Home > Great Big Greenhouse Blog > September 2017 > IN THE GARDEN with DOUG - WINTER CARE OF TROPICAL PLANTS


Earlier this month, in my SEPTEMBER GARDEN TIPS, I mentioned that our weather is in transition and that this is the signal that we need to start thinking about moving all of our tropical plants indoors.  It is now late September and it is officially Fall.  Yes, we are having a warm trend with temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s.  And, yes, our tropical plants are enjoying this last hurrah of tropical-like weather.  But, we need to keep in mind that it is late September and we need to be serious about getting our tropical plants prepped and ready to come inside. 
                First step which I strongly suggest is to do some pest management.  While the tropical plants are outside give them a good soapy bath using a dish soap such as Ivory Soap (do not use dish detergent).  Get good coverage of the leaves – both top and bottom – and remember to spray the stems as well.  We carry a product by Bonide called Insecticidal Soap.  Insecticidal Soap is a multi-purpose insect control.  It is a contact spray and pests must be sprayed directly to achieve control.  You want to thoroughly spray all parts of the plant, including the undersides of leaves and all stems and branches.  A second step to do for pest management is to do a soil drench to kill and chase out insects that have taken up residency in the soil.  The home recipe is to add ¼ cup of bleach to a gallon of water.  Let his solution sit for 24 hours and then thoroughly drench the soil  This recipe will chase out the insects while at the same time do no harm to the plant itself.
                Once you have completed these two steps for pest management, one more step to do while the plant(s) are outside is to do some selected pruning.  Not only does pruning lessen the chance of insects remaining on the plant, it will improve your plants shape and density, as well as making it smaller, therefore easier to keep in your home.
                Another step to take while the plants are outside is Acclimating.If the plants have been outside in full sun then consider moving them into some shade for a couple of weeks.  By moving the plants into some shade will allow them to get use to growing in less light which will be the case when they come inside for the winter.
                Once the cleaning and acclimating process has been completed, the plant(s) are ready to come inside for the winter.
                Now, it is all about Location, Location, Location.  Choosing a location in your home or office is an important consideration.  Plants will often suffer leaf drop if placed in a drafty location.  Warm air blowing on the plant from a register air vent will almost always result in fewer leaves and poor growth.  Proper lighting is important to promote healthy growth.  Most flowering tropical plants generally require a bright location inside.  A bright window ( southern or western exposure ) is usually sufficient for most varieties.  Remember to rotate plants periodically to maintain even growth.  Most ‘leafy’ plants, such as schefflera, palms, etc. do not require a strong, sunny window to remain healthy indoors.  If your home does not have any bright windows, a grow light could be used for supplemental lighting.
                Watering schedule – Water is the most important factor in plant care.  For fall and winter you want to allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.  Because plant growth slows during this time, the plant requires less water.  Excess water can promote root rot.  A good rule of thumb is to allow the soil surface to dry slightly between thorough waterings.  As a general rule, the brighter / warmer the location, the more water a plant will require.  And, plants such as ferns enjoy a higher humidity level than found inside the home and would benefit from occasional misting.
                Insect pests  -  Insect pests can be a problem from time to time while your tropical plants are indoors for the winter.  Soapy baths are good.  Another tip is to use some yellow sticky cards.  We carry Safer Brand Houseplant Sticky Stakes.  Just place the stake in the pot.  Certain pesty insects such as aphids, fungus gnats, and whiteflies are attracted to the color yellow and the sticky substance will trap and kill the insect.
                Follow these simple rules for maintaining tropical plants indoors for the winter and they will remain  healthy and beautiful.  And, they will be counting the days when it will be safe for them to return to the outdoors.
                                                                HAPPY ‘Indoor’ GARDENING
Posted: 9/26/2017 by Doug Hensel | with 0 comment(s)
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