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10 Tips on How to Prepare Plants for Winter Indoors

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

Learn how to bring your indoor plants inside for winter with my 10 pro tips.

Learn how to bring your indoor plants inside for winter with my 10 pro tips.

Preparing Plants to Come Indoors for Winter

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.

This article will comprehensively cover the following to keep your outdoor plants healthy when you move them indoors for winter:

  1. Environment
  2. Light
  3. Containers
  4. Pests
  5. Pruning
  6. Cleaning
  7. Watering
  8. Frost
  9. Stress
The Christmas cactus blooms profusely indoors in winter after a summer outdoors.

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

10 Tips for Bringing Outdoor Plants Indoors

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.

1. Micro-Environment Assessment

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. Mimic Light Conditions

Prepare to mimic the relative light conditions the plants grew in during the summer. For example:

  • Spider plants and Christmas cacti will do better in brighter conditions than those tolerated by low-light lovers like Schefflera.
  • Choose a window with southern exposure for plants that do well in brighter conditions or a window with northern exposure for those that can do well at lower light levels.

3. Consider Your Pets

If you have pets who like plants, and many do:

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  • 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, but 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 Same Containers

Don't repot your plants when you move them indoors for the winter; this can cause stress.

  • 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. Closely Inspect Your Plants

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.

  • 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 insecticidal soap, apply it after the final shower and air drying. (See Tip 10 below.)

6. Prune Dead or Damaged Leaves and Stems

Keep your plant healthy by removing dead organic matter regularly.

  • Cut off any dead or damaged leaves and stems.
  • In between pruning each plant, disinfect your cutting tools with household bleach followed by a clean water rinse to avoid infecting a healthy plant.
  • Remove all dead and rotting plant material from the surface of the soil.

7. Don't Prune Healthy Leaves and Stems

Refrain from pruning away healthy leaves and stems.

  • Heavy pruning will encourage new growth, just as repotting will.
  • Remember that we want the plants to rest, not to embark on a growth spurt.

8. Scrub the Outside of Plant Containers

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. Clean Each Leaf on Larger-Leaved Plants

Take the time to clean the leaves of your larger-leaved plants, such as Schefflera and rubber plants.