Bringing your house plants inside for winter, by Emily Helmus

The overwintering process for house plants begins with the temperature required for protection. Most tropical house plants need to be brought inside when the temperature is 50 degrees F or lower at night. Once those temperatures arrive, the acclimation period begins but there are a few steps that need to happen first. If the plant is getting too big for its container, it would be a good idea to repot the plant into a pot that is at least 2″ bigger than the current pot. Use new potting soil when doing the replanting. During this time, prune any leggy growth or just prune for shape in general. The next step is spraying your plant for insects (possibly spider mites, aphids, or mealy bugs). Any insecticidal soap will work (neem or mineral oil are most common). Be sure to dilute the product if you buy a concentrate. For maximum results, spray the top and bottom of the leaves.

Now for the acclimation process, this usually takes 1 to 2 weeks to complete. Essentially you are going to bring the plant in at night to start, then bring it inside for longer periods of time. This will help your plant adjust to the lower levels of light in the home as opposed to the high levels of light the plant received when it was outside. You don’t want to bring the plant inside rapidly as this can cause yellowing leaves and eventually leaf loss. Take it slow and allow the plant to acclimate at a reasonable pace. Continue watering as normal while your plant continues to be outside. This time would also be good to give your plant some fertilizer for the last time of the year. Once you are able to bring the plant inside for a full day this concludes the acclimation period. Now it is time to find the right spot in your home for the plant. This means that if your plant was in full sun during the summer, you need a spot in your house with the most light possible and vice versa for shady plants. If there is not an adequate spot, grow lights are always helpful. In order to maximize the amount of sunlight your indoor plants will receive, it is a good idea to clean the inside and outside of any windows that you are going to put plants near.

It is important to note how the care of the plant will change during the fall and winter months. You will most likely not be watering as often. You need to let the soil dry to the touch before watering again. Your plants received a lot more light outdoors versus indoors, thus the plant used a lot more water; and you don’t want to risk overwatering your plants while they are still adjusting to their new winter environment. Fertilizing is not necessary during the fall/ winter because your plant will not grow as much.

Now if fungus gnats start to fly around the home, here are some tips to eradicate those insects. I like to use a product called Mosquito Dunks. It is a biological control that will specifically target mosquitos, fungus gnats, and a few other insects. They come in a circle shaped block and I take about 1/8th of the block and put it in a gallon of water. I let this sit for 24 hours and then use this water to water the plants. This product will not dissolve but don’t be alarmed by that. This product will eradicate the fungus gnat eggs that are in the soil of your house plant. Now for the gnats that are flying around, a cup of apple cider vinegar on the kitchen counter should take care of those. I usually change out the vinegar every 2-3 days.

Happy fall!