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Wed, March 20

Beat the chill: Bring potted plants inside

The weather is cooling dramatically for our potted plants. You do not need to say goodbye to them. Bring them indoors!

Many of us let our houseplants vacation on the patio over the summer and then bring them into the house when the weather conditions change. Perhaps you have several outdoor plants that you would like to winter over in your home.

Conditions differ widely between inside and outside your home. A gradual reintroduction to the indoors is best. Sudden changes in temperature, light, and humidity can be traumatic to plants. They may experience yellowed leaves, die-back, wilting and even death.

What we seek is a chance for these plants to rest during the winter and then in the spring begin a new growth cycle.

Before bringing any plants indoors, assess the fluctuations of temperature in your house. You want to keep plants away from direct cold air drafts and hot air vents.

Try to mimic the light conditions the plants grew in during the summer. Spider plants and Christmas cactus will do better in brighter conditions than those tolerated by schefflera, which enjoys low light.

If you have pets who like plants, prepare by finding spots where pets can't get them. Perhaps hanging pots or tall plant stands may be the answer.

Keep the plants in the containers they lived in while outdoors. This is not the time to disturb their roots, which would encourage growth.

Inspect plants for insects and diseases, and treat as appropriate before bringing plants inside. Check the outside of the pot for signs of soil or unwanted inhabitants. Soaking the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes will force insects out of the soil.

This is a good time to take cuttings of annual flowers, such as Impatiens, begonias, geraniums, and coleus. They root easily in water or sand and make attractive houseplants.

Take cuttings about 3 -4 inches long. Remove the bottom leaves and place the cut end into a mix of peat moss and perlite. Dipping the end in root transplant hormone encourages faster rooting. Keep the rooting medium moist but not wet. When the cuttings have rooted, transplant into small pots.

Cut away any dead or damaged leaves and stems. Disinfect your cutting tools with household bleach followed by a clean water rinse. This will eliminate infecting your healthy plants. Remove all dead and rotting plant material from the surface of the soil.

Refrain from pruning healthy leaves and stems. Heavy pruning will encourage growth. We want the plants to rest.

Scrub the outside of the pots with a steel wool pad or a nylon scouring pad dipped in a mild soap and water solution. This removes dirt and mold.

Take the time to clean the plants' leaves. Summer dust will further diminish the limited indoor light. Shower each plant thoroughly using a garden hose with a mist or shower attachment. Get underneath the leaves. Let the plants air dry.

You need to know the average frost date so you can bring the plants indoor before the first frost so they are not damaged or killed.

You should be able to extend your gardening time by bringing part of your garden indoors. A house with plants is a healthy place!

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