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  • Writer's pictureJohn Chapin

Bringing Your Potted Houseplants Inside for Cooler Temps

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

The resurgence in popularity of houseplants will have many wondering

what to do to keep their plants heathy over the winter. Houseplants really

benefit from a “summer vacation” outdoors, but with the arrival of cold

weather, it’s time to bring them indoors. Aphids, mealybugs, scale, and

other houseplant insect pests aren’t normally a problem when potted indoor

plants are outside, but they can quickly become a major infestation when

they piggy-back on your plants back indoors.

Most houseplant experts recommend de-bugging your houseplants before

bringing them indoors for the winter. Soaking the pots in a tub full of warm,

soapy water for 20 minutes, using a mild liquid dishwashing soap, will

eliminate any bugs in the soil. Put some of the soapy water in a spray bottle

to douse the foliage, or generously splash the leaves and stems, too. Then,

rinse off the plants with a hose after removing from the water, and let each

pot drain completely. For larger houseplants, you can pour soapy water into

the pot to thoroughly soak the soil, spray the foliage, then rinse with a hose.

(If you’ve already brought your plants indoors, this can all be done in a

bathtub, shower stall, or laundry sink.) I wipe off the leaves to clean them

while damp, using paper towels, as well as clean off the pots.

Even with the most fastidious cleaning to eliminate insect pests, it’s

impossible to completely ensure that you won’t have problems. So, I

always treat my houseplants with a systemic insecticide, one that’s safe to

use indoors. A systemic insecticide is any pesticide that is absorbed into a

plant and distributed throughout its tissues. It kills any insect pests that

attempt to feed on the plant. The main ingredient is usually a neonicotinoid,

harmless to people and other mammals, but suspected of harming

honeybees and other pollinators. Since pollinators won’t be present

indoors, I’m comfortable using it on my houseplants during the winter.

Applied as a drench (dissolved in water and poured into the pots), one

treatment will be effective till spring. There are different brands of systemic

insecticides available at garden centers or online.

Healthy houseplants are enjoyable companions for gardeners through the

cold winter months ahead.

Happy gardening!

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