Wintering Plants Indoors
When fall arrives and temperatures begin to dip, I find myself with a porch full of potted plants that I have no idea what to do with. My usual approach is to remove plants that are beginning to wilt and store them for the winter.
Those plants that are sure to die if left out in cold weather? How do you handle those plants? Sure, you could leave them outside and hope that they will die once the rain changes to ice and snow starts to fall.
How much money did you spend on tropical palms for your summer patio oasis after you spent all that time and effort nurturing the plants? The time and money you spent on that plant shouldn’t go to waste! Don’t forget to bring that plant inside over the winter, and enjoy it again once frost has passed in the spring.
Bringing healthy outdoor potted plants inside for the winter sounds easy, right? The first thing to keep in mind is timing. Don’t wait too long before bringing your plants in. The longer you leave your plants sitting out in the cold, the greater the chance of them dying. Keep an eye on the weather and move any plants you wish to overwinter indoors as soon as possible.
If the temperature in your area drops suddenly, it can spell disaster for tropical plants. If plants get sick over the winter, then it is more of a chore. When you have room to accommodate them, you should bring them inside before winter.
Prepping Plants for Indoors
It seems simple to bring a pot indoors, keep the delicate plant warm, and hope it will survive until spring. However, in many cases, additional steps are required.
Re-pot Your Plant
This plant has likely grown considerably over the summer due to the warm weather and ideal growing conditions, and the tender love and care provided to it. Before putting the potted plant in your living room, it’s probably time to pot it into a bigger container.
If so, choose a pot a few inches larger than the one you used prior to repotting. Repotting plants at this time of year is fraught with controversy, however. Repotting plants in the spring is a great way to minimize stress, since I do all of my seed starting and planting in the spring, so why not do this extra work then?
Assess and Treat
While repotting, check the plant for insect activity and disease; if there are signs of insects or disease on the foliage, use neem or homemade sprays to eliminate the infestation and prevent it from spreading to other plants in the house.
Clean Up Plants
Bringing plants inside is a simple process. Just spray them with the hose, let them air dry, and then keep them in their temporary home.
If you’d like to use hide-a-pots indoors, clean the exterior of plant pots that have been outdoors. A quick wipe will suffice if you plan to use them outdoors. Remove any damaged and dead foliage, then clean the soil. Then prune lightly.
Find the Right Location
Make sure your indoor plant is well-placed by placing furniture out of the way. Although your plant will need less water in the winter, it still needs to be watered if it’s indoors, so make sure your plant has a saucer or other way of collecting water to prevent water from seeingping onto your carpet or hardwood floors.
When you do not have enough floor space to overwinter your plants, look for vertical space instead. Use shelves or hang plants to house all your plants safely indoors for the winter.
Wintering indoors might not allow your plants to grow as much, but placing them properly still matters. Keep plants away from drafts and cold spots, such as uninsulated windows. Furthermore, it is vital to keep them away from vents and heaters since too-warm temperatures also negatively affect their health.
For those who are having trouble bringing their outdoor plants inside for the winter, you may need to be creative. You may not be able to locate all your plants in an ideal place. It is possible to grow tropical plants that need direct sunlight and warm conditions in the living room, but a full house may not be ideal. If this is the case, you should consider housing them in a nontraditional area, such as the basement, with grow lights to supplement sunshine.
Many sun-loving plants will benefit from a rest period over winter as they will do better without supplemental light. If you aren’t sure how to overwinter your plant, read up on its needs so you can follow the overwintering routine appropriately.
Care for Your New Indoor Plants
Indoor plants require a different approach to wintering than those outdoors, in that they receive less light and the air is drier, and the temperature is often a little lower (even indoors). Unlike when you place your plants outside in lots of sunshine and heat, the growth of your plants indoors is not as intense. They do not require fertilizer at this stage of their growth. It is also less necessary to water them.
When plants are resting, you should reduce watering and fertilizing, but maintain a consistent temperature – avoid placing plants closely to exterior doorways so that they do not get exposed to cold drafts.
You should keep a watchful eye out for insect infestations and re-pot your plants if you haven’t done so already.
You can provide humidity for tropical houseplants using a humidifier or by storing them in the bathroom (one of my favorite places to house tropical plants!)
You should dust your houseplants just as you would the rest of the house. A thick dust film can prevent them from absorbing adequate sunlight.
A Word of Caution
Keeping poisonous plants out of reach of children and pets is critical when moving plants into an indoor environment. But with a bit of planning and care, moving plants indoors doesn’t need to be stressful for either you or your plants. You might not notice the dangers of garden plants when they’re outside and out of reach, but indoors they might look appealing to curious children and pets.
If you bring outdoor plants indoors to winterize, keep in mind that you may like their presence and struggle to return them to their original place in the spring or summer.
My mom bought the banana palm that has been hanging out in my living room since September, and I have grown quite attached to it ever since. The night temperatures started to drop, so I quickly brought it inside once I was ecstatic that I had managed to keep it alive.
As an inside addition to my living room, it adds a touch of tropical charm. Will I be able to bring it outside on the patio in the future? We’ll see.
Preparing the Rest of Your Garden for Winter
The indoor plants are now safe and snug in their temporary homes. It is time to give your garden some love before winter. Here’s a breakdown of what needs to be done:
- Protect perennials from harsh temperature swings by mulching them.
- Prepare bulbs for next spring by storing them somewhere dark and cool.
- The leaves, shrubs, and perennials of tender plants should be protected from desiccation.
Let us know your successes and failures in the comments. Failures often give us a better sense of what we can achieve. Finally, we enjoy hearing about other gardeners’ overwintering habits. Feel free to share yours in the comments.