Bring plants in — leave pests out

Horticulture Hints

Now is the time to begin planning to bring houseplants that spent the summer out of doors for their safe return into your home. When night time temperatures fall below 45 degrees, plants will begin to stress. Begin their journey back inside before this by bringing them in at night, and returning by day to outside to help acclimate them to the change. Placing plants in partial shade will help prepare for their passage to lower light levels of the home.

Be sure to carefully check for any hitch-hiking insects on your plant, on the pot or in the soil…nothing is worse than to unknowingly bring pests into your home, such as mealy bugs or spider mites that can rapidly spread to infest other plants.

Give plants a shower out of doors before bringing them inside. This will help to knock off any bugs or insect eggs that may be present. Check undersides of leaves and in the leaf axil (where the leaf is attached to stem) for unwanted travelers. Immersing pots in lukewarm water for about 15 minutes will help force any insects out of the soil.

Repot in fresh soil, and be sure to clean the container well. If a larger container is needed, make certain it has a drainage hole and is no more than 2 inches larger than the size of the original pot. Keep plants isolated from your other plants for a few weeks, to avoid possible infestation.

As indoor plants experience less light than when outside, now is the time to clean windows to allow more sunlight in. Do not fertilize your plants in the winter, as the reduced light results in reduced growth.

Did you know? Some plants can be overwintered by taking cuttings to root. This will help to give you a fresh looking plant, rather than over-wintering a large, “leggy” plant. Use of cuttings will also help avoid space concerns to accommodate any large, heavy containers for the winter. Remove lower leaves and be sure a node (where leaf was attached) is under the surface of rooting medium. To promote rooting, place a plastic bag around the pot to increase humidity.

Horticulture Questions? Contact McCormick at yvonne@iastate.edu for information or advice.

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