For Zone 5 & 6 gardeners, late September and early to mid October is the time to think about bringing plants indoors for winter. Once the dog days of summer have come and gone, it’s time to bring your houseplants indoors before the nighttime temperatures dip too low. Here are some practical tips to make sure your plants stay happy and healthy inside your home until next spring …
Of course, annuals can be discarded once they’ve lived out their seasonal lifespan. Impatiens, zinnias, petunias and other annuals that are easy to obtain can be disposed of / composted once their time is finished …
Take It Slow
For the plants you want to save, acclimate them slowly to their indoor winter environment. We’ve always had better luck by bringing plants indoors when there’s still daytime warmth and when nighttime temperatures aren’t dipping below 50 degrees consistently, say 4-5 days in a row.
Make sure plants that need full sun are placed in a sunny window. It’s best to be realistic in this regard. You might have to choose between plants if you don’t have adequate sunny space to meet their needs …
We like to keep windows open, or at least cracked open, whenever possible until colder temperatures make it impractical. Plants will adapt much better to an indoor space if they are gradually weaned off fresh air from outside.
Fertilizing During The Winter
Plants need a rest period from their blooming cycle, and winter is the perfect time to let them rest. A good rule of thumb is not to fertilize at all for 5-6 months. In Zone 5, this is typically mid October through mid March. You can water your plants when they dry out, but be careful not to over water. You will likely have to monitor your plants more closely because indoor environments tend to be much dryer, especially in late fall and winter when the heat is on.
Be Sure To Remove Insects
One key task that is often ignored is making sure your plants aren’t harboring any insects from outside. Certain insects may not be visible to the naked eye, but if they’re present on your outdoor plants, they can cause great harm by spreading to your other indoor plants.
We recommend using an organic insect killer spray that is proficient at ridding your plants of a wide variety of pests. Spray the plants thoroughly per the directions and you’ll avoid dealing with a winter insect epidemic …
Flower Chick recommends misting your plants lightly with water several times a week. Most plants love this … it keeps their leaves clean, provides humidity, and prevents insect problems. The only exception to this is plants with fuzzy leaves like African violets.
Any lackluster or damaged foliage that has succumbed to heavy wind or unfavorable conditions can be pruned off the plant to enhance its appearance, and help the plant focus its energy on new growth! Gentle leaf cleaning with a clean, wet towel (flour sack towels are perfect for this!) will also be beneficial if there are hard mineral deposits, dust, or debris on your plants’ foliage, which can block chlorophyll from absorbing light.
Before bringing any houseplants back inside, be sure to inspect them thoroughly. When plants are left outdoors, they become more susceptible to pests and disease, so you want to make sure to remove the risk of spreading either to the rest of your plant collection. Check your plant’s stems, tops and bottoms of leaves, and the nooks and crevices where both meet, since that’s where pests like to hide.
Once your plants are cleared from “quarantine” and are looking refreshed, you can integrate them into the rest of your indoor jungle! Be sure to follow up with the proper care, including their preferred light levels and watering frequency. If you notice some leaf drop—do not be alarmed—your plants are adjusting to the lower light levels of being indoors.