Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
September, 2010
Regional Report

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My fantastic sago palm needs the perfect spot indoors - cool and sunny.

Think About Those Houseplants

I refuse to admit that summer is coming to a close, but I have been thinking about my houseplants that are spending the summer outdoors. Unlike my usual scramble to get them indoors all at once when the weather changes, I am going to plan their reentry this year and make it easier on me and them.

Decide on Location
The first step I am taking is to figure out where my plants will go in the house. Getting their spot ready makes the transition much easier than my usual way of bringing them all into the kitchen and then figuring it out while we live in a jungle and the plants are stressed from not enough light. It is important to take into consideration their needs for light and humidity, and to remember not to place them in front of hot air vents or radiators. Also, get saucers and drip trays ready.

Low Temps Can Kill
Most tropical plants do not thrive and many do not survive once the temperature drops below forty five degrees. There are exceptions to this, but for the most part, as soon as the night temperatures drop to forty five degrees, the plants are at risk. Of course, the temperature may drop one night and then stay higher for many nights, but the plants have to come indoors eventually anyway, so you might as well get ready now.

Indoor and Outdoor Leaves
Bringing plants indoors gradually really will make a difference in your success rate over the winter. Plants actually change the physical structure of leaves that are produced indoors since the light is so much less intense. So, the leaves that are produced outdoors cannot be sustained indoors and the plant handles this by dropping many of them.

Reintroduce Gradually
In order to prevent this, there are a few things you can do. The first is to begin to bring a plant indoors gradually, just as you did when you moved it out in the spring. The goal is to get it used to lower light. First of all, move it into a lower light spot outdoors for a week. Then begin bringing it indoors for a few hours at a time, finally leaving it inside for good.

Prune Drastically
Many plants will make their transition easier if you prune them back substantially. This cuts off the outdoor leaves and forces the plant to begin to make new, indoor leaves. Again, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, azaleas and gardenias which have already set their winter flower buds should not be cut back. You need to know your plant well before you begin hacking. Flowering plants such as geraniums should be cut back hard. They will lose all their leaves anyway, so you might as well start ahead of the game.

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