insects indoors?

A. You can spray plants with insecticidal soap, but since some common insects come indoors in the soil, spraying the plant itself isn’t always enough protection. Put some yellow sticky cards, aka whitefly traps, near the plants right after they come inside. These will trap the adult fungus gnats, aka fruit flies. For the first four weeks, put Captain Jack’s (spinosad) in the watering can when you water the plants; this kills the larvae of the fungus gnats that are in the soil.

Yellow sticky cards trap a number of insects and can alert you to any problem before it grows out of hand. Place these near plants for insect control and monitoring.
Captain Jacks is spinosad, and this kills the larvae that might be feeding on roots or other organic matter in your pots.

Q. Should I fertilize plants that I bring inside to help them adjust?

A. With one exception, it’s best not to fertilize houseplants at this time of year as they are going into a resting phase. The exception is citrus plants such as lemons or the Calamondin plants. These should be given fertilizer once a month, whether inside or out. Other houseplants and over-wintering tropicals do benefit from a half cup to a cup of earthworm castings being put on the top of the soil at this time. It helps keep the soil in the pots healthy with beneficial micro-organisms. In January you can start to apply the Coast of Maine Organic plant food.

This organic fertilizer is a favorite because it has ingredients such as earth worm castings that feed the soil life as well as provide nutrients.

Q. I put my Amaryllis outside for the summer. Do I bring them back inside the house or do I need to let them go dormant first?

A. It’s a good idea to leave Amaryllis outside through September, and bring them into a garage or cold basement in early October. Don’t water them after they’re brought in, and let the foliage die back over the next week or two. After at least six weeks in a cool place, you can cut off brown leaves and start to bring the plants back indoors in late November or early December. If you want to repot these before bringing them inside, by all means do so.

Q. Is this a good time to repot my houseplants too?

A. If your plants are very root bound, by all means repot them in the next size up container now. Use fresh potting mix and be sure not to put any rocks, shards or drainage-hole covering materials in the pot. Only potting soil. But if your plants are doing well, and they don’t show signs of being tremendously root bound, wait to repot until the spring.

This Monstera usually grows three new leaves when outside in the summer. It will slow its growth once it’s inside.
Be sure to have a saucer and/or a tray under all plants so that you can water them well without flooding the floor or your furniture.
Many tropical plants such as Hibiscus can be kept from year to year by placing them in front of a sunny window.
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