How to care for houseplants as summer approaches fall – Orange County Register

By Jessica Damian Associated Press

As summer draws to a close, we tend to focus on enjoying the last harvests of the season, removing spent plants, and planning next year’s garden. But indoor plants also need our attention now.

plants that come indoors

Houseplants that have spent the holiday season outdoors need a proper transition back into the home to avoid shock.

If they have outgrown their containers while on vacation, now is a good time to repot them in a larger pot. Select a container no more than 2 inches wider than the current pot and repot in fresh potting mix, then water well.

Overgrown plants can often be divided into two or more. Spider plants (Chlorophytum), peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), flamingo flowers (Anthurium), and peacock plants (Calathea) are among those with clustered root systems that lend themselves to division.

If you find it difficult to remove the plant from its pot, check to see if any roots have come out of the container’s drainage holes. If so, pull or cut off any escaped root fibers to free the plant.

Then, to divide the plant, carefully shake off as much soil as possible. Find the junction where the plant’s top growth meets its root system, and gently separate the roots or cut them with a sharp knife, making sure at least three healthy leaves are attached above each root portion. Transplant each new plant into its own container using fresh potting mix. Keep the plant well watered (but never soggy) until new growth appears.

Whether or not repotting or dividing is necessary, all outdoor houseplants should be moved to a shady location for a week or so to gradually acclimate them to lower light levels before moving indoors. Continue watering during this transition.

At the end of the week, inspect all parts of the plant for insects, including under the leaves, and thoroughly rinse the leaves and stems with water to avoid transporting hitchhiking pests into your home. To play it safe, you can spray the plant with a diluted Neem oil solution.

Complete the move before nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees outdoors.

Plants that have been left indoors

Houseplants that haven’t left their window perches all summer will also need special care, as their day length shortens and decreased sunlight slows their growth.

Although not technically dormant, most houseplants go dormant through the fall and winter, which means they’ll need less water and often no fertilizer until spring. Overwatering during this time will risk root rot and the spread of fungus gnats, which breed in soggy soil.

For most plants, it’s best to wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry before watering. You can check for moisture by sticking your finger up to your knuckles into the pot.

Slower growth also means slower healing, so put off pruning until spring. However, you can trim dead or dying leaves or leaf tips during the winter.

Most houseplants are native to the tropics and as such require more humidity than is normally found in most homes, especially in cooler areas where heating systems tend to dry out the air. Run a humidifier in the room or place the plants in a tray of water filled with pebbles, which will create a humid microclimate around them as the water evaporates.

Never place plants over working radiators and keep them away from cold drafts and heating ducts.

Next spring, it will be safe to move most plants outdoors. However, tender tropical plants like African violets are homey, so leave them alone.


Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. Her garden calendar was named a winner at the 2021 Garden Communicators International Media Awards. Her Weekly Dirt Newsletter won a PCLI Society of Professional Journalists 2021 Media Award. Sign up here to receive weekly gardening tips and advice.

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