After the holidays, when all the decorations are stored away and the weather has settled down to a pattern of cold dreariness, most of us welcome a touch of green to remind us of spring and summer. The time to start planning for that day is in August, not the day after New Year’s. Some of the outdoor plants we grow in July are perfectly capable of joining our houseplants to provide color as well as greenery all winter long.
Know your plants. Some plants (flowering plants and cactus) need sunshine and some (spathiphyllum and pothos) do quite well in low-light; some (ficus) hate drafts and some (most bromeliads) will grow for almost anyone. Before following general advice, make sure that your plant is suited to indoor culture and find out about any specific needs it may have.
Pamper summer campers. Give them all a thorough bath with insecticidal soap to stave off aphids and spider mites, re-pot if necessary and bring them in at least a week before it’s time to turn the heat on. Once the furnace goes on, they’ll be subjected to dry, hot air that will add to the shock of reduced light.
Take indoor plants to the “spa” when the outdoor plants come in. Give them a good shower, re-pot if necessary and give them their fall feeding of fertilizer. Check for pests, particularly spider mites or aphids that may have come in through the window on the morning breeze.
Find the brightest windows for sun-lovers to help make the transition. Set pots together in a utility pan with pea-gravel in the bottom. They’ll love the company and appreciate the humidity from the bit of water that sits in the bottom of the pan—but don’t soak their feet.
The Indoor Environment
Place your plants in an east- or south-facing window or invest in a grow-light to give plants some “sun-time” each week. Avoid strong sunlight in west windows, though, especially for low-light lovers. Plants will grow toward the light—turn each plant every week or so to keep it growing straight and tall.
Invest in a humidifier—your plants will benefit but it will also help save on heat in your house. Moist air doesn’t allow as much evaporation from skin (or leaves) as dry air.
Make your plants comfortable. Most plants like their habitat between 60 and 75 degrees F. ( If you have a programmable thermostat, set it a few degrees cooler at night. Besides saving energy, it gives plants a more natural environment.
Fertilize lightly if at all—plants need fertilizer when they’re actively growing and most of them are dormant (resting) during the “dim” months. Most plants appreciate a half-strength meal in early spring to perk them up.
Water according to your plant’s requirements and bathe occasionally. Irrigate until the water runs out the bottom drainage hole and let the pot drain completely. Gentle showers in the sink with lukewarm water will keep plants clean and nourish dry tissues.