Bring Plants in for the Winter

Autumn is here and winter is fast approaching. It is time to bring in those houseplants that have enjoyed the summer season outdoors. Although the end of the growing season is here, fall can mean a great opportunity to start new plants. You can dig whole plants or you can take cuttings from flowers that have grown in your garden and bring them in before cold weather to provide winter beauty as well as starts for next spring and summer.

Let’s begin with some special procedures for those tropical houseplants or tender perennials that have spent time on the patio or deck, and then talk about taking cuttings. Prior to bringing those potted plants inside, look out for infestations of the same types of insects that bother many garden plants: mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites, white fly, etc. Spray for insects while the plants are still outdoors. I like to use three application of insecticidal soaps space several days apart. This way, you destroy recently hatched eggs as well as the adult pests. Otherwise, you may get rid of the adults, but 10 days after you move the plant into you home, the plants will be infested again. Even if so, you can take plants out on warm afternoons to spray and then move them back in. You also run the risk of infecting other plants in your house. You’ll want to put the first application on today in order to get at least two sprayings completed before the first hard frost. Move plants in for the night if colder temperatures are predicted, and then put them back out in late morning.

When you bring the plant indoors permanently, place them in the brightest spot you have. Even then your plants are facing about a 50 percent reduction in light and you want to make their transition as gentle as possible.

Plan to mist your plants daily for the first two to four weeks. Most home dry out in the winter when the heat is turned on, and your plants have become accustomed to much higher humidity while they were outdoors.

It may be best to wait until late winter to repot your plants, but you can do so now if you wish, but don’t go to a pot more than one size larger. I’m not quite sure why, but re-potting in anything bigger tends to stagnate the plant’s growth and recovery. Be sure to massage the roots to loosen them so they will grow on out into the new potting soil.
In addition to your houseplants, many of the tender flowering plants you enjoyed all summer can be brought in. If you don’t want to fool with digging the whole plant, take cutting from these tender plants, root them, pot them up and enjoy. A variety of plants including coleus, wax begonia, impatiens, fuchsia, and geraniums can be transplanted or cuttings rooted from them for indoors enjoyment during the winter months. The procedure is really quite simple.

You’ll want to do this soon, before it gets much cooler and you must do it before the first hard frost. Using a sharp knife or razor blade – not scissors (they pinch too much), cut a stem or section of stem from the plant about eight to nine inches long. Then, remove the top-most portion of the stem (it tends to be too succulent to allow proper root development to take place.)

Next, cut the stem into 2 to 4 inch sections, using a diagonal cut, immediately below a leaf juncture, leaving two to four leaves and nodes above that per section of stem. Place the sections in water, base down. Moist sand or porous potting soil can also be used. A rooting hormone is helpful in sand or soil.

When the cuttings – I have also heard them referred to as slips – have roots no longer than one-half inch, plant them in a pot using regular potting soil or as blend such as 50% coarse peat and the other half a mixture of sand and perlite or perlome. Fertilize at half the recommended rate using a water-soluble fertilizer about three to four weeks after the plants have rooted and been potted up. I always recommend buying potting soil rather than using soil from your garden. There is always too much risk of bringing pests and/or insects into your home when you use garden soil.

In the doldrums of winter, you’ll have blooms. You’ll also have the option during the winter months of using these plants as stock plants. You can remove cuttings from these plants and start them in flats for outdoor uses in spring plantings. It you’re not quite that ambitious, just enjoy the bit of summer you have kept through the winter – if not for practical use, but just to have fun.

Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
© The Ohio Nursery & Landscape Association. If you wish to reproduce articles in quantities of 10 or more, use an article in a class or training session, or reprint an article in a publication (print or web), you must obtain explicit permission from the ONLA.

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