As temperatures start to dip lower and we move further into fall, it’s time to start moving your plants indoors and prepping your indoor plants for colder months ahead. Even if you don’t have a great track record of keeping plants alive (guilty as charged), these pro tips will help you grow healthy, thriving plants year-round.
“Bringing plants inside in the fall needs to be a step-by-step process to ensure success. Many people mistakenly leave their plants outside too long until it is colder than most tropical plants want to be,” Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, author of Houseplants, The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants, tells SheKnows.
When to move your plants
Steinkopf recommends moving your plants when the temperature dips below 50 degrees F. If you can, move your plants to a shady location outside before moving them inside so they become more accustomed to lower light levels. Another interesting tip she recommends before moving plants inside is to wash your windows.
“I cannot stress that enough! Our windows need to be clean so that nothing is blocking even a fraction of the light that our plants will need to grow well.” She recommends removing window screens for the winter, as they can block up to 30 percent of the light coming in the windows.
Inspect for pests
“Unwanted pests, such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites can thrive indoors," says Jennifer Morganthaler, clinical instructor and orchard manager at Missouri State University.
To avoid unwittingly bringing these minuscule uninvited guests into your home, make sure to wash the foliage with insecticidal soap or use a neem oil spray to treat pests prior to moving plants inside.
The best place to put most houseplants is near a window. Place plants at least 4 inches away from the window itself to protect against cold, drafty air.
“Most plants do well at indoor temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees. Avoid areas with cold drafts, as some tropical houseplants can suffer injury if the temperature drops below 40 degrees,” says Morganthaler.
Beware of hot air too. Avoid placing plants too close to heaters or fireplaces, as hot air blowing on the plant can cause the leaves to brown and die.
The air inside our home dries out when we crank the heat in the winter. Many houseplants will need extra humidity during these colder months to keep leaf tips from turning yellow or brown. You can mist your plants a couple of times a day with water, but that’s not really a long-term solution for achieving the humidity plants crave. Steinkopf recommends using in-room humidifiers or placing plants on pebble trays filled with water, which adds moisture to the air. You can also try putting your plants in the bathroom (near a window if possible), which provides that warm, damp environment plants crave.
This tip might be the hardest to adhere to, but similar to caring for any living thing, it’s important to be aware of your plants' needs. “The key to keeping your plants healthy and thriving is simply to pay attention to them,” Steinkopf says. “Make sure they are never too dry or standing in water. Keep them clean and give them the right amount of light.” A good rule of thumb when it comes to quenching your plants' thirst is to allow the upper inch of soil to dry out completely before watering your plant.
Follow these tips, and you will be on the path toward houseplant success this winter. If things go south quickly, though, they make some really, really high-quality fake plants these days.