By Chris Freeburn, Master Gardener
The long hot summer is coming to an end. Now is the time to start thinking about what plants you are going to bring into your home to overwinter and how you can do that successfully. During the summer months, many houseplants can become outdoor plants.
It is relatively easy to overwinter ivies which can go into outdoor containers. Take cuttings from your ivies, spray them with a safer soap solution to eliminate pests and place the stems in water to root in a bright window. You can also try this with other annuals like coleus or wandering jew. Once the stems have rooted, plant them in good potting soil and you can enjoy them through the winter months and have them again for outdoors the following year. In early summer put plants such as oxalis, kalanchoe, asparagus fern, or wandering jew outside to enjoy on your deck. Most can come back into the house in early September after a thorough spray with safers soap.
Tropicals like hibiscus and bouganvillia love to be outside during the hot summer months but it is sometimes a challenge to overwinter them indoors. The trick to avoiding plant shock is to bring your plant in before the nights get too cool. Tropicals like a warm, even temperature so if you wait too long to bring into your home, the plant will shock, drop leaves and look like it is dying. I have had a bouganvillia drop almost all its leaves when I left it out during a lovely fall season. The trouble was the nights were down around +10 while the days were up over 20 degrees. I cut the branches back, saw there was still green in the stems, so put it in indirect light, watered lightly and eventually new leaves began to sprout and it came back to be placed outside again the next summer. If you can stop that reaction by bringing in earlier, it is worth the effort.
Spray for Bugs!
Any plant that comes inside should be sprayed for bugs. There is nothing worse than an indoor pest infestation which can travel from one plant to another. Using a good safer soap product and completely spraying leaves, stems and soil a couple of days before you bring them in will help. Now is also the time to transplant plants into fresh new soil. Over the summer, your plants will have grown below the soil as well as above. If you are bringing in plants from a container, plant up in a pot that is just larger than the root ball with new soil. This will help to eliminate those pests as many will lay their eggs in the soil to hatch and attack your plant. You can also prune back plants that have gotten large. Most annuals do well with a bit of a haircut.
Bringing plants indoors and extending their life can be a fun and rewarding task. Don’t be discouraged if you experience some failures. It is always nice to have to go out and purchase something new to add to your collection!