Plant Migration

Mary Fitch, Anoka County Master Gardener


Summer has slipped away again. Days are getting shorter and the Canadian geese, with all their honking, are getting ready for their migration. But there is another migration that I am preparing for; the migration of plants back into my house after a summer outdoors.

 I have a lot of house plants, and a good portion of my plants are tropical. They all do very well for themselves outside during the summer. I have a schefflera that grew 18 inches in height in the past three and a half months and rubber plants that filled out nicely. New plants that I rooted in May are now very nice potted plants. It is time to move them back in for the winter. When the temperature remains at 45 degrees Fahrenheit or below at night, it's time to move tender plants back indoors. My husband usually comments that the house gets bigger in the summer and smaller in the fall. OK, let’s get started.

Preparing for the move: First, I examine my plants for the presence of insects. I do not want to bring insects into the house, so I look for any evidence of insects. Evidence can include signs of insect feeding such as discolored leaves, spider like webs, shiny or sticky substances on the leaves. When I find insects and they are limited in number, I remove them by hand. If removal by hand is not feasible, I sometimes use a small quantity of mild soap (½ teaspoon per quart of warm water) and a soft cloth to wash off the plant’s leaves. Sometimes I use a low impact insecticide (pyrethrin, neem oil, or insecticidal soap). I do not use insecticides with imidacloprid which is toxic to bees and other pollinators. When using any type of insecticide, it is important to read labels and make certain that the insecticide does not harm the specific type of plant that has the insects you’re are trying to remove.

Second step is cleaning the plants. Washing off plants is important. I use running water to rinse off plants; the size of the plant determines the source of the water. Rinsing includes the top and bottom of all the leaves.

Third step is cleaning the pots. There are several reasons to clean the pots. One, they look better. Two, it keeps the dirt outside. Three, clean pots are less likely to have hitchhiking bacteria, fungi, or other unwelcome visitors that might affect other plants that you have in the house. Areas to be concerned about cleaning are the pot bottoms, the rim edges and any plant saucers or tubs.

Move plants indoors to a bright area and provide humidity. Avoid over-watering your plants in the winter months. Don’t fertilize the plants until a month before you plan to put them back out in spring. Have a great fall and good house-planting!

Here is a great resource to get answers for your questions about house plants: