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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Bringing My Houseplants Back In

It’s supposed to dip below 45 degrees tonight.  For me, that’s a sign that I need to think about moving my houseplants back inside for the winter.  I hate to do it.  Late last winter, I was promising them that if they just hung on a little longer, I’d get them back outside as soon as possible!  So here’s my game plan:

I’m going to bring certain plants in early.  Clerodendrum (Bleeding Heart Vine), philodendron, dracaenas, peace lilies, Phalaenopsis orchids do not like temps below 50 to 55 degrees for prolonged periods of time so they’ll come in this coming weekend.  Most other plants will come back in the following weekend with the exception of my ferns, holiday cactus, amaryllis, and indoor gardenia.  They can all tolerate temperatures to around 40 so they’ll stay out until they absolutely have to come in.

Now for the fun part (can you hear the sarcasm here?)  My citrus, ficus, and asparagus ferns LOVED being outside this spring and summer.  They loved it so much that they grew—and grew.  However, my indoor sunny windows did not grow.  So now I get to dust the ol’ shoehorn off and try to squeeze everyone back inside…or selectively prune a few branches. 

The best advice is not to do any major pruning this time of year—but if it’s a choice between me or the plant—or leaving the plant outside to freeze--sometimes you do what you gotta do.  It would be hard to prune my citrus because mine are loaded with baby kumquats, key limes and Meyer lemons, so I’m afraid the ficus and asparagus ferns will have to bear the brunt of it.  Still, overall, they’ll fare better than the hibiscus who didn’t make the cut last year and met its first (and last) frost by the trash can.

Next step—I’ll examine all plants (a nice job for a sunny fall day) for hitchhikers that I don’t want finding their way inside.  For annoyances like spiders or crickets hiding out, a quick sharp spray from the hose works fine.  For more serious pests like mites, mealybug or aphids, a thorough cleaning followed by a spray of an organic pesticide will work.  If I find any scale, a horticultural oil spray is fine.

For pests in the soil, I’ll pull a gallon of water and let it stand overnight, then in the morning add four tablespoons of unscented bleach and drench the soil.  That will kill any unwanted soil pests—fungus gnat larvae, ants, slugs—hiding out in there.  For small pots, I can also put several in a bucket filled with water.  That’ll drown any soil-borne insects.

One last thing.  I need to remember that once inside, things change.  Plants are in less light (because winter days are short and dim) and the air is dryer.  I’ll go back to actually checking the soil with my finger before watering because watering needs will change.  Some plants, like ficus trees, may lose yellow leaves as they adjust to lower indoor light levels.  As long as they’re getting three or four hours of sun, the adjustment period shouldn’t last more than a couple of weeks.  If it does last longer than that, that’s usually a clue that they’re not getting enough sun so I’ll pull out a grow light. With the exception of African violets and orchids, I won’t feed most indoor plants from December through February.

Once everyone is tucked safely inside, I’ll enjoy the lush green foliage in my bedroom and my living room (and both spare rooms and my kitchen) while reminding myself that my indoor air will certainly be cleaner now…
Posted: 10/10/2016 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
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