When the nighttime temperatures start to drop, gardeners know they better start thinking about what plants they want to save indoors. Some gardeners like to give all their houseplants some time outdoors in the summer and then bring them back in to enjoy all winter. If you splurged on a special plant that isn’t cold-hardy, you might want to make room for it indoors. Plants that you have been growing for years or have sentimental meaning for you should also be given a space indoors. Sometimes, you just can’t bear to let go of your beautiful geraniums that always seem to be in full bloom when the first frost is predicted. It’s worth it to bring them in because they can bloom throughout the winter and grow into stunning large plants by spring.
Keeping in mind the space you have with adequate sun exposure, take some time to decide what plants you don’t want to lose to the winter temperatures. Do you have grow lights, and do you want to use them for this purpose? Do you want to start flower and vegetable seeds under grow lights? Do you have room for both?
You should start moving plants indoors when the temperatures drop to the 50- to 55-degree range. They might survive lower temperatures, but it could stunt the plants. If you have tender tropicals, bring them in even sooner. They may not tolerate temperatures lower than 60 degrees. Also, a plant that is in a pot may not survive even though the same plant that is in the ground would be fine. The ground insulates the plant’s roots from extreme cold–the pot does not.
Here are some other considerations to keep in mind when moving plants indoors for the winter:
- Never bring a diseased or sickly plant into the house. Whatever it has wrong can quickly spread to all the other plants you have indoors, and you could lose them all. It’s not worth the risk.
- Your plant has been exposed to nature while outdoors and that includes insects and slugs. There may also be eggs in the soil or on the foliage. Examine your plant very carefully before you bring it indoors. Some gardeners prefer to give their plants a precautionary spray with insecticide before they bring them indoors. Be cautious if you decide to do this as some of these sprays are not pet-friendly. If you are an organic gardener, use a neem oil spray. Neem oil is effective against many pests.
- The biggest challenge with bringing plants in for the winter is providing enough light. You may have better success with plants that you used in the shade outdoors. They could potentially do well in an east or north exposure.
- You can grow tomatoes and peppers indoors in the winter. Choose patio varieties of tomatoes that are meant for growing in containers. Remember: There are no pollinators indoors, so you may have to take that role.
- Because of space issues, consider using grow lights. The plants will do well all winter and be ready to move outdoors when the weather warms up in spring.
- Consider taking cuttings to grow multiple plants. You could bring in one specimen plant and enjoy it through the winter. Then, a few weeks before it is safe to move plants outdoors, take multiple cuttings from that single plant. Alternatively, you could take the cuttings from the plant in the fall and grow the cuttings under grow lights through the winter.
- It is not surprising if the plants you bring in have some leaves that turn yellow and die. They should grow new replacement leaves pretty quickly. It is a big shock for the plants when their environment is changed so dramatically. Most usually grow more slowly indoors then they would outdoors, so expect slower growth.
- Adjust your watering indoors. Most plants need less watering indoors than they needed outside. Of course, your pot should have a drainage hole in the bottom to allow excess water to escape into a saucer. The leading cause of death for houseplants is overwatering.
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It is difficult for gardeners to see the end of the outdoor growing season. Be selective and bring as many of your favorites indoors as you can. It is worth the effort and so nice to enjoy the living plants in the winter. If you are successful at overwintering some plants, you will have a great head start in the spring and you will save some money to use for some new plants in your garden.