With the cooler temperatures of fall upon us, it is time to start planning the return of those house plants that have been vacationing outdoors for the summer. Ideally, you will want all your plants indoors before overnight temperatures drop below 50 degrees. As soon as fall hits, monitor the weather so you can plan enough time for the transition before temperatures get too low. Usually, 10-14 days is needed.
What to Bring Indoors
Not all plants need to be transitioned indoors. Plants like annuals, non-hardy herbs and some tropical plants can be discarded at the end of the season.
Shrubs, trees and perennials can be left outside but need to be planted in the ground before temperatures drop below freezing. If left in pots above the ground they will likely die from the cold freezing the root system.
All tropical plants need to be brought indoors, or discarded when temperatures start to drop. This includes citrus plants.
Hardy herbs like chives, thyme, mint, oregano marjoram, and parsley can be planted outdoors before the ground freezes and will overwinter just fine. Non-hardy herbs like basil, curly parsley and rosemary need to be discarded or brought indoors for the winter. Learn more about caring for herbs indoors.
Fruiting Fig Plants should be moved to a garage or shed for the winter. They are hardy enough to survive temperatures in a garage or shed, but will not survive outdoor temps, even when planted in the ground.
How to Transition
Use an insecticide on your plants about 10 days before you bring them indoors to get rid of any hitchhiking insects.
A granular insecticide like Bonide Systemic Insect Control can be applied by sprinkling a teaspoon or so on top of the soil and then watered in. The roots will pick it up and transfer it to the entire plant.
On herbs, or if you have children and pets you worry about getting into your plants, try Organic Insecticidal Soap. Spray this on both the top and underside of the plant before bringing it indoors.
Place your plants in a sunny location at first to acclimate them to reduced sunlight. It may take a week or two for your plants to adjust to the indoor climate. Leaf drop is normal during this period. Hold off on fertilizing until the spring, and monitor moisture levels regularly. Your plants will not need as much water during the fall and winter.
Learn more about caring for your house plants.
With your furnace running indoors, the air tends to get drier. Keep your plants happy by misting daily or setting them on a humidity try (a tray filled with rocks and water) to prevent foliage from getting crispy. Learn more about Winter Plant Care.