By Melinda Myers
Help your houseplants make a smooth transition from their outdoor summer home back inside for winter. The lower light and humidity indoors, along with any insects that hitched a ride indoors, make it difficult to keep these plants looking their best. Here are some basic steps you can follow.
Give them a shower before they move indoors. A gentle blast of water washes dust and dirt off the leaves and dislodges aphids and mites that might be feeding on the plants.
Gradually prepare the plants for the lower light conditions indoors. Start by placing plants in the sunniest south- or westfacing window available or grow them under artificial lights. Leave them here for several weeks if the final destination receives less light. Next move them to an east-facing or well-lit
north-facing window. Again, leave them here for several weeks. Gradually decrease the amount of light the plants receive until they reach their final location. Foregoing this process results in yellow leaves and massive leaf drop. Or, skip this step, reduce the stress on your plants and keep them looking their best throughout the winter by growing them under artificial lights.
Isolate these plants from your indoor houseplant collection until you are sure no insects tagged along. Check under the leaves and along the stems for aphids, mites, scale and white flies. Use an eco-friendly product like Summit Year-Round Spray Oil (summitresponsiblesolutions.com) to prevent
these pests from moving onto the rest of your indoor garden. This highly refined mineral oil suffocates the insects rather than poisoning them and is approved for organic gardening. Continue monitoring for pests during the next few weeks. Reapply the organic insecticide every two weeks as needed.
Increase the humidity by grouping plants together. As one plant loses moisture from its leaves, or transpires, it increases the humidity around its neighboring plants. Further, increase the humidity and decrease your workload by placing the plants on a gravel tray. Place pebbles in the bottom of a saucer or other shallow container. Set the pot on top of the pebbles. Allow excess water to collect in the pebbles below the pot. As this water evaporates, it increases the humidity around the plants.
Give your plants a bit of TLC as you tuck them into their winter lodgings. Your efforts will be rewarded with healthier, pest-free and better-looking plants to enjoy all winter long.
Gardening expert Melinda Myers (melindamyers.com) has written over 20 gardening books. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally syndicated “Melinda’s Garden Moment” TV & radio segments.