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It's time to think about moving plants indoors

Posted: October 14, 2012 - 12:06am

With nighttime temperatures dropping into the 50s, it is time to think about moving outside plants indoors.

There are several key factors to consider when bringing a plant into the house. Different plants have different requirements that affect how well a formerly outdoor plant will survive indoors. Light requirements, temperature ranges, humidity needs, watering schedules and soil all affect how well a plant grows or adapts.

Of all factors affecting growth, light is the most important for houseplants. There are a number of symptoms that indicate a plant is not receiving enough light. For example, the plant might become leggy or spindly.

Another sign is spaces between the leaves on new growth being longer than the spaces on older parts of the plant. New leaves also may be larger and a lighter color. The older leaves also might begin to fall off.

Houseplants are divided into four groups based on their light requirements: low, medium, high and very high. For plants requiring medium to high levels of light, an artificial light source such as a lamp is usually necessary. Another solution is increasing the number of hours a plant receives light.

Give the plants a few weeks to adapt before moving them inside. Gradually move them into more shade before moving them indoors. If plants are in full sun, first move them to partial shade for a week. Next, move them into full shade for a week or two before moving them indoors. This will allow them to adjust to light levels inside a house.

The second most important factor affecting houseplants is temperature. Most indoor/outdoor plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees. Try moving plants indoors when temperatures are around 55 degrees at night. Most houseplants originate from tropical or subtropical areas of the world and thrive in temperatures from 58 to 86 degrees.

Due to their tropical origins, most houseplants are accustomed to high humidity and thrive outdoors in the Augusta area. When the plants are moved indoors, they are moving into an area with lower humidity. Most homes have a humidity level of 10 to 30 percent. A humidifier can be used to increase humidity around plants, ensuring they have the right levels. Plants also can be placed close together. This creates a micro-environment with higher relative humidity.

The last two factors that affect houseplants are watering and soil. Soils that retain too much moisture and over-watering are major causes of plant problems. There is an easy way to determine if a plant needs water. Insert a finger an inch to two below the surface of the soil around the plant. If the soil is still moist, no water is needed. Water only when the soil is dry.

Plants need to be checked for insects before they’re moved into the house. Always inspect your plants thoroughly, looking for tiny pests, eggs or mites on both sides of the leaves and stems before bringing them in. If insects are found, treat the plants before moving them indoors.

Tripp Williams, Columbia County’s agriculture and natural resource agent, can be reached at (706) 541-4011, or trippj@uga.edu.

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