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10 Tips for Preparing Plants for Wintering Indoors

Author:

Sherri has expertise in landscape design. Some of her hobbies include gardening and cooking.

The Christmas cactus blooms profusely indoors in winter after a summer outdoors.

The Christmas cactus blooms profusely indoors in winter after a summer outdoors.

Does Moving a Plant Inside or Outside Cause Stress?

Although I love the advent of autumn with its cool temperatures, brilliant leaf colors, crystal blue skies, and harvest festivals, I am never completely mentally ready to let the summer go. For me, nothing signifies the end of summer more than moving my indoor plants from their outdoor summer homes into the house for the winter.

It seems like a redundancy, bringing houseplants indoors, but many of us in temperate zones spend summer with at least some of our indoor plants outdoors to give them a growth burst or to enhance outdoor living areas. Taking houseplants outside also gives us an opportunity to clean hidden indoor spaces and give our homes a fresh, uncluttered summer look. It's a pleasant change.

But as the time to bring houseplants indoors approaches, we need to prepare them and their indoor environment for healthy winter living by lessening the stress that can be caused by the forced migration we impose.

Schefflera thriving indoors in low-light conditions.

Schefflera thriving indoors in low-light conditions.

10 Tips for Preparing Indoor Houseplants for Healthy Winter Living

  1. Start by taking a micro-environment assessment of the temperature fluctuations in your house. You want to keep plants away from direct cold drafts and hot air vents. You may have to rearrange furniture or acquire tall plant stands and wall or ceiling plant hangers to keep plants away from hot and cold extremes.
  2. Prepare to mimic the relative light conditions the plants grew in during the summer. For example, spider plants and Christmas cactus will do better in brighter conditions than those tolerated by low-light lovers like schefflera. Choose a window with a southern exposure for plants that do well in brighter conditions or a window with a northern exposure for those that can do well at lower light levels.
  3. If you have pets who like plants, and many do, prepare for putting the plants where pets can’t get at them. Not only don’t you want your plants damaged by curious paws and mouths, you also don’t want your plants to harm your pets. As a precaution, refresh your knowledge of household plants known to be toxic to pets.
  4. Keep the plants in the containers they lived in while outdoors. This is not the time to disturb their roots, which would encourage new growth.
  5. Inspect the leaves, stems, and soil for plant pests and other insects. Remove them by hand or use an organic houseplant insecticidal soap safe for humans and pets. (If you decide to use an insecticidal soap, apply it after the final shower and air drying. See Tip 10 below.) Over the years, I have found some rather fascinating creatures making themselves at home with the houseplants that have summered outdoors. Among them were spiders, ants, earthworms, and wasps.
  6. Cut away any dead or damaged leaves and stems, disinfecting your cutting tools, with household bleach followed by a clean water rinse, from one plant to another to avoid infecting a healthy plant. Remove all dead and rotting plant material from the surface of the soil.
  7. Refrain from pruning away healthy leaves and stems. Heavy pruning will encourage new growth, just as repotting. Remember that we want the plants to rest, not to embark on a growth spurt.
  8. Scrub the outside of the pots thoroughly with a steel wool pad or nylon scouring pad dipped in a mild soap and water solution to remove dirt and mold. Steel wool works well for plain terra cotta pots. For glazed, painted, and plastic pots, stick to a nylon scouring pad to avoid damaging the pot’s finish. If a mold infestation is particularly bad on a plain terra cotta pot, you can add one part household bleach to ten parts of the mild soap and water solution. Just make sure you keep the bleach well away from any of the plant tissue.
  9. Take the time with larger-leaved plants, such as schefflera and rubber plants, to wipe each leaf clean, top and bottom, with a cotton swab and plain water. Summer dust and pollen remaining on the leaves will further diminish the limited indoor light and prevent the plant from absorbing whatever moisture is in the dry indoor air.
  10. Finally, shower each plant thoroughly using a garden hose with a mist or shower attachment. Get underneath the leaves, too. Then let the plants and pots air dry outdoors before bringing them in for their winter rest.
The spider plant does well in almost any indoor light intensity.

The spider plant does well in almost any indoor light intensity.

Even though the aloe could use a bigger pot and some pruning, this is not the time for such drastic measures. Give it a bright indoor spot and enjoy its beauty and health benefits. Spring and a new pot will come soon enough.

Even though the aloe could use a bigger pot and some pruning, this is not the time for such drastic measures. Give it a bright indoor spot and enjoy its beauty and health benefits. Spring and a new pot will come soon enough.

Why Houseplants Brought Indoors for the Winter Are Susceptible to Plant Stress

While houseplants have been outdoors for the summer, they've acclimated over several months to certain light, humidity, and temperature conditions. Chances are they’ve received more light and have enjoyed higher humidity than they did indoors. They have also adapted to temperatures that may have been fluctuating as many as 20 degrees between day and night. Having been watered and fed frequently, they have enjoyed a healthy growth spurt, even as the days began to shorten and the weather to cool at the end of the summer season.

Now, as we bring houseplants indoors, we will be changing their environment drastically in a very short time. They will be experiencing much less light and humidity than they did outdoors, as well as a much smaller fluctuation in day and night temperatures, and we will be reducing the water and plant food they had become accustomed to. In essence, we will be asking them to stop growing and start resting. It’s like asking a speeding freight train to stop on a dime.

Despite our best efforts, most houseplants transitioning from the outdoors to the indoors will show, to some degree, stress signs that include yellowing, wilting, parching, or dropping leaves. If the stress is too great, the plants will die. Here are 10 tips for making the transition from a summer outdoors to a winter indoors as stress-free as possible.

Washing each leaf of a large-leaved plant helps reduce stress.

Washing each leaf of a large-leaved plant helps reduce stress.

Know Your Average First Frost Date

You need to know the average first frost date for your area so that you can migrate your plants from outdoors to indoors before they are damaged or killed. Use Dave’s Garden zip code locator to find the first and last frost dates for your area. Then allow plenty of time to rearrange your house, clean the plants and pots, and bring the houseplants indoors before that date arrives.

The Christmas cactus and two spider varieties are quite happy in a cool corner of the living room where northern light comes through the glass patio doors.

The Christmas cactus and two spider varieties are quite happy in a cool corner of the living room where northern light comes through the glass patio doors.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Joe OBrien on September 30, 2017:

I have a Chicago hearty fig tree approximately four years old. It has many low "sucker" branches. I'd like to prune and propagate these into new plants. I bring it indoors over the winter. When should I do this?

Mary Brooks on January 08, 2017:

We are leaving Colorado and going to Arizona for the Winter. What do I do with my Christmas cactus? I will have someone coming into the house twice a month. Should they water that often.Thanks!

Candace on September 15, 2016:

Great information thank very much - What is your thought on heat lamps for winter? I love my plants and have about 40 that need to come indoors. I have limited window space. I also have a small back porch I thought of closing in like a greenhouse and using heat lamps to save from freezing. But as i study info on greenhouses i am seeing that liggt is needed from all 4 sides as well as top. I have all kinds plants from cactus, tropical etc and last year lost all my big cactus. They looked very healthy and then one by one around February they were falling over. Never had this happen before. Any tips wld be wonderful.

Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on July 13, 2015:

Hi Sally what a tremendous hub so much outstanding information, excellent photos and videos. I have read two of your fascinating hubs so far but look forward to reading all of them. So nice meeting you and getting to know your work and talent.

pilar on December 16, 2013:

HI. I am moving in december and my plants will stay on the truck for two days, what can I do? there is someway of protecting them from freezing?. Please, help.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 04, 2012:

rbm, you are very welcome. I'm glad this information is useful to you and that you found it when you did. We've got about 10 days here until the official first frost date, so "migration" is in progress. :)

rbm on October 04, 2012:

Our first frost is just around the corner and we're getting to move some of our house plants into the home or green house. Great tips, and very timely right now. Thanks!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 16, 2012:

Vickie MacDonald, I am sorry that this article was not of use to you. As I'm sure you are aware, Schlumbergera truncata, shown in the above pictures, is commonly called both Crab and Christmas cactus, among other names. But, to your point, Schlumbergera x buckleyi is almost always called Christmas cactus.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 29, 2011:

rebeccamealey, thank you so much for reading and for leaving the good words. Indeed, I am into my plants!

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 28, 2011:

Your hub on winterizing plants was full of good tips. I can see you are really into your plants, I enjoyed it, will read it again also.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 18, 2011:

dust2dusk, there's nothing like having fresh herbs in the house, close at hand for snipping. Start small, and see which herbs do the best in which micro-environments in your house. Once you get that info nailed down, you are on your way to bigger and better! Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

dust2dusk from dry side of a wet state on October 17, 2011:

Good tips! Most of our plants stay outside year-round, but your advice on situating plants indoors is still helpful for the kitchen herbs I've been thinking of getting.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 04, 2011:

TY, midnightbliss!

Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on October 04, 2011:

very helpful and i will be remembering all those tips.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 02, 2011:

You are so welcome!

Better Yourself from North Carolina on October 02, 2011:

Great hub, very informative - Thanks for posting!!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 23, 2011:

Hello my neighbor, Hollies Page. This SE Pennsylvania pocket we live in presents gardening challenges. We don't have particularly fertile soil (more clay and rock than anything else in most places), and first and last frost dates are never predictable and neither are drought and flood. While we might be, by the book, a zone 6 or 6A, we also have micro-climates influenced by hills and valleys and waterways, all of which we have aplenty. Thanks for your good words, and welcome to HubPages!

Hollies Page on September 23, 2011:

I really learn a lot from your gardening hubs. They are so well written and informative. Being from Southeast PA myself I experience the same weather and environment with my plants, so your gardening hubs are very pertinent and helpful. I really look forward to reading them all. Thanks for the great info! :)

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 12, 2011:

Thank you, Patti Ann!

Patti Ann from Florida on September 12, 2011:

It's getting to be that time of year again. Thanks for the fantastic information. Rated this one up!!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 09, 2011:

Thanks for reading and commenting, shayana mack!

shayana mack on September 09, 2011:

Great hub and this information is very useful for everyone.

and such a useful tips for preparing indoor plants.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 08, 2011:

Josh, glad this Hub is helpful to you. Thank you for the good words, and welcome to HubPages!

JoshSnitz from Los Angeles, California on September 08, 2011:

Wow! Simply amazing. I also love plants and gardening. When winter comes, I do have a problem on how to make my plants healthy during winter season. Thank you for your hub. I have now a great idea on how to maintain healthy plants during winter. Thanks!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on August 16, 2011:

You are welcome.

saif113sb on August 16, 2011:

Very nice and interesting hub and great information. Thanks

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on May 11, 2011:

Glad you found this useful, dusy7969.

dusy7969 from San Diego, California on May 10, 2011:

Great hub.This is very interesting and useful information shared here.You posted the great tips.So Thanks a lot for this amazing sharing and keep it up.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on December 14, 2010:

Micky, you'll be well-prepared for next year, having 10 months to re-read this. I hope you didn't lose your plants! Thanks so much for the good words.

Micky Dee on December 12, 2010:

Great post! Buttons up! I just wish I had read this two months ago!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 27, 2010:

You lucky dog, you, Holle. You get more frost-free days than we do! Glad you'll be using the tips.

Holle Abee from Georgia on October 26, 2010:

Great info, and perfect timing! I'll be using your tips!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 20, 2010:

My mother loves plants, too, flinsura. Buying, planting, and taking care of them are activities we enjoy together. And thank you for your kind words.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 20, 2010:

Phyllis, you probably have fungus gnats, and there are several approaches to controlling them. Check out these forum posts about the topic...some of them are hilarious in addition to being helpful:

http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf462331.tip.html

flinsura on October 20, 2010:

I love your hub, my mother love plants, Thanks for this hub...

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on October 19, 2010:

Wonderful hub! I have one little plant I want to bring in for the winter and will follow your instructions. It is a succulent, Brown Beans is it's name. The only pests I see in the soil are gnats. Will the soap spray work for them? My apartment is small and I do not have a south facing window, so I am hoping my morning sun window will be sufficient for my plant. It will get about two hours of sun and all day bright light. Hope it works.

Great tips, thank you. I will be following you.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 19, 2010:

Glad you find these tips useful, lender, and I do hope they help you enjoy your houseplants indoors this winter. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

lender3212000 from Beverly Hills, CA on October 18, 2010:

Excellent tips! Now I can see why so many of my plants have died in the past when I've attempted to bring them in. Perhaps I'll have a bit better luck next time.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 18, 2010:

alertswiftreview, thanks so much for reading and commenting. Managing plants indoors so that they remain attractive and healthy can be quite a challenge!

alertswiftreview from USA on October 18, 2010:

Thanks for the tips as i always looking for planting the various types of plants in my apartment and this hub really helps me alot in my work.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 14, 2010:

tdarby, if the fig is planted in the ground (not in a pot above the ground), you can wrap it in black plastic just before the first autumn frost and remove the plastic just after the last expected spring frost. I don't know where you are, but US Zone 6 gardeners have success with this practice. Good luck!

tdarby on October 14, 2010:

Good tips. Thanks. This year I am going to bring my fig tree in. It is supposed to survive down to 10 degrees, but I don't belive it. Not based on last year's near death experience for the fig.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 06, 2010:

You are welcome, Patricia Rae. One additional thing you will want to do with those ferns is to mist them often with a soft spray of water, maybe once a day. Ferns HATE the low humidity of a winter indoor environment. Thanks so much for reading, commenting, and adding value to this Hub.

Patricia Rae from Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada on October 06, 2010:

Thank you for this info. I have 2 beautiful ferns in hanging baskets and I'd hate to loose them over the winter and have to buy new. I'll be definitely following you advice. Thanks again.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on October 05, 2010:

You lucky dog, you. You live in Florida! And so those house plants have a good success of survival if they aren't killed off by a rare frost.

I've seen all kinds of pests wanting to come in with the summered house plants (mentioned above), but a snake was never one of them. If I'd seen a snake in a pot, I don't know what I'd do!

Thanks for your awesome comment.

d.william from Somewhere in the south on October 05, 2010:

Good article. I always have good intentions about bringing my plants indoors for the winter, but never seem to get around to it before winter sets in. But they always come back to life in the spring anyway, so i can enjoy them for another year. I kinda stopped bringing them in after inadvertently bringing one in with snakes in the pot. That was too great of a surprise for me. LOL.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 21, 2010:

Sabu, I don't know about a founainhead of knowledge, but I like the sound of it! You are welcome to read my Hubs and leave such nice comments, any time. :)

Lisa, I don't know whether to laugh or cry at your comment. It seems you are accepting of this state of things, and there's a bit of humor in that, but maybe you'd rather it were otherwise. Perhaps some of these tips would change the fate of the next prospects?

Lisa HW from Massachusetts on September 20, 2010:

Useful Hub. Every year I pretty much bring in my plants with the idea that they're essentially on "death row". They live for awhile, but by December they're spindly, yellow, sticks (or something along those lines). I actually do have one hanging in the kitchen window that survived since it was brought it five Falls ago. Other than that one, they usually pretty much die.

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on September 19, 2010:

Yeah, that avatar is my real life buddy...and oh so photogenic with a personality to match!

sabu singh on September 18, 2010:

As always, such a well-written and informative Hub ST, alongwith some lovely pictures.

You are truly a fountainhead of knowledge on a vast variety of subjects.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 18, 2010:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Scribenet. Love your avatar. I want that kitty!

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on September 18, 2010:

I've bookmarked this one! So much information! I will be back rereading this!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 17, 2010:

Mulberry, that is fascinating about the annuals. I've done something similar with hosta and mints (perennials), with good success, but never with annuals. Sounds like my garage has conditions like yours, so I'm definitely going to try the annuals. Thanks so much for the additional tip!

Christine Mulberry on September 17, 2010:

This is great information. It's hard to believe but it's almost that time of year. I have had the experience of planting annuals, cutting them off after the frost, bringing the pots into my garage for the winter. Little light and below freezing temperatures at times. Then in the spring have the annuals return (much to my surprise).

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 16, 2010:

Thank you so much for the compliment and the link. (Always happy to have done something called brilliant.) Let me know the garden Hub, and I'll insert a link to it from this Hub. Have fun getting your plants indoors!

2patricias from Sussex by the Sea on September 16, 2010:

This is brilliant! We will put up a link from one of our Garden Hubs (hope that is okay with you).

This is also a reminder that we need to get our indoor plants back indoors.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 16, 2010:

kgnature, you are so welcome. I know what you mean about too many plants and not enough windows. Over the last couple of years I've culled my houseplant population, leaving only those plants that can live happily in low light. I don't have even one south-facing window! Thanks for reading and leaving the good words.

kgnature from North Carolina on September 15, 2010:

Thanks for sharing. I have too many plants/not enough windows, plus a serious lack of humidity, so I rarely bring things in anymore. This is great information, thanks.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 14, 2010:

Glad you enjoyed the tips, Carrie. Everybody loves--and needs--a bath!

I saw your Hub request about bringing herbs indoors. I'm going to give that some thought, because it's something I don't do, which is not to say that it can't be done. More later.

Carrie.M from MI, United States on September 13, 2010:

Thanks for these great tips. I have akways washed my plants before bringing them in for the winter but I had no idea that I was actually benefitting them by doing so.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 13, 2010:

It certainly is, but well worth the effort to have healthy, attractive plants in your home over the winter. :)

loriamoore on September 12, 2010:

Sounds like a lot of work.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 11, 2010:

Sally, I was going to write one on bringing in the tropicals, but was distracted by something else. HP is such a great place for the ADD set!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 10, 2010:

I know what you mean, Dolores. It IS a lot of work. About storing tropicals dry root, I think a lot of folks would like to know about this...maybe a Hub for you in the future? Thanks so much for the vote and the good words.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 10, 2010:

Sally - I voted this one up for the great, detailed instructions. I no longer put my houseplants out, it's way too much trouble. And the tropicals that I do put out, I just store them dry root.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 10, 2010:

Jess was such a huge help in cleaning up those lambs ears from the steps off the patio. Her cutting is doing just fine on the front porch. And I'm glad she enjoyed her "garden holiday," because I loved having her here! Trish, really, your life is so much more simple with only artificial flowers. Don't complain! :)

trish1048 on September 09, 2010:

Well dear friend, another wonderful, educational hub. Which reminds me, Jess and I need to come pick up her lambs ears :) She had a wonderful time enjoying your gardens and learning about the different plants.

The only plants I have to worry about are the glass flowers in a glass vase and my artificial purple flowers that sit in a basket on my wall lol. The windows in my house are in all the wrong places. The only place I get full sun is in my bathroom through a teeny tiny window. The rest of the house is pretty much dark :(

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 09, 2010:

FlyingPanther, love that image of leaves taking "a fall for fall"! Thanks always for reading and commenting, my friend.

idiot2death, thanks for the vote, fellow gardener!

Jill, you are so welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed this Hub. Your comment reminded me that many of the houseplants we enjoy, but must protect in our homes during winter, are probably either native to your area or at least naturalized there. I'll never forget being in Florida a few years ago in the winter and seeing the Moses in the Bulrushes plant growing freely in roadside patches. I had to work so hard to keep mine healthy, but there they grew like weeds!

jill of alltrades from Philippines on September 08, 2010:

Although we don't need to bring plants indoors because we don't have winter here, I still enjoyed learning from this hub Sally.

Thanks very much for sharing!

idiot2death from I am here! on September 08, 2010:

I always love to see the beautifulness of nature, that's why gardening is my favourite hobby. Vote you up!

FlyingPanther from here today gone tomorrow!! on September 08, 2010:

Sally, Great hub as always.I my self aint ready to let go of the summer at all as I watch the leafs take a fall for fall.

Keep up the great work.

Love always.

FlyingPanther

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 08, 2010:

Steph, I shiver at your news! Our average first frost date here is October 15, just a short five weeks away now, and I hate to see it come.

Jerilee, you bring up a good point. Most of us "up north" tend to think of all of Florida as a tropical paradise. But Florida has many areas that do experience frost, and all it takes is one light frost to do a lot of damage to a tender plant. Here, bringing houseplants indoors for the winter means adapting plants to an alien environment for approximately six months, but in your area perhaps bringing in tender plants for a two-week period is the opportunity to do some of that cleaning and inspecting, and probably pruning and propagating!

Jerilee Wei from United States on September 08, 2010:

An excellent topic for gardeners, even here in Florida we sometimes have to bring our plants in for the winter (usually about two weeks) or at least offer them a blanket in our rare below freezing point nights.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 07, 2010:

Audry, you are lucky indeed. I used to have a sunroom with skylights in which all kinds of plants flourished during the winter, often much to my surprise. But you are right, you have to know how to keep them alive, and not all plants respond the same way to the same conditions. It's a matter of knowing your plants and knowing your environment, too.

Stephanie Marshall from Bend, Oregon on September 07, 2010:

How fortuitous that you published this hub? I live in the high desert region of Oregon and we have such a short growing season. The thermometer has dipped to freezing a few times already over night. Excellent tips for gardeners and others who love plants.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 07, 2010:

Great tips and love the pictures....I'm so fortunate to have so many windows here and so much sun but even so, you have to know how to keep them alive!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 07, 2010:

Thank you for your kind and supportive comments, viking. Hope these tips work well for you.

L M Reid from Ireland on September 07, 2010:

Great information on this hub and I will certainly take your advice. I love my plants and want to do all there is to protect them.

marisuewrites from USA on September 07, 2010:

Yes, and there are many incidents where foster care agencies have engaged kids in caring for plants and vegetable gardens which have in turn aided them as they dealt with stress, gangs. These kids developed a more nurturing personality, and increased their attendance to school. Who knew?

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 07, 2010:

For sure, I'm going to take you up on your offer, Annemaeve. What would Neil's wife and I do without our eager helpers? LU2

annemaeve from Philly Burbs on September 07, 2010:

What about step #11, get daughter to carry heavy pots inside for you? Ready when you are!

Love you, love your hubs.

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 07, 2010:

Samsons1, thanks so much for reading and leaving your good words. And voting, too!

H,h, I'm always so pleased that you stop by to read and comment. Thank you so much!

Sherri (author) from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 07, 2010:

Neil, do you mean to say that, after working alongside your wife and observing her skills, your black thumb hasn't greened up just a little bit through all the years? I don't believe it. I think you are too modest. :) Thank you, my friend, for your always warm and supportive comments. You never cease to put a smile on my face.

Marisue, I very much like what you had to say about foster children. And your words make me think about teaching a youngster to swim. There's a huge difference between throwing him off the dock, and patiently letting him acclimate himself with your guidance. In the first instance he may drown or at least fear water for the rest of his life; in the second he may blossom into a champion swimmer. A garden is just one big metaphor, isn't it?

Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 07, 2010:

Thank you for your great tips and well written hub.

Sam from Tennessee on September 07, 2010:

voted up & useful! very good article and advice, well written...

marisuewrites from USA on September 06, 2010:

Oh My, I see many mistakes I've made in the past. There is so much wonderful info here, I will re-read and print off for a reference and I bet many others will as well. I love the Christmas cactus flower and I'm sure I would have re-potted the aloe, but your tips make sense.

It reminds me of parenting foster kids...their new environment was shock enough, so we phased in the "re-potting" as gently as we could as they grew in strength to change.

That's true of any of us really. When we first moved back to Oklahoma, being in a strange house left us feeling lost. I quickly brewed coffee, and lit a candle, doing something to bring in familiar aromas.

We can learn a lot from handling plants, and nurturing them, and then applying those skills to our lives and caring for others.

Once again, you published a hit!

proudgrandpa on September 06, 2010:

You, my friend are amazing. You always do such a great job on your hubs. Since I have a black thumb I have to follow the strict instructions of my wife. She, like you is thorough and takes good care of our plants. If I am really good for a sustained period of time she will let me water and weed the outside plants but I only get to carry the houseplants back in when she is supervising. I will share these tips with her and she will think I am so smart.....well after 25 years I don't think it will work. I will just fess up and tell her Sherri is the smart one. Thanks, NEIL