As summer draws to a close, we tend to focus on enjoying the last harvest of the season, clearing out spent plants and planning next year’s garden. But indoor plants need our attention now too.
Houseplants that have spent the holiday season outdoors need a proper transition back into the house to avoid shock.
If they grew out of their containers during their holiday, this is a good time to replant them in a larger pot. Choose a container no wider than 2 inches wider than the current pot and replant in fresh potting mix, then water well.
Overgrown plants can often be divided into two or more. Spider plants (Chlorophytum), peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), flamingo flowers (Anthurium) and peacock plants (Calathea) are among those with clumping root systems that can be divided.
If you find it difficult to remove the plant from its pot, check if roots have emerged from the drainage holes of the container. If so, pull or cut off any loose root fibers to free the plant.
Then, to divide the plant, carefully shake off as much soil as possible. Find the junction where the plant’s top growth meets its root system, and gently pull the roots apart or slide through them with a sharp knife, making sure at least three healthy leaves are attached above each root section. Repot each new plant into its own container using fresh potting mix. Keep the plant well watered (but not soggy) until new growth appears.
Whether repotting or dividing, all outdoor houseplants should be moved into a shaded location for a week or so to gradually acclimate them to lower light levels before moving indoors. Continue to water during this transition.
At the end of the week, inspect all plant parts for insects – including under leaves – and thoroughly rinse the leaves and stems with water to avoid hitchhiking pests into your home. To play it safe, you could spray the plant with a diluted Neem oil solution.
Complete the move before nighttime temperatures drop below 55 degrees outside.
PLANTS WHICH ARE UNDER
Houseplants that have not left their windowsills during the summer will also need special care as the length of the day shortens and the sunlight slows down their growth.
Although not technically dormant, most houseplants settle down during the fall and winter, which means they will need less water and often no fertilizer until spring. Overwatering during this time will risk root rot and the proliferation of fungus gnats, which breed in mossy soil.
For most plants, it is best to wait until the top inch or two of soil is dry before watering. You can check for moisture through your finger knuckle-deep into the pot.
Slower growth also means slower healing, so postpone pruning until spring. You can, however, trim dead or dying leaves or leaf tips during the winter.
Most houseplants are native to the tropics and therefore require more humidity than is typically found in most homes, especially in colder areas where heating systems tend to circulate the air. to dry. Run a humidifier in the room or place plants on a tray of water filled with pebbles, which will create a moist microclimate around them as the water evaporates.
Never place plants on working radiators, and keep them away from cold drafts and heat vents.
Next spring, when the temperature is reliably above 60 degrees, it will be safe to move most plants outside. However, tender tropicals like African violets are domesticated, so leave them.
Jessica Damiano writes regular gardening columns for The Associated Press. Her Gardening Calendar was named a winner in the Garden Communicators International Media Awards 2021. Her Weekly Dirt Newsletter won the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2021 PCLI Media Award. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.
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