Fall's cooler temperature reminds us that it is time to start bringing your plants inside for the winter. At my house, we move our houseplants outside during the summer and bring them back in when the temperatures starts to cool.
Most of our houseplants are tropical plants. They like warm or hot conditions with plenty of humidity. These conditions match our summers to a T, but they don't like our winters.
So when is the right time to bring these plants back inside?
We need to think about bringing our plants inside when the nighttime temperature starts dropping below 55 degrees. At this temperature, some plants can be damaged. At 55 degrees the plant slows down its growth and can have damage to the cells of the plant.
Most of our houseplants can survive temperatures lower than this, but they will be stressed, which will slow down their growth and make them more susceptible to insects and diseases.
We have had nighttime temperatures below 50 degrees already, but the daytime temperatures have remained high. Nevertheless, now is the time to start moving those plants back inside.
If you have had your plants outside all summer, you need to acclimate the plants to your house. Most houses have low light conditions with low humidity levels. So when you move the plant from outside to inside, allow the plant to get used to its surroundings.
To acclimate the plants, place the plants in bright areas for at least three to four weeks and then move them to their final location. Sunrooms are ideal bright places for your plants. If you don't have a sunroom, the next place in the house with the most light is a window with a Southern or Southwest facing.
The most common symptom occurring in plants placed in a low light situation is defoliation. As long as it is not extensive and it slows down after a few weeks, the plants will adjust to the particular location. Keep in mind, however, that each time the plant is moved around, it will experience an acclimatization period. With each change of location, the plant will be stressed and will take longer to recover.
Next, make sure not to bring any unwanted guests into the house. I have brought lizards, slugs, snails and other insects inside the house with my houseplants. Check the plants closely for these hitchhikers. Remove any damaged, diseased, or dead leaves from the plant. This will open the plant up and make it easier to see unwanted guest.
Also remove any leaves or other material that has accumulated on the soil of the plant. This is another hiding place for unwanted creatures. Look on the stems of the plant and on the underside of the leaves for insects such as whiteflies, aphids or scale. Whiteflies and aphids can spread from one plant to another very easily inside of your home. The warm temperatures are perfect for these insects to increase their numbers.
Spraying or wiping down the leaves and stems of your plant with an insecticidal soap will help clean the plant and get rid of these insects. With plants that have smooth leaves, you can immerse the foliage part of the plant in warm water and gently swirl it around to get rid of dirt, dust and insects. This works well on small plants. If the plant has fuzzy or hairy leaves, such as African violets, you can use a small paint bush and clean the leaves.
A clean plant is a healthy plant, so take a few minutes and clean your plant before you bring it indoors.
Once your plant starts to put on new foliage, check to see if needs to be repotted. If you see roots growing out of the drainage holes, new shoots growing from the container or the soil doesn't hold water, it is time to move your plant to a larger container.
When moving a plant, increase the size of the container in one-inch increments. If you increase the pot size too fast, the roots will take too long to fill in the container. This will allow the soil mix to stay too moist, which can cause disease problems.
Houseplants add so much to our homes that it pays to treat them right when we bring them into our homes.
Columbia County Extension Agent Charles Phillips can be reached at (706) 868-3413 or by e-mail at email@example.com. The Extension Web address is www.ugaextension.com/columbia.
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