It's that time of the year, where we have to start thinking about bringing our houseplants back inside for the long, cold, winter season after a luxurious summer spent outdoors, if that is where you have kept your plants of course. Indoor plants truly benefit from being outdoors during the warmer months, there is a lot more light, heat, and humidity, all of which tropical plants love. However, like in most areas of life, all good things must come to an end, but it's not as simple as moving them from one spot to another and leaving it at that. To figure out when and how to move your plants inside, please keep on reading!
If you are interested in reading more about keeping your plants outdoors during the summer months, and why it is so beneficial to them, please see our When & How to Transition Your Plants Outdoors for the Summer guide.
When to Transition Your Plants Indoors
During the first few weeks of September, before the nights start to dip below 10 °C, it is best to start to think about and plan around bringing your plants back indoors. Most houseplants cannot stand temperatures below 7 °C, but we don't want to tempt fate now do we. Why is it important to begin a little early? Well, when bringing plants back inside after living in the bright outdoors all summer, it is very important that they go through a transitional period rather than just jumping from one environment to a completely different one so suddenly. Since it can take some time for them to adjust, we still want to do it when there are relatively warm temperatures outside, giving us the time to acclimate them indoors again. It also allows us to go through the necessary measures outdoors, such as repotting, cleaning, etc., keeping the mess outside.
A good rule of thumb for when to bring houseplants in for the winter season is at least two weeks before the average last frost date.
How to Transition Your Plants Indoors
When transitioning our plants indoors, it is important to take a few precautions into consideration before doing so, as well as making sure some key steps are followed in the process. Without these steps, your plants will most certainly experience some form of shock, which will be shown through excessive leaf drop, potential dieback, or wilting after such sudden changes. Because the conditions of our homes differ widely from the conditions outside, a gradual reintroduction for bringing our plants indoors is best.
Here are the key steps we recommend following, as well as a few additional tips and tricks along the way, making sure to keep the process as seamless as possible while keeping our plants as happy as possible:
Although not completely necessary, it is recommended that you clean your windows, both inside and outside, making sure they are letting in the maximum light levels. Doing so before bringing in your plants would make for the least effort, so that they aren't cluttering your work space!
If pests are not priorly removed, they can spread rapidly in a short period of time indoors and infest the rest of your plants. Some bugs, like mealybugs, are especially tricky because they can live for several months without a host plant, and hide in tiny cracks and crevices.
3. Repotting & Pruning
This step may not be necessary, but there will most likely be at least one plant kept outdoors that you will have to repot or prune. Since conditions are spectacular outside in the warmer months, this is completely natural!
Pruning - If any plants have gotten leggy, or stretched out, over the summer, it would be best to prune them back by trimming the stretched out growth, but also trimming the roots in equal proportions. This is necessary to keep the plant happy in its current home, as it may need to be potted into a larger pot if there is an excessive amount of roots. Some popular plants to prune would be: Pothos, Philodendron, Tradescantia, Polka Dot Plants, Nerve Plants, Citrus, and more.
Make sure to never prune back more than one third of a plant at a time! Removing any spent leaves as well.
Repotting - If any of your plants have grown significantly, with roots coming out of the drainage holes or stunted growth, it could be beneficial to repot. Even though it is generally better to repot during spring/early - mid summer, now is just as good a time as any if your plant is significantly overgrown, but don't hold off for too much longer. To know when and how to do so, please see our Step-by-Step Repotting Guide.
This is also suggested to do if you sense there are millipedes, potato bugs, or earwigs in the soil, replacing just the soil, without repotting into a larger pot. Even if you just want to refresh the soil, doing so before bringing your plants inside is the best time!
Plant Tip: if you are lacking in space, but still love one of your plants just not its size, take cuttings of the plant and keep those indoors over the winter, or root them in soil beforehand, just make sure that cuttings are possible for the species and are done properly.
If your plant is one that has bulbs, tubers, or corms (i.e. Caladium, Oxalis, Alocasia, etc.), consider taking the pots and cutting them back fully, or removing them from the soil and overwintering them. Check out the information for each plant specifically before doing so, as the wrong treatment could result in dead bulbs by the time the winter is over. If you're wondering why you should do this, some plants require it to live long and healthy lives, but it is also a space-saver, where you don't need to save your precious bright light locations during the winter months for these particular plants, giving it to another plant instead. Pot them up in the spring again, about a month before you want to put them outside for a jump on the season. To read more about propagating and preserving bulbous plants, check out our Propagation - Division guide!
Now, all of this information is just about how to transition your plants indoors, but plants will also need to have their care regime adjusted during the cooler months as well. To learn more about caring for your houseplants inside during the winter, please see our How to Care for Your Plants in the Winter blog for further information.