Written by SGG Garden Manager Lisa Bartlett
If you have let your houseplants ‘holiday’ outside under a tree or on your deck for the summer, by early fall, it’s time to get them ready to bring inside. We started doing just that this week at the gardens. Many of our orchids, begonia and other tropicals suffer damage if temperatures dip below 45 degrees (F).
- Inspect plants for any insects and disease. If you soak your plants in a tub of lukewarm water for 10 to 15 minutes it will force many hidden pests like ants, roly poly bugs and snails out of your container before bringing them inside.
Roly Poly Bugs (Armadillidium vulgare) eat dead vegetation and mulch.
- Remove any yellow or weak growth. If the plant is weak in general, it will struggle even more inside and may not be worth bringing in.
- Now is a good time to think about taking cuttings of annual flowers, like coleus, begonias, and geraniums to save money for next years plantings. They are among the easiest to root, even in a glass of water.
Coleus ready for propogating for next spring and summer color.
- To prevent your plants from going into shock it’s best to gradually decrease the light they receive before moving them indoors. Some years we don’t get that luxury and it frosts before we are ready, just be prepared for leaf loss from shock. If that happens cut back on watering. They won’t have the leaf service to take up water from the roots, leading to root rot.
- A south facing window will provide the brightest light. Just remember, sunlight through a window can act as a magnifying glass and could burn tender foliage.
- Keep plants away from vents. While we like our homes warm and dry, most house plants come from a tropical humid climate. If possible, place your plants on a cookie sheet or plastic tray filled with gravel and water. The evaporation from the tray will create the humid environment they will thrive in.
- The number one killer of house plants is love. Don’t over water! Stick your finger in the soil up to your knuckle, if it’s moist don’t water. It’s also a good idea to let the plants tell you when they need water. Boston ferns that are normally a pretty, bright, green will take on a greyish green color when they are thirsty.
This is an easy and attractive plant stand you can make with plastic trays that hold gravel and water for humidity and an old ladder. It will also help to keep water from dripping on the floor when you do water.
- What to do if you find pests even after you did everything right? I don’t like to use chemicals, especially inside a home in the winter however, I have included a few easy to make yourself ‘pesticides’ that are safe for you and your pets, and they are easy to make!
Safe Pesticides You Can Make
People in India have used this oil for centuries. It also makes a potent mosquito repellant. I got mine on Amazon. To make your own neem oil spray, add ½ ounce of a high quality neem oil and ½ teaspoon of mild liquid soap to two quarts of warm water. Stir slowly. Add to a spray bottle – use immediately.
Salt or Baking Soda Spray
This works whether you have insect pests or powdery mildew. For treating plants infested with spider mites, mix two tablespoons of Kosher, Sea Salt or baking soda into one gallon of warm water, add a drop of dishwashing liquid and spray infected areas. Remember, you will have to check again in 10 days in case you missed any eggs or adult mites. You should only have to spray once or twice for powdery mildew.
If you don’t feel up to making your own pesticide, Safer Soap is a nice commercial alternative. I have even found it at my local grocery.