There is no need to watch your summertime plants curl up and die once the weather turns cold. We spoke to our plant experts for the do's and don’ts of moving plants indoors to enjoy their vibrant color and foliage all year long. And a bonus: you will save so much money without having to replace your favorite plants come springtime.
Meet the Expert
- Elisabeth Ginsburg is the author of the newspaper column, “The Gardener’s Apprentice” and a blogger at The Gardener's Apprentice.
- Peg Reynolds has been a gardening expert for over 40 years and is the owner of Reynolds Garden Shop.
When Relocating Your Plants Indoors
Don’t: Wait until a frost settles over your plants to move them indoors. When nighttime temperatures dip into the 40 to 50-degree range, it’s time to bring them inside. “Some plants, like pansies, snapdragons, and strawflowers may survive a mild frost especially if the plants are well established, healthy, and positioned in a protected area like the wall of a house or garage,” gardening blogger Elisabeth Ginsburg says.
Do: Save money on repurchasing. “Many of our customers have had the same citrus and tropicals for years because they bring them indoors every winter,” gardening expert Peg Reynolds says. “In most cases, overwintering plants like geraniums will not only save you money, but will result in a larger plant come spring." Reynolds suggests if you don't have the space or enough sunlight for your favorite plant to thrive inside, consider asking a friend to adopt it for the season.
Don’t: Bring in sick or weak plants. “Use your indoor space wisely and move the healthiest or most costly plants indoors,” says Reynolds. Ginsburg stresses prioritizing and reserving your best efforts for the plants that are the most important to you. “Babying a rare canna may be a higher priority than saving a common geranium," she notes. "On the other hand, if you’ve found a particular geranium that makes your heart sing, overwinter it with care, as the ultimate goal of raising plants is to bring joy to the gardener.”
For Indoor Pest Control
Don’t: Forget to check for pests, like spider mites and aphids, before bringing your plants indoors. “A magnifying glass is a great tool for identifying bugs. Inspect the tops and bottoms of the leaves, stems, and flowers along with the soil," Ginsburg says. “Look for crawling or flying insects, leaves with holes, scale (brown or tan spots), netting, sticky leaves, and tiny black dots.”
Do: Treat pests before bringing plants indoors. “Soak the entire container in a tub of water for fifteen minutes to force the garden pests out of the root ball,” says Reynolds. “Manually remove any pests you can see, then treat leaves by soaking a clean rag with an insecticidal soap, Neem oil, or a horticultural oil.” Or try a sticky stake, a trap you place at the base of your plant that attracts fruit flies, flying insects, and gnats. It’s also a good idea to refresh your soil by scraping an inch or two off the top and adding new soil. “This will remove any insect eggs,” explains Reynolds. “Continue checking for pests once a week while your plants are indoors.”
When Tending to Tropical Plants
Don’t: Forget your tropicals. Plants like hibiscus or Mandevilla will continue to flower, albeit not so much as during growing season. “You can try to keep your tropicals going as a houseplant or you can let them go dormant," suggests Reynolds. "If you keep them as a houseplant, remove any spent leaves, pinch the shoots to encourage growth, cut back the plant to about 8 to 10 inches, then transfer the plants indoors to a sunny location. And be sure to cut watering in half during this period.”
Do: Prevent transfer shock by slowly acclimating plants from the moist outdoors to a drier indoor air and lower level of light. “If you have time, energy, and the space, place plants in a shaded, protected outdoor location for a few days before bringing them in. Then, place them in a relatively cool indoor room for a few more days to help the plants adjust quicker,” Ginsburg notes.
If you have time, energy, and the space, place plants in a shaded, protected outdoor location for a few days before bringing them in. Then, place them in a relatively cool indoor room for a few more days to help the plants adjust quicker.
If You See Signs of Trouble
Don’t: Worry about leaf droppage. “It’s completely normal,” notes Ginsburg. Expect some leaf loss as the plant adjusts to its new environment.
Do: Give plants at least six hours of direct sunlight near a southern-facing window. “If light is a problem, consider purchasing grow lights,” suggests Reynolds.
Don’t: Neglect your glass windows. “Clean and clear will allow in more light than dusty and dirty,” notes Ginsburg.
Do: Keep plants away from heat vents and out of entryways where drafts can become too dry or too cold, notes Reynolds.
When Creating a Watering Schedule
Don’t: Overwater, which Ginsburg notes is the most common form of “killing your plants with kindness.” How much you water depends on the type of plant, but generally you should water when the soil surface feels dry. “Most people tend to water when their plant’s leaves turn yellow, but in many cases, this kills the plant,” adds Reynolds, who shares that drooping leaves are an indication a plant is not getting enough water.
Most people tend to water when their plant’s leaves turn yellow, but in many cases, this kills the plant.
Do: Add humidity to the air. Indoor heat can dry out plants, causing their leaves to curl and turn yellow or brown. “Tropical plants, for example, are generally native to areas with relatively high humidity levels,” says Ginsburg. “Placing containers atop of beds of pebbles in water-filled trays will add moisture and are a better solution than misting, which achieves only temporary effects because of rapid evaporation." A room humidifier that matches the size of the room can also help.
When Choosing Outdoor Plants in the Spring
Do: Shop in the spring for annuals that adjust well to the indoors, such as impatiens, geraniums, coleus, and begonias, Reynolds recommends.