Summer’s End for Houseplants

Most of my houseplants get a nice summer vacation in the garden beds or on the front porch from Memorial Day in May to Labor Day.  As Labor Day has come and gone, it is time to round them up and bring them in.

I don’t bring all of the houseplants in at the same time.   Some, like Azaleas and Japanese Maples, need a brief cold period- so they need to be rounded up and set aside to come inside in late September.  The rest will be rescued from hiding in window boxes and garden beds and put into containers.  The ones that go in the basement (like all of my geraniums) will stay outside as long as the weather holds.

Generally, when I bring plants in, I make sure they are well watered, in the appropriate containers and bug-free.  Ideally, back in early August I would have started checking these things, but as I haven’t…

I usually take a potted plant and knock it out of its pot to see how the roots are doing.  Then I can also see if sowbugs or ants have taken up residence in the root ball.  If no bugs, then I stick it in either the same or a different container as needed.  I make sure that each pot has good drainage and that the soil is right.  I use Fertilome potting soil, and that has worked well so far, although it is a bit pricey.

Generally, I don’t fertilize plants before I bring them in the house, except for the lemon tree.  I definitely don’t want to encourage winter growth.

I also prune them back to a manageable size and get rid of dead leaves, flowers and branches.  I spray each with insecticidal soap if I don’t see any insects, and if I do, I spray them every day for two weeks to interrupt the life cycle of pests.  Generally pruning is the best way to get rid of infestations.  Alas, the lemon tree always has its fair share of bugs, but that is a special circumstance and gets plenty of insecticidal soap for the meantime (as well as fertilizer).

Some plants are so ridiculously infested that they never return to the house… I usually lose one or two every year to unexplained causes.  This year I was lucky and have not lost any plants to infestation, although I did lose my Paph orchid to rot.  At least it will live on, here.

I also go through the garden to bring in some plants that are not quite hardy, or that I will attempt to force inside, including foxgloves and snapdragons- both of which did very well for me last year.  I usually wait on this until the first of October to see how much room I have for these bonus houseplants.

Don’t forget to site your houseplants in the right windows… most need as much light as they can get.

I’ll also take some cuttings of the dragon wing begonia for next year, as well as the hot pink coleus that worked so well in a container.  With any luck, I’ll be enjoying both all next year.  In fact, my generous Aunt gave me cuttings from five or six fun coleus that she had this summer, so next summer I should have a great display in shady containers back by the garage.

Although it was a lot of work, I enjoy bringing all of these plants inside so that I have the benefit of a little greenery during the long winter ahead.

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2 Responses to Summer’s End for Houseplants

  1. Gwen, I was wondering how you overwinter your Japanese Maples indoors. I bought 3 this year that I want to keep as pot plants, rather than planting them in the garden. I was reading Margaret Roach and she overwinters hers in her barn so that was the way I had thought of going, but you have sucess wintering them inside?
    Any info would be helpful.

  2. gwendolyngarden says:

    I have the same method as Ms. Roach– I bring them “inside” my unheated, detached garage. I think they need the cool period outside. I bring them inside the house just when the leaves are that spectacular shade of red, then, into the garage with them. I water them in the winter with controlled release water (a shovelful of snow). They should be fine as long as your barn is above zero degrees F. When it gets particularly icy, I cover them with some old sheets– and it has worked perfectly for our last two very cold and snowy winters.

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