How To Bring Your Outdoor Plants In For The Winter, According To Experts

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Plus, when you should bring them indoors.

You don’t have to say goodbye to all of your beautiful garden and patio plants when the first frost is headed your way. You can save many plants for next spring by bringing them indoors to enjoy as houseplants. This applies to tropical landscape plants, such as hibiscus or mandevilla, as well as houseplants that were summering outdoors. You’ll also save money because you won’t have to buy the same plants again next year.

Your biggest challenge when bringing outdoor plants indoors is giving them sufficient light. “A bright sunny south, west, or east-facing window is your best bet,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturalist with Costa Farms. “You also can use grow lights or a simple LED strip light if you don’t have ample natural lighting.”

<p>Getty Images / Rosmarie Wirz</p>

Getty Images / Rosmarie Wirz

Meet The Expert

  • Justin Hancock is a horticulturalist at Costa Farms.

  • Danny Trejo is the founder of Via Citrus.

Not every plant will do well indoors, but go ahead and experiment by bringing in any you can’t bear to lose, says Hancock. You’ll quickly learn which ones are worth the effort and which ones are too fussy, messy, or demanding. The ones that survive the winter can go back outdoors next spring when nighttime temperatures are in the 50s or warmer.

Ahead, our step-by-step guide on how to bring your outdoor plants indoors for the winter:

1. Help Your Plants Adjust To Lower Light Levels

“Any quick environmental change, such as going from direct sun outdoors to inside your home can be stressful to many plants, such as citrus trees,” says grower Danny Trejo, founder of Via Citrus. “Help your plants become acclimated gradually to lower light levels by placing them in a shady spot for a week or two before you bring them indoors.”

Related: These Are The Best Plants To Overwinter, According To An Expert

2. Cut Plants Back

You don’t absolutely have to do this (yes, we know it’s painful to cut back your still-beautiful plants!), but it’s useful for preparing your plants for indoor life. “For almost all plants, they’ll benefit by pruning back by ¼ to ½,” says Hancock. “This will reduce the number of leaves that drop once indoors and also stimulates new growth that will be more acclimated to the lower light levels inside your home.”

3. Check For Pests

Give every plant a once-over before bringing them indoors. Ideally, look at every single leaf for signs of insects including the pests themselves, a sticky substance known as honeydew that’s producing by piercing insects, or stippled or discolored leaves, which could indicate the presence of pests such as spider mites, says Hancock.

A blast of water from the garden hose can help knock off many pests. Many gardeners also give their plants a preventive spray of neem oil or insecticidal soap in case they missed any hitchhikers, says Trejo. Make sure you hit both the top and bottom of leaves, where many pests like to hide.

4. Watch The Weather

It’s time to bring any plants you want to save indoors when nighttime temperatures start to drop into the 50s. Some plants, such as citrus trees, can tolerate temperature dipping into the 40s, says Trejo. But it’s better to plan ahead instead of risking it if the first frost of the season sneaks up on you.

If you live in the Lower South and it’s only a few nights of freezing temperatures, you can cover plants with a floating row cover (which gives you about 2 to 8 degrees of additional warmth) or bring them into the garage or inside the front door for the night, says Hancock. Set them back outdoors when the daytime temperatures rise above 50 degrees.

5. Expect An Adjustment Period

Once indoors, your plants may drop a lot of leaves at first, but don’t panic. Most plants will recover within a week or two and start to produce new growth that will be more suited to indoor light levels. That’s especially true if you pruned the plant prior to bringing it in, says Hancock.

6. Watch For Trouble

Ideally, isolate your outdoor plants from your indoor plants for 4 to 6 weeks when you first bring them inside. If that’s not practical, keep them away from other plants for about 1 to 2 weeks, at minimum, to watch for pests, says Hancock.

Pests love the hot, dry conditions inside our homes in winter, so try to increase humidity levels near plants. Running a portable humidifier to create a setting that’s similar to their natural environment can be helpful, says Trejo. Many houseplants are happy when humidity is around 50 percent.

Finally, keep inspecting your plants regularly. If you discover unwelcome guests, act fast; the sooner you catch an outbreak, the easier it is to manage. You also can spray plants off in the shower every week to minimize pest issues, says Hancock. Wrap a plastic bag around the pot to prevent the soil from getting too wet.

7. Reduce Watering

Most plants do not need as much water as they did when they were outdoors, says Trejo. Pay attention to your plant’s subtle signs. For example, a citrus tree’s leaves may curl if you’re not watering frequently enough.

Plants do not want to stay sopping wet, so always stick your finger in the soil and check the moisture level before giving your plant a drink. Finally, plants generally do not need fertilized over the winter when growth slows, says Trejo.

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Read the original article on Southern Living.