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Butler County

Bringing Houseplants Inside in the Fall


        The key to preventing insects from coming inside on your house plants is to start early and use a multi-pronged approach to control the insects. The first step is to inspect your plants for insects and diseases. Remove any diseased or damaged leaves and any visible insects. Discard any plants that have a severe insect or disease infestation to prevent those from spreading to other plants. The second step for me as I get my plants ready is to use a systemic granule on any plants that have been outside. This granule will slowly be taken up by the plant and provide a 2-3-month residual control for any insects that might be brought inside. I would also consider using an insecticidal spray on your plants a week or so before bringing the plants inside to kill any bugs. If you prefer to go the organic route use an insecticidal soap while permethrin or any pyrethroids are great synthetic chemicals to use.  Right before you bring the plants in I would wash them and soak the soil (only tropical plants do not soak the pot of any succulent or cacti). A strong stream of water from a garden hose will often remove most of our insect pests from the leaves and soaking the pot in warm water for 15 minutes should handle any insects in the soil.

        Along with making sure we don’t bring in any hitchhikers, it is important to transition houseplants to their new light conditions. Outside plants are exposed to high levels of light, even if they are in the shade, which might not be available inside. If possible, over the period of a week, move them to areas with less light before moving them inside. Once they are inside place them in an area with as much light as possible then slowly move them to their final winter spot. If you are using artificial lights to supplement natural light you can skip the second transition when moving plants inside however it is still important to transition them slowly outside to lower light conditions. No grow light has the same intensity of light as the sun and the plants need to get used to it. Transitioning plants to lower light levels can prevent leaf drop and yellowing, especially if you transition them slowly. This slow transition also allows you to keep an eye on your plants and take care of any insects or other critters that might have tried to join you in your house.

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        As houseplants get brought inside for the winter it’s very easy to over love our plants. When they were outside plants needed far more water than they do inside simply because of warmer temperatures, wind, more light, etc. Once plants get moved inside it can be very easy to over water them simply because we have been in the habit of watering them more often outside. It’s also important to remember that many plants go into a semi dormant or even dormant period during the winter, even if under grow lights, and their care needs are going to change drastically. As the fall and winter progresses, be sure to monitor the soil moisture of your plants before you water. It gets very easy to simply get into a routine of watering on a specific day once a week or every other week which may not be what your plant really needs especially as we transition from running the air conditioner to running the furnace over time. Watering needs are also going to change throughout the winter because of the humidity levels in your house. Plants will dry out faster when there are lower levels of humidity so once the furnace comes on for the year you will have to adjust your watering again. If possible run humidifiers, both for your health and your plants, during the winter to combat the drying effect of the furnace on the air.

        I love moving my houseplants outside during the summer. Not only do they provide a lush green jungle outside but the extra light also helps them grow and bloom where they might not normally inside. With just a few steps and some care you can easily move your plants outdoors in the spring and back indoors in the fall. It is important to start early with transitioning plants inside and controlling bugs because we never know what the weather is going to do from one week to another. While we are in the upper 90’s to 100 now, later this week we are going to see a major cool down and who knows what next week will bring. It’s better to be prepared rather than rushing at the last minute. Just a reminder, indoor plants require less water and fertilizer during the winter months. Be sure to adjust your care as needed. Just follow a few steps to keep your plants happy and healthy in their new environment.

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Have questions? Contact our office where our Horticulture Extension Agent will assist you with questions.

Phone: (316) 321-9660

Email: callae@ksu.edu