Baby, it’s cold outside: Bringing plants inside
by Patricia Bowen
Cherokee County Master Gardener
November 09, 2012 12:00 AM | 1445 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patricia Bowen<br>Cherokee County Master Gardener
Patricia Bowen
Cherokee County Master Gardener
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My houseplants enjoy the warm outdoor weather as much as I. Some like more sun, some more shade, and all look robust and larger by the time the drop in outdoor temperatures require they return to their winter homes (indoors). Don’t wait for the first freeze warning to begin planning their trip inside. Tropical plants (which are what most house plants are) can begin to suffer when the temps dip below 45, to keep an eye on the 10 day weather forecast for your zip code at www.weather.com. In metro Atlanta the minimum average temperature in November is between 40 to 45 degrees.

Most plants need a short period of acclimation to their new conditions, so don’t be alarmed if you see a bit of wilting or yellow leaves, or even some moderate die back. If you prepare to move your houseplants using the following advice, they should be just fine in a week or two:

1. Decide in advance where the plants will go. If you have plants that need lots of sunlight, clean windows inside and out near their resting spots. If you’re hanging plants, be sure their hooks are still sturdy. If you’ve added plants through new purchases or propagation, prepare their sites as well with waterproof trays or gravel beds.

2. Check for insects (and even some small snakes that might find a warm bed in your larger plants) before you bring the plants in so uninvited critters don’t begin to surprise you inside your cozy home. You can clean the outside of each flower pot, and then soak the potted plant in a tub of lukewarm water for around 15 minutes to see if anything crawls out of the soil; then drain the pot well. If you suspect the pots contain snails or worms you may want to repot them.

3. Checking for diseases is trickier, as they may not be immediately apparent. If you suspect disease on a houseplant, either isolate it from your other plants until it’s healthy again, or discard it for the good of all your plants.

4. Plants that have outgrown their pots or become root bound over the summer should be repotted before bringing them in. If you pull the plant out of its pot and it is mostly roots with little soil, take action. You might want to divide the plant and put the divisions in multiple pots, or cut back the root ball a little, or find a larger pot for it. In all cases, be sure to use fresh potting soil for filler.

5. If the root ball looks fine but the plant is top heavy, you can prune it back for better balance and shape. Plants differ so much in their ability to recover from pruning, so unless you’re very familiar with the plant go very gently on the pruning at first; you can always do a little more at a time if it continues to thrive, until you’re happy with the result.

6. Remember to adjust your watering and fertilization schedules. Water most plants only when dry, unless you have some that like wetter feet. And with less watering and slower growth, stop fertilizing most plants for a couple of months as they will build up salts in the soil that can damage the roots. One exception would be a dose of fertilizer for repotted plants which have no accumulation of fertilizer.

7. Finally, you may want to take cuttings of some easy annuals like coleus, geraniums, sweet potato vines and other favorites and bring them inside. Either let them root in water then plant in small pots or dip in rooting hormone and pot in sand or potting soil.

Plants have been used as complements to home décor for centuries all over the world. They can brighten up almost any room; give it a face lift, some color, some life. They even clear the air inside stuffy winter homes, feeding on the carbon dioxide that we exhale and feeding us back with more oxygen. Take care of them, and they’ll take care of you. Fair exchange.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
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