How to Bring Houseplants Inside for the Winter

Many types of houseplants can thrive outside during the summer and spend the rest of the time indoors so long as you know how to bring houseplants inside for the winter. (There are also rules to follow for taking a houseplant outside for the summer.) The most important thing is to remember to start early and slowly reintroduce the plant to its indoor environment over the period of a couple weeks. Houseplants are adaptable to gradual changes but vulnerable to acute shock from a sudden, unexpected change to their living conditions.

For timing, it’s not too early to start bringing your houseplants indoors for short periods of time at the start of fall especially if you live in colder climates. In warmer locations, it’s not uncommon to leave houseplants outside well into the fall season, almost to the beginning of winter itself. For temperatures, some tropical plants may need to start moving inside as soon as the overnight lows start dropping below 60 degrees. Most houseplants, however, can continue to do well outside until the temperatures drop below 50 degrees. Some will even tolerate the cold until frost starts to set in.

When and How to Bring Houseplants Indoors for the Winter

  • Inspect, Assess and Move: If the plant is showing serious signs of wilt or discoloration, it’s unlikely to make a sudden recovery by being moved indoors. It may be best to bid adieu to that houseplant. Some wilting is not unusual, and the dead growth should be removed. In contrast, plants that have taken off during the summer may be pot-bound and ready for a larger container. It many cases, the houseplant will be fine over the winter but should be put in a bigger pot before the next growing season. You’ll also want to look for signs of pests. Remove any bugs you find on the leaves or soil and apply an insecticidal treatment. Finally, if the plant isn’t already in a shady spot, create shade for the plant to begin the acclimation process to lower light conditions.
  • Create Space and Start the Transition: This may include both a temporary holding area and a more permanent spot for the plant. By immediately reintroducing the houseplant to other indoor plants, you run the risk of spreading pests to multiple plants. If pests aren’t a major concern, you can let the plant start acclimating to its new permanent spot. Bring the plant inside overnight and back outside in the morning. Gradually increase the amount of time the plant spends indoors. Do your best to maintain a schedule, but if you don’t get it exactly right every day, the plant should be fine. Continue to inspect the plant for pests and other signs of distress as you move it back and forth.
  • Move the Plant to Its New Spot: After a period of a week or two, it’s time to move the plant to its new spot. This is another good time to wash leaves and apply an insecticidal treatment to ensure there are no insects trying to become last-minute hitchhikers. Inspect the indoor plants that will live near the transplant. Wash the leaves. Wash any nearby windows to maximize the amount of natural light getting to the plants.

Seasonal Houseplant Care

It’s easy to make the mistake that moving a houseplant inside for the fall and winter is a time to give it extra water. In fact, the opposite is true. Indoors, the plant will almost surely need less water than it did outside during the growing season. Be sure to closely monitor the soil’s moisture level and be prepared to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. The same can be said for fertilizer. Don’t dump a bunch of fertilizer into the soil thinking it will help the plant manage transplant shock. During the winter, it’s more likely to oversaturate the soil and expose the roots to harm. You can find more tips for season-by-season houseplant care.

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