Bringing Houseplants and Tropicals Indoors

Just like people, houseplants benefit from being outdoors during the summer and go back indoors for the winter. It sounds simple enough, but a few measures can be taken for a smooth transition back indoors. Most houseplants or tropical plants can’t survive below 45°, so when nighttime temperatures drop to around 50°, it’s a good time to start the process.

Insect Control

Insect control should be done before bringing plants in. Inspect the entire plant for any pest insects, such as aphids, mealy bugs, or spider mites. Whether you find insects or not, rinse the upper and underside of foliage and stems with a forceful spray of water to get rid of any insects you can. If you do see something, or just want to be safe, you can treat the surface of the foliage and stems with insecticidal soap or oil.

We recommend using Bonide Neem Oil, which is natural, effective and one of the safest options for use in your home. Like most natural sprays, it requires contact with the insect, so good coverage and a few treatments are necessary for adequate control. A surefire option is to apply Bonide Systemic Houseplant Insect Control to the soil, which is a granular systemic insecticide that lasts up to 8 weeks and kills any insects that feed on the plant. This option is not recommended if you have pets or small children because of possible health risks from contact or ingestion. As with any insecticide, read and follow all label instructions. You can also cover soil with Bonide Diatomaceous Earth, which would kill the larvae of insects that may be in the soil.

It’s also good practice to quarantine returning houseplants to avoid inadvertently infecting other houseplants. It’s as simple as just placing the returning plants in a separate room for a few weeks to be sure they are insect-free.

Prepare and Acclimate

It’s always good to freshen up and prepare your houseplants before you bring them in for the winter. Prune plants if they look a bit leggy or scraggly. Trim back what you think needs it, but no more than one third of the plant.

If plants have outgrown their pot and are root-bound, plan to repot them into a slightly larger container in spring before the majority of new growth occurs. If you decide they need repotting, be sure the container is no more than two inches bigger in diameter than the original pot, so they can adequately absorb water from the soil, thus avoiding root rot.

The difference in humidity and light between outdoor and indoor climates can sometimes shock plants, causing their foliage to turn yellow and drop. Therefore it’s helpful to gradually acclimate them back to indoor conditions. Begin the process by bringing them indoors at night, when outside temps are below 50°, and bringing them back out in the morning. Do this every night for a few days, and then gradually increase their time indoors over the course of two weeks until they are indoors full time.

Remember that plants need a lot less water when indoors, since they are growing more slowly. It can be beneficial to clean windows to maximum the sunlight that reaches the plant so they have their best chance to stay healthy and thrive.