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Ready Houseplants For Winter Indoors
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
As the first cold front arrives in Mississippi, we face an ideal time to repot houseplants and get them ready to spend the cooler season indoors.
First, check to see if your plants need to be repotted. Water the plant well so that the soil sticks together. Knock the plant gently out of the pot and inspect the root system. If you have a really tight root ball, you may need to repot to the next size container.
Repot the plants in a sterile soil mix available at any garden center or nursery. I prefer light mixes that have good water holding capacity. Many bargain potting soils can become heavy and hold too much water. Lighter soils may be a little more expensive, but they provide superior aeration, and water and nutrient holding capacity.
If the container is as large as you want to handle, trim both the roots and plant. Lift the plant and prune the roots by one-third, then prune one-third off the top to match the root loss.
If the plants have been outside, inspect them closely to be sure they are not harboring insect pests. You will be quite embarrassed when you invite the preacher over for dinner and roaches come crawling out to partake of the pot roast.
Remove any diseased or dead foliage and pinch back growth to make a tidy appearance. If your plants have been outside on the porch or patio, they probably have received a tremendous amount of light compared to your indoor environment.
Bring plants indoors gradually. Move them from the current location outside to a shadier spot for a few days to allow some time for it to acclimate to lower light conditions.
Despite the fact that we struggle with low light, the leading cause of death for indoor plants is over-watering. We are so used to pouring on the water daily when they were outside that we forget to check the moisture level indoors.
But since the plants aren't growing as vigorously, if at all, they don't need nearly as much water. Check the soil to see if it is dry before watering. You never want the indoor plant to set in soggy soil.
When you do water, irrigate enough that it drains through the soil and out the hole. Then by all means, let the soil dry before you water again. There is no set calendar for indoor watering, only when the plant needs it.
Since the plant is not actively growing and we cut back on water, it stands to reason we shouldn't fertilize nearly as often. Use a dilute fertilizer mixed with the water about every fifth watering.
There is nothing that will make you enjoy your home more than healthy tropical plants indoors, so get them ready now for winter.