By Michael Jenkins
The weather’s getting cooler in many places, and the promise of cold nights to come is in the air. While many of us have had months of thriving patio gardens, porch plants, and other cultivated outdoor spaces, it’s time to start thinking about how to protect our plants from the inclement conditions to come. While different plants have different needs, and our homes come in different sizes and layouts, the good news is that many outdoor plants can be successfully moved inside for the winter and then taken back out when the weather warms up. However, it’s not always as simple as just bringing a container indoors. Let’s look at some tips and tricks for bringing your plants inside for the winter.
Before we begin: not all plants are suitable to bring inside for the winter. True annuals—plants that put out seed and die back naturally at the end of the season—aren’t suitable for bringing inside for the winter. So your marigolds, zinnias, petunias, and the like are best let run to seed and cleared away. You can save seeds and replant next year.
The first step before bringing plants inside for the winters is a close inspection. Bringing plants inside can mean inadvertently bringing bugs, pests, and vermin inside with them. Giving your plants an extra-detailed look over before bring them in and treating for any bugs, pest, vermin, or infection problems can help keep your home clean and your plants healthy.
A second item to consider before bringing your plants in for the winter is re-potting them and/or refreshing their soil. The odds are pretty good that after a long season outdoors your plants have grown substantially and could use a bigger home. Aesthetic considerations aside, any container you used outdoors can be used indoors, but you may want to add a tray or pan or plant saucer underneath them to minimize leakage and mess inside the house. Even if you’re not re-potting to a larger container or grow bag, it’s time to refresh the soil by gently removing the plant and its root ball, and either removing old potting soil and adding new potting soil, or by removing roughly a third to half of it and mixing in compost to replace the volume. By either refreshing or replacing your soil, you’ll give your container plants the energy and nutrition they need to stay health indoors.
Now that you’ve cleared away any unwanted guests and refreshed your soil and/or re-potted your plant, the next step before bringing plants inside for the winter is trimming and pruning them appropriately. We’ve talked about trimming and pruning before, but there are some particular considerations before bring a plant inside for the winter. Generally speaking, the best approach before bringing a plant inside is to trim back any leggy or excess growth, any browning/wilting/yellowing leaves, and—depending on the plant—pinching off flowers, new growth, and buds. Even inside, plants often go dormant for the winter and this helps them store energy for the spring growing season to come.
With all that preparation done, so the next step is to find the right place to keep your plants indoors. Just as they do outdoors, indoor plants need appropriate amounts of sunlight, the right temperature range, and protection from excess wind and draft. A spot near a window might be ideal, or you may need to add some grow lights in order to keep them healthy and happy. So look around your living space and find the right place for your plants and add lights or shelter as needed. One tip we can offer is be careful around plants and heating/ac vents: these can throw a too hot or too cold draft over your plant that can damage foliage or dry out soil!
Once the plants are prepared and their new home is ready, go ahead and move your plants inside! Try to do so on a day when the temperature difference between indoors and outdoors isn’t too great, as plants can get thermal shock otherwise. Settle your plants in, give them some water, and enjoy your new botanical roommates!
We hope this blog helps you get ready for colder weather by bringing your plants inside for the winter. If you’re an indoor gardener or have some insights or tips for overwintering plants, please let us know in the comments or reach out on social media. We love hearing from you!