I'm sure when some of you saw this title to the podcast/blog you thought, "wait...we need to prep for fall or winter?!" The answer to that really depends on the situation, but it would be beneficial in most environments. In order to best help, I am going to break this blog up into three parts:
Bringing plants indoors after being outdoors all summer long.
What to do with plants that are indoors (and will remain indoors).
Things to think about when purchasing houseplants in fall/winter.
Now, I understand many of you are in warm climates where this doesn't apply as much, but many of the same practices can be used no matter where you are. Since I am in Wisconsin, and winters are very cold, there has to be a transition every season.
Bringing Plants Indoors
There are a few things you need to consider including temperature, lighting, humidity, and pests.
Temperature: most houseplants need to be brought inside before the temperature drops below 60˚F. You also want to avoid drafty windows indoors and keep the plants away from any vents.
Lighting: this is probably the most important thing to consider since lighting outside changes by season, no matter what the environment is. Consider the plant you are bringing inside and where you would prefer to put it. You may (or may not) need to put it a window, or provide supplemental light. If you want more information on grow lights, you can check out podcast episode 63, or the corresponding blog post.
I have 3 different examples to share! My Canna Lilies are outdoors in summer and I move them to my basement in winter. Those plants don't need to be in sunlight (nor do they need to really be watered) in winter since they go mostly dormant. I also have a Pencil Cactus and several Asparagus Ferns outside right now that I plan to bring indoors every winter season. Since those don't go dormant, I will put all the plants in my basement. However, I will provide a grow light to supplement the lack of light.
Humidity: This is important for houseplants that tend to benefit from increased humidity. As least in Wisconsin, summers are pretty humid so it naturally gives the houseplant the humidity it needs outside. But in winter, when you bring it in intside, you need to provide a similar increase in humidity
I have a great example of how this should be used! If I had my Bird of Paradise outside during the summer, I would bring it indoors, under grow lights near my humidifier. Since the humidity requirements are higher for plants like that and the winters are dry, the humidifier would help balance its environment.
Pests: You never know what you are bringing inside when your plants have been outside all season long! My recommendation would be to hose down your plants, then spray each one with an Insecticidal Soap or Neem Oil mixture. This will help to get rid of anything that was on the plant. If you wanted to be sure you got all the buggers off, you could repeat this a few times before you have to bring it indoors. I would also recommend using a preventative insect control on the plants! I use Bonide's Systemic House Plant Insect Control
What to do with Indoor Houseplants
There are a couple of environmental changes that will naturally happen, such as a decrease in light and a drop in humidity. Most houseplants have a slowed growth period in the fall and winter months. I've noticed this typically starts around the end of October through the end of February.
What can you do to make sure your houseplants thrive through fall/winter?
Provide grow lights to the plants that need bright indirect sunlight (or direct sunlight).
Provide a humidifier for the plants that are used to the increased humidity (or know that they may suffer with little to no humidity).
Cut back on watering! Since plants aren't as active in winter, they don't use as much energy; and therefore, won't be using as much moisture.
Cut back on fertilizing! I usually only fertilize two times in winter which helps give them nutrients, but not stress out the plant. Since I normally stop fertilizing at the end of October (and I start back up at the end of February), I will fertilize once at the beginning of December or January only.
Make sure they are not in front of a vent, drafty window, or door so the plants aren't hit with sudden changes in temperature that could harm them.
For plants that like to go dormant (example: Canna Lilies, Oxalis, etc), you don't need to keep watering or place them in bright light. You can simply place them in a cool, dark environment and start watering again late February/early March.
Buying houseplants in fall/winter
With the drop in temperature, it's important to protect your plants when transporting them from one environment to another. Keep these in mind when getting your plant fix in winter:
Wrap up your houseplants when carrying them to your car! Most houseplant shops have a way to protect your plant as you are carrying them to your car. If some plants are exposed to the bitter cold, even for that short amount of time, it can cause damage.
Don't leave any houseplant in your car! If you leave any houseplant in your car, even while you are out shopping, it could be exposed to the cold and cause major damage (and potentially kill your plant). Make sure your houseplant stop is your last one before going home to prevent issues! If you plan to houseplant "shop hop" (like I love to), make sure your visits to each shop are short, and you have blankets in your car. You can wrap up your houseplants in these blankets to help a little bit before you can get back in your car and turn up the heat. I've even had some of the cold/hot grocery cooler bags in my car, and placed my houseplants in those, to help prevent them from getting too cold.
I know some of you like to leave your plants outside to isolate them before bringing it amongst the other plants. Since you can't do this in seasonally cold winter locations, I would recommend putting them in the shower to rinse them off, and spraying them down with an Insecticidal Soap or a Neem Oil mix. You could also use the Systemic House Plant Insect Control to prevent any pests.
Here are other blog posts and podcasts that could help even further:
Here are the links to all the holiday plant podcasts and blogs:
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Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)