How to prepare houseplants for cold temperatures

How to prepare houseplants for cold temperatures

Everyone in Southeast Texas is enjoying the best weather we’ve seen in months – which is a gift indeed! Our weather has ranged from exceptional daytime heat to exceptionally mild days and downright cold nights. We can finally turn off the air conditioning, open our windows, and fully enjoy outdoor activities for the next several months. We’ve been getting a taste of fall weather over the past week with so much more ahead of us. Gardeners, if you haven’t already, it’s time to start moving your favorite plants and houseplants to protected locations or bringing them back indoors. Of course, there are a few steps in the transportation process to ensure plant injuries are minimized.

If you’re like me and haven’t started yet, now is a good time to think about placing several temperature-sensitive ornamental plants spread outside on balconies, patios, and decks and distributing them around the yard during the warmer months. It’s time to prepare for the cold temperatures, before we receive the initial cold spell of winter. Thoughtful preparation saves time and reduces frustration. Another option is to procrastinate and wait until the last possible moment before moving plants. But from experience, working outdoors during cold weather is not a fun experience, nor is trying to decide where to put a bunch of plants at the last minute!

Before moving plants indoors, move them from intense outdoor sunlight to locations with dappled sun, which will reduce plant injury from diminished sunlight. This is a signal to the plant to prepare for dormancy. Moving plants to different outdoor areas that have less sunlight also gives gardeners more time to find the best location indoors that will provide the most sunlight for the plants.

The most important step is to carefully inspect each plant for pests. This will take some time, but it is important to search every leaf (top and bottom), stem, trunk, and soil surface for insects, frogs, lizards, birds, or anything else you don’t want to fly or crawl around. When the plants are outside, use a garden hose to wash them with a gentle blast of water to remove most pests and insects. Remaining pests, such as aphids or mites, can be removed by spraying affected plants with insecticidal soap. Once the pests are removed, carefully inspect each plant again, removing diseased or dead limbs and leaves. Although I do not recommend pruning (as it encourages new growth), it is sometimes necessary if the plant has grown too large. It may also be necessary to replant the plant. If so, prune the roots while the plant is out of its old pot. The pot should be no more than 2 inches larger than the previous pot if the roots are tightly bound.
It is a good idea to acclimate plants before exposing them to life indoors. Start the process when night temperatures are around 55 degrees or a little cooler. Bring them inside and bring them back outside during the day. Gradually increase the amount of time over the next two weeks until all the plants have migrated indoors. If you have a large collection of plants (this gardener has literally hundreds of plants), this simply isn’t possible, although I’ve started putting them inside a greenhouse.
Choose an area inside your home that is between 60 and 75 degrees during the day. Plants hate temperature fluctuations and the windy conditions common near doorways, where the temperature fluctuates greatly.
The humidity inside our homes is typically around 40% or less. Plants need higher humidity levels. Therefore, misting the plants several times a day or using a humidity tray filled with pebbles and water will provide the required humidity. As the water evaporates, the humidity level around the plants increases. Check the water level every few days and refill as necessary.
Houseplants do not need a lot of water indoors. If the soil surface is moist, the plant does not need water. Test the soil with your finger about one inch from the surface. If it is dry, add water. Do not overwater your houseplants as they are more susceptible to root rot during the colder months. It is also important to note that plants should not be fertilized in a dormant state. Wait until spring to fertilize the plants, which encourages growth.

Place the plants near a sunny window, as they need as much natural light as possible. They need sunlight to maintain their daily carbohydrate needs. If natural light is limited, grow lights can be used and are low cost and very effective.
Plants placed in the garage require sunlight or grow lights and a heat source. Garages tend to get very cold when temperatures drop. Back porches can make great temporary greenhouses. Simply frame it with 1×1 wood strips and surround it with plastic, then add a small fireplace to provide warmth.
For a long time now my fellow gardeners. Let’s get out there and grow ourselves for a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time!

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