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  • Writer's pictureJohn Chapin

Cooler Temps Mean Transitioning Houseplants Back Indoors

tropical houseplants sunroom

It’s common practice for people to “summer” their houseplants outdoors, tucked under shrubs, set on a shaded patio, or in the protection of a covered porch. Houseplants really benefit from natural rainfall and humidity. The cooler days and crisp nights of late September and early October, before danger of frost, signal that it’s time to bring them back indoors to enjoy over the winter.

However, you don’t want to bring in any pests that are likely to hitch a ride on your plants. Aphids and mealybugs are the most common houseplant pests that can quickly become a problem, even a major infestation within weeks of placing your plants in their winter settings.

De-bugging and cleaning your houseplants before bringing them indoors is actually not all that difficult. Simply mix a few squirts of mild dish soap or insecticidal soap in a large bucket of warm water. (Don’t use any soaps that contain degreasers or detergents that can damage or even kill the plants.) Some recommend that you submerge the whole pot in the soapy water for 15 minutes, but I usually don’t, opting to wet down the foliage which then drips into the soil, using a spray bottle, pump sprayer, or even a watering can till the foliage is dripping. This cleans the foliage as well as kills pests. After twenty minutes or so, rinse the plants with a garden hose, then let drain and dry.

Even with these precautions, you will likely have problems with houseplant pests, especially mealybugs and scale, both of which are very difficult to eradicate. For many years now, I have used a systemic insecticide on all of my houseplants after bringing them indoors for the winter. It’s easy to use, and protection lasts all winter. Simply mix in water according to the directions and water your plants the first time they need watering after bringing them indoors. Once and done!

One more bit of advice: Most all houseplants are tropicals, and although they grow more slowly over the winter months, they definitely benefit from continuous fertilization. I mix a very small amount of houseplant fertilizer in water (I prefer to use rainwater which I store in old plastic gallon milk jugs.) that I then use every time I water my houseplants.

Happy gardening!


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