Migrating Houseplants Back Indoors Before Winter

Photo: Andrew Fogg

When to move houseplants indoors with the changing seasons

Did you move your houseplants outdoors for a hot, steamy summer vacay? Houseplants thrive in the increased sunshine, heat, water, and humidity found outside.

The first promise of cooler temperatures reminds us that it’s time to check on our houseplants and get them ready to travel back in the house (all vacations must come to an end). Allow 4-6 weeks to inspect and rejuvenate tropicals and prepare them for their return indoors. Then you will be set to move your houseplants inside (at least two weeks before metro Atlanta’s average first frost date—November 13).

Bring tender tropical and subtropical houseplants back indoors once outside nighttime temperatures dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to protect them from chilling injury, leaf drop, and death. This also allows you to enjoy them throughout late fall and winter, until they can be returned outside again next summer. The greater the disparity between cold outdoor temperatures and warm indoor heating, the bigger the shock plants will receive.

Steps for Prepping Houseplants to Return Indoors:

  • If pot-bound, repot into a larger container.
  • Another option is to practice root pruning. If pot-bound, trim (root prune) about two inches off all around the outside of the root ball, then scrub the old pot clean. Replant in the same pot with fresh potting soil.
  • Before transitioning indoors, inspect your houseplants for signs of pests. Use a magnifying glass and look at both top and bottom of foliage; in the whorls where leaves meet the stem and also on the soil surface.
  • Check for aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, soil gnats, mites, and other houseplant pests. These bad actors aren’t normally a problem outside, but populations can quickly escalate if brought inside to a warm, protected indoor environment.
  • Fill a large tub with warm water and add a mild liquid soap (no detergent/degreaser) or organic insecticidal soap. To kill bugs, soak the whole plant (pot and all) in the tub for about 15 minutes.
  • Rinse thoroughly (I like to use the gentle shower nozzle on the hose) and drain outside.
  • Acclimate plants by moving into dense shade while they are still outdoors. This will help them adjust to the new lower light conditions inside the house.
  • Prep indoor areas by cleaning the windows, lifting the screens, and adding full spectrum grow lights (available in various sizes and can be used in standard light fixtures).
  • Invest in trays and saucers to catch drips and a precision-tip watering can to deliver water on target. (The watering can is also useful for giving the Christmas tree a drink.)

How are you doing with your houseplants? Let me know by posting photos on facebook.com/CurrentPlus or email me.