Weekly Ag Update

Weekly Ag Update

Moving Houseplants Inside for the Winter

Photo of Mike Roegge

Mike Roegge
Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
roeggem@illinois.edu

Weekly Crop Update 10-8-14

By Mike Roegge, University of Illinois Extension, Adams/Brown/Hancock/Pike/Schuyler

The following article was written by Kari Houle, our Horticulture Educator.

Cooler weather means that it's time to get ready to move houseplants that have been outside all summer back inside. We've already had very cool temperatures this fall and I myself have already pulled plants inside and then put them back outdoors once the temperatures were warm again. Unfortunately though, sooner than later, we'll need to bring our plants indoors for the long winter, but taking time for your plants to adjust to their indoor growing conditions will help them make the transition easier.

Outdoors, houseplants usually grow faster – brighter light intensity, higher humidity, more optimal growing conditions as compared to growing indoors. The transition from outdoors to indoors has a reduction in both light intensity and humidity which can cause shock to our houseplants resulting in yellowing leaves, dropping leaves, or falling flower buds. Slowly transitioning them to lower light conditions by placing them in a high light location and gradually moving them over a few weeks to their final indoor location can help to minimize any stress or shock on the plant.

If you've added new plants to your collection over the summer finding the right location indoors for lighting is critical and it also helps to re-evaluate our places for our existing houseplants to make sure that we have the best location chosen. Houseplants fall into one of three light requirement categories - high, medium or low light conditions. Few plants fall into the low light category but some examples include Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Heart leaf philodendron, and Boston Ferns. Low light plants are ones that can tolerate being placed farthest away from direct light sources or windows.

Humidity also impacts our houseplants and when you think about how you feel in the middle of winter when the furnace is running and the humidity is low, imagine how our houseplants are feeling. To help offset the lower humidity conditions, consider grouping plants together or setting out shallow trays of water near your plants or placing plants on top of trays with pebbles and having water sit amongst the pebbles. You don't want the plants sitting directly in the water which can cause excessive moisture conditions and lead to root rots or other problems. As the water evaporates humidity is increased around the plants.

Indoor growing conditions also means paying attention to our watering and fertilization practices. When indoors, plants grow slower and potting mixes don't dry out as quickly. Outside our houseplants grow faster and we are more likely to use fertilizer to keep up with the growth, but once inside that growth will slow down and excessive use of fertilizer can cause poor and weak growth or damage to the plant. Often times during the winter we may not need to fertilize at all as with the shorter days and lower light conditions plant growth is slowed and it's a period of rest for our plants.

Overwatering is also a common issue with indoor houseplants. The frequency with which we water plants outdoors slows down once we bring them back indoors. Outdoors watering might occur once a day during the heat of summer but maybe only once per week during the winter months. Always monitor soil moisture and water when the top inch or two of soil is dry. Also, allow water to drain out the bottom of the pot as this helps flush out extra salts that can build up in the soil from fertilizers. Make sure to drain away any extra moisture so that your plant isn't sitting in water or if you have your plant on top of pebbles you can allow the water to stay to help increase humidity. The bottom line is to always check the soil before watering as a wilting plant is not always a good indicator of whether a not a plant is in need of water. Wilting can indicate either dry or excessively wet soils.

Also make sure to double check your plants for any unwanted visitors before bringing your houseplants indoors. Look for any insect issues that might be present such as aphids or mealybugs and treat with recommended methods before bringing them in. Throughout the winter continue to monitor for any insect or disease problems. If any plant is heavily infested it may be time to consider discarding the plant and starting over.

Taking a few extra steps can help ensure that your houseplants will make an easier and less stressful transition to indoor growing conditions. As we speak, my houseplants along with a few other oddities (such as Lemongrass and Avocado) are residing on my dining table slowly making the transition and it's going well so far.

For more information on houseplants visit the University of Illinois Extension website on Houseplants. http://urbanext.illinois.edu/houseplants/

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