Preparing Indoor Plants for Wintertime

Sunday, November 9, 2002

by Lynn Rawe

The days are flying by, and winter is close at hand. This week, Extension will share some helpful hints in preparing your houseplants for this seasonal change.

You should prepare houseplants that have been outdoors all summer for their move to the indoors. Outdoors, plants can be grown in an optimal environment. They enjoy humidity, adequate light and abundant watering from a garden hose. Runoff from generous watering is generally not a problem.

Indoors, plants live in less than optimum conditions. They endure low humidity, less light and potentially less water since runoff onto the floor is not good. Because of this, now is a good time to prune back houseplants, especially hanging baskets. Prune any dead areas off of plants. Some plants may have grown too large during the summer. Pruning back large plants now will allow some new growth before plants have to go inside, eliminating that “newly chopped” look.

Carefully inspect the plants for insects. If you find insects, treat them before moving the plants indoors. It is more difficult to control insects in an enclosed area. Read the label on all pesticide products, whether it is organic or chemical. Some houseplants, ferns, and tropicals can receive foliar burning with certain products.

It is necessary to reduce the nutrients and water before plants are moved. The reason for this is that you want to slow down the metabolism of the plant during the winter. During winter months, salt build-up can be a problem on houseplants. The white crusty layer that forms on the containers indicate salt build-up. This is unhealthy for the plants. If you can, water the plants until water runs out the bottom of the pot. Do not allow the plant to reabsorb the water that ran out. If you cannot water the plants in this manner, try placing them in the bath tub and turning the shower on them. The excess water then runs down the drain, eliminating any salt problems.

Plants are exposed to lower light conditions indoors. For the plants health, slowly acclimate the plants to the lower light situation by gradually moving them from the light condition they are presently growing in, to a slightly lower light level for a week or so. Then the stress on the plant will be lessened.

Winter conditions inside homes can be very dry. Some plants need higher humidity than others. If you have a plant such as ferns that need high humidity, I have a solution. Place a water-proof tray, filled with pea gravel and water beneath your plant pot. As the water evaporates, the humidity around the plant rises. Do not allow the roots of the plant to stand in the water. Keep plants away from heater vents to prevent drying out of the soil and foliage drying.

Covering plants with a light weight cloth (like Grow-Web Fiber Row Cover) can buy you a few extra degrees of warmth. Check your garden centers and nurseries for this cloth. Do not cover plants with plastic unless you first cover them with cloth. You do not want the plastic next to the foliage. Be sure to remember to remove any cover the next day as the temperature rises.

Most houseplants should be moved indoors when temperatures hold around 45o for several hours. Some plants, like orchids, should be taken indoors at temperatures between 55-60o.

Taking the time to prepare your houseplants, ferns, and tropicals before moving them indoors will cause less stress to them. Your plants will be happier and healthier.

This article was written by Lynn Rawe, County Extension Agent-Horticulture – Texas Cooperative Extension, Bexar County. For more information please call 210 / 467-6575.



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