Moving plants indoors for winter? Ease them into it gently |
Home & Garden

Moving plants indoors for winter? Ease them into it gently

Associated Press
Dean Fosdick via AP
Know the hardiness limits of your plants like these succulents. Succulents rated higher than Zone 5 can’t survive 20 degree-below-zero-cold and need to be protected in winter.
Dean Fosdick via AP
Plant saving options include moving the containers into sheltered locations like unheated garages or digging the containers into the ground and covering them with a thick layer of straw mulch.

Moving houseplants indoors with the onset of cold weather is not your typical furniture-shifting exercise. It requires planning, since houseplants for the most part are tender tropicals and need time to acclimate to a changed growing environment.

“Bring them in over a two-week period,” said Kate Karam, editorial director for Monrovia Nursery Co. in Azuza, Calif. “Some people move them from full sun to full shade (outdoors) to simulate the reduction in indoor lighting. I bring mine in at night and take them out again in the morning. And then eventually I just keep them in.”

Houseplants freak out if you simply run them inside and plunk them down on a windowsill, she said. Such haste frequently results in plant shock and leaf drop.

“A little bit of patience will save you a lot of heartbreak,” Karam said.


Check closely for such leaf-sucking pests as aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites. Deal with them outdoors if the plants are infested.

“I hose them (plants) down and then give them a good treatment of neem oil,” Karam said. Neem oil is an organic pesticide, a byproduct of seeds from the neem tree.

“It’s good at killing things that crawl,” she said. “Use it at half strength from a spray bottle. It’s a helpful thing to have in your arsenal for houseplants.”

Quarantine houseplants for a time after bringing them indoors, said Diana Alfuth, an Extension horticulture educator with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“Sitting outside, there may be all kinds of things living in them,” Alfuth said. “One year I brought in my plants and very shortly found a little frog hopping across my dining room floor.”

Indoor gardening with tropicals like hibiscus, bougainvillea, mandevilla and palms can get complicated. Tasks to manage include lighting, water, temperature, humidity and nutrition, and they’re all inter-related.

“Lighting and watering are the most important,” Alfuth said. “Watering is related to how much light there is.”

Try placing houseplants in the sunniest areas of the house. Windows filter out the sun, somewhat hampering photosynthesis, the process that creates the sugars and carbohydrates needed for plants to grow.

It also gets cloudier in winter, so consider taking measures to elevate light levels. Keep the windows clean, remove the screens and add supplemental lighting.

Don’t overwater

Overwatering houseplants is one of the most common mistakes in gardening. It suffocates the roots and allows root fungi to settle in, Alfuth said.

Water only when the plants need it. “Dig your finger into the surface of the soil and if it’s dry one-half inch deep, then it’s time to water,” she said.

Bring plants indoors to avoid chill injury when overnight lows dip consistently into the mid-40s. Most houseplants prefer days between 65 and 75 degrees, with nights about 10 degrees colder, Alfuth said.

Keep plants away from heat vents and out of entryways where drafts can become too dry or too cold.

“There’s little active growth in most houseplants in winter so they don’t need any fertilizer,” said David Trinklein, an Extension horticulturist with the University of Missouri.

“In most cases, overwintering tropical plants not only saves money but also results in larger, more impressive plants the next year,” Trinklein said.

Categories: Lifestyles | Home Garden
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.