Tips for Moving Houseplants Indoors for Winter

Most years, northern gardeners who bring their houseplants outside for summer would be done moving houseplants indoors by now. But with the warm temperatures we’ve had this fall, there may be a few hoyas, pothos, citrus trees or other houseplants still hanging out on the patio. The time for moving will soon be upon us, though.

houseplants arranged indoors

Tip: Clean your windows to give your houseplants the best light.

Moving houseplants indoors after spending the summer outside requires some care and observation by the gardener to make sure the plant thrives indoors and doesn’t bring with it too many bugs and diseases. A few tips for moving day:

Inspect Plants Thoroughly

Before moving houseplants indoors for winter, give them a thorough inspection and cleaning. Check the plants for insects, particularly the underside of the leaves, where bugs tend to hang out. It’s a good idea to wash the exterior of the pot and hose down the leaves very thoroughly as well, both for neatness and to reduce what else may come into the house. You may also want to spray the leaves with an insecticidal soap to further reduce the insect pests that may come indoors with the plant. There are several organic options for this.

Give Them a Grooming

Your plants probably grew a bit while outdoors—lots of sun will do that! If the leaves are looking ragged, you may want to prune back any leaves that look dead, diseased, brown or scraggly. This is also a chance to reshape the plant, if you’d like.

Consider Replacing Some Soil

Fall is NOT the time to repot a houseplant into a larger pot. (Trust me, I learned this the hard way.) However, you may want to dig out the top 2 inches or so of soil in the pot and add back some fresh potting soil. One reason to replace soil when moving houseplants indoors is that insects are most likely to have laid eggs in the top of the soil. This may clean out some of that generation. It also gives the plant a light touch of fertilizer. If you really want to put the plant in a new pot for design or aesthetic reasons, choose a pot that is about the same size or smaller than the one the plant is in now.

plant on steps

This Norfolk Island pine is all cleaned up and ready to go inside for winter.

Mulch?

Last year, I had a terrible problem with fungus gnats, which is the most common pest you will see when houseplants come back inside after the summer. I tried traps, which kept numbers down but didn’t eliminate the problem, but then read about using sand as a mulch on problem plants. I bought some sand at the hardware store and added about a half inch layer on top of the soil of the pot where the gnats were breeding. This pretty much ended the issue. The sand creates a barrier that the gnats can’t penetrate to lay their eggs. Watering disrupts the sand, but you can put it back in place after watering or push some of it aside for gentle watering.

Create the Right Environment

You probably know where you’ll be putting the houseplants after moving them back indoors. Make sure the area has the proper light for each plant and consider giving your windows a good cleaning after bringing the houseplants back. You’d be amazed how much light can be blocked by dusty or grimy windows. Plus, you’ll feel more cheerful with all the extra light, especially as the days get shorter.

Give a Houseplant!

If you find you have more plants than you have space for (how could that happen?), consider giving one to a friend or young gardener. There are many easy houseplants for beginners and plants that are safe for homes with  dogs and cats.

—Mary Lahr Schier

 

2 Comments

  1. Linda Dvorak on October 15, 2021 at 7:05 pm

    Is it possible to move French thyme inside for the winter? It is not winter hardy here.

    • Mary Lahr Schier on October 18, 2021 at 7:08 pm

      You should be able to do that. Cut the plant back or take just a section of the plant and repot it for indoors. Give it indirect light until it’s accustomed to indoors, then move it to bright light. You may want to give it a half dose of a light fertilizer (fish emulsion, for example) every couple of weeks. Good luck!

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