Pro Tip: Don't Make This Mistake When You Bring Your Plants Inside For The Winter
As the seasons change, so do the needs of our beloved plants. Of course, one crucial plant-care step come colder weather is bringing certain plants back inside if they've been basking in the sunshine all summer—but is that all there is to it? We asked plant experts for their top seasonal tips to find out. Here's what they had to say.
The biggest plant mistake to avoid this winter.
Just as a refresher, indoor plants should be brought back inside once nighttime temperatures in your area dip below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, gardening expert from Bloomscape Lindsay Pangborn previously told mbg. "Most plants prefer temperatures above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so be mindful of the forecast if you plan to keep your plants outdoors through the fall," she adds.
Once it's time to bring your plants in, founder of The Bloom & Grow Garden Society Maria Failla tells mbg the biggest mistake to avoid is not checking for pests. She likes to rinse plants with a hose (a shower also works here) to wash pests away before even settling them in their indoor spot.
"Be sure to look at both the top and underside of the leaves," Pangborn notes, adding to carefully inspect the stems and soil and remove any dead and decaying leaves where critters like to hide. If you do spot a few insects, she says, gently remove them. And if there's an infestation, "an organic neem oil insecticide spray can be used to help deter the pests," she adds.
Once your plants are nice and clean, it's still not a bad idea to "quarantine" them from other plants, just in case. This tip comes from Failla, who waits several weeks to monitor for pests before bringing them near her other plants.
Other tips to keep in mind.
Now that your plants are back inside and pest free, here are some additional plant-care tips from Pangborn to keep in mind this winter:
Don't water as much.
Potted plants don't need as much water during colder months since the growth rate of most plants slows down considerably during this time. "You can monitor your plant's moisture levels regularly by checking the soil using your finger," she notes.
Run your humidifier.
Lots of plants like humid conditions, and having the heater running constantly isn't exactly conducive to that. So, Pangborn says, "Setting up a humidifier or consistently misting can create more moisture for your plant."
Keep temperatures consistent.
Even if you're not changing the temperature on your thermostat all the time, the temperature around windows and heat sources (like baseboards, radiators, etc.) can fluctuate throughout the day. This isn't great for your plants, so Pangborn recommends moving your plants away from areas like that, "in order to make sure the average day temperatures range from 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and at night, no lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit."
Go easy on the fertilizer.
Many plants don't grow much, if at all, in cold environments, which means they won't need fertilizer. If your plants aren't actively growing, Pangborn says, plant food can actually harm them, "since they will not fully utilize the nutrients and it can upset the plant's natural growth cycle."
Dust while dormant.
And last but not least, when plants go into a dormancy stage during the cold seasons, it makes them more susceptible to pests, spider mites, and other insects who love to hide in dirt and dust. With that in mind, Pangborn says it's important to remember to regularly wipe plant leaves and remove any dead or yellowing ones with sharp, clean scissors.
All in all, plants become a bit more low maintenance in the colder months. They won't need as much water or fertilizer but should still be regularly dusted, inspected for pests, and kept in the right environment (temperature- and humidity-wise). While they may not look like they're growing much, proper care throughout the winter can ensure a healthy growing season for your plants come summertime.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.