If you have tropical plants in your garden, as I do, it is time to bring them inside for the winter. Some plants can handle the transition pretty well, while others will definitely be stressed. Here’s how to give both types the best chance of staying healthy and being able to happily return outside in the spring.
De-bug the plants
Check for signs of spiders, spider mites, mealy bugs, aphids and any other little beasts. Mist and wash plants gently but thoroughly with a natural insect control such as hydrogen peroxide mixed with water 50-50, or use a commercial organic product like BioSafe. Garrett Juice with 2 ounces of orange oil added per gallon can be drenched through the soil to kill fire ants and other pests.
Acclimate the plants
First move plants to a spot that doesn’t have heating, such as an attached garage or a breezeway. Give plants a week or two in that place. The shock of switching to dry indoor heat all at once can stress plants. They need transition periods to adapt. If that’s not possible, mist the foliage with water daily for the first week or so in the new environment.
Choose a very bright place
Some tropical plants can do well in front of a window, but others will do much better under skylights and in glass garden rooms.
Some plants will do fine near a south-facing window. Keep in mind that even in very bright places, the light intensity will be far lower than outdoors. An outdoor greenhouse would be best for the plants.
Don’t fertilize plants during this phase
Also, the watering requirements are greatly reduced indoors, and there’s no need to prune plants at this point, even if they have some frost-damaged leaves. Wait until spring, when new growth begins.
Gradually prepare for going back outside in the spring
A couple of weeks before it’s time to go back outdoors, take your plants to a shaded area outside for two or three hours a day. Don’t radically change the amount of sunlight all at once to avoid sunburn. After keeping them in shaded areas outside for a couple of weeks, begin to put them in direct sunlight for longer periods. Wait until the danger of frost has passed and nighttime temperatures stay above 45 degrees. When you move your plants outdoors, water them well.
True, this is all a little troublesome, but it’s worth it to keep important plants undamaged and healthy for another season. I’ll be doing all this soon with my dracaenas, rubber plant, pothos, aglaonema, Boston ferns, bougainvillea, staghorn fern, asparagus ferns and others.