Moving houseplants indoors and caring for them over winter


Make sure to inspect plants for the presence of pests like scale before bringing them inside. Scale insects and sooty mold on the leaf of a Schefflera plant are shown above. | Photo courtesy of Kenneth Johnson

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — As we draw nearer to fall, it’s time to start thinking about bringing houseplants back indoors for the winter. Many houseplants are native to tropical an subtropical climates and, while they may do great outdoors during the summer, cannot tolerate our cold temperatures. When the thermometer starts to consistently get below 55 °F, it’s time to start bringing houseplants back indoors.

Inspect your plants before bringing them indoors

Before bringing plants back indoors, make sure to inspect them for any insects and other pests. Insects
such as aphids, whiteflies, mealybugs, and scale, as well as spider mites, are some pests that are
commonly found on plants outdoors. If allowed indoors, their populations can rapidly increase and
spread to other plants.

One way you can try to get rid of any pests that may be present is to spray them off your plants with a
hose. If you go this route, it may take several attempts to get rid of all of the pests.

If spraying with water doesn’t work, insecticides can be used. Make sure to read and follow the label
instructions. If your plants are infested, it may be best to dispose of them and purchase new plants.

In addition to checking the foliage, make sure to check the soil. Often, insects such as earwigs and ants
will inhabit the soil in potted plants. If you have insects or other critters inhabiting your soil, flush pots
with water to drive them out. If ants are present in the soil, you may need to repot the plant.

Caring for plants once they’re indoors

Plants will likely slow down their growth considerably when brought indoors, so less water and fertilizer
will be needed. For most plants, you should allow the soil to dry slightly between watering and stop
fertilizing until the spring.

Once plants are moved indoors, put them next to the brightest, sunniest window, which is typically
south or west facing. If you can’t give your plants enough light, provide supplemental lighting.

Plants can be watered by top or bottom watering. If top watering, apply enough water so that some
comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Make sure to discard any water that collects in the plant saucer. If your plants are really dry, you may need to repeat this several times to thoroughly
remoisten your potting mix.

To water from the bottom, fill your plant saucer or sink with a few inches of water and let your plants
soak. Once the potting mix on the top of the pot is moist, the plant can be removed from the water.

If you’re not sure if your plants need water, there are a couple of ways you can check. First, is with your
finger. Stick your finger in your potting media up to your second knuckle; if the media is still moist, you
probably don’t need to water. Alternatively, you can lift the pot; if the pot feels light, it may be time to

Good Growing Tip of the Week: Most houseplants come from tropical areas and do best with higher
humidity levels than we typically see indoors during the winter. Grouping plants close together, running
a humidifier, or placing plants on a shallow tray with gravel and water will increase the humidity in the

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