Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on October 1, 2001. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Prepare outdoor plants for spending time inside
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Plants that have been outside all summer need special care before they are rushed inside this fall to protect them from cooler temperatures.
Norman Winter, horticulturist with the Mississippi State University's Extension Service at the Central Mississippi Research and Extension Center in Raymond, said outdoor plants should be eased inside.
"There is a tremendous difference in the light available to plants outdoors and indoors," Winter said. "Move them from their current location outside to a shady spot for a few days to allow them time to acclimate to the lower light conditions."
Before bringing plants indoors, check them carefully for insects. Outdoor plants can harbor pests that will damage them and have other insects that can take up residence in the house.
"You will be quite embarrassed if you invite the preacher over for dinner and roaches come crawling out of the plants to partake of the pot roast," Winter said.
James Jarratt, Extension entomologist, said ants, millepedes, roly-polies and cockroaches are often found in patio plants. Cleaning the pot and plant removes a lot of these insects and makes the potted plant a lot less friendly for them.
"Before you bring the plants inside, clean out all the dust, leaves and other debris that has settled on top of the soil over the summer," Jarratt said. "Elevate the pot and drench it with about a gallon of water. That much water should physically flush out any insects living inside."
Winter also recommended thoroughly hosing down the outside of the pot and the plant to remove any other insects.
Fall is a very good time to repot plants that need it.
"Water the plant well so the soil sticks together, then knock the plant gently out of the pot and inspect the root system," Winter said. "If you have a really tight root ball, you may need to repot it to the next size container."
Repot with a light, sterile soil mix available at garden centers and nurseries. Heavy potting soils may be cheaper, but tend to hold too much water and don't provide the aeration, and water- and nutrient-holding capacity of the lighter soils.
"If the plant is already as big as you want it to get, trim both the roots and the plant," Winter said. "Prune the roots by one-third, then prune one-third off the top to match the root loss."
When bringing plants inside, remove any dead or diseased foliage, and pinch back growth for a tidy appearance. Plants don't grow as vigorously indoors, so they need less water. Never let the soil get soggy, but irrigate as needed so that water runs through the soil and out the hole in the bottom of the pot. Fertilize about every fifth watering using a dilute fertilizer mixed with water.
"The leading cause of death for indoor plants is over-watering," Winter said. "We are so used to pouring on the water daily when they are outside that we forget to check the moisture level indoors."