What you should know to help your houseplants make the transition

One of the best things about houseplants is that you can bring them outside with you in spring. Wherever you spend the most time—on the porch steps, at the patio table, around the fire pit, on the deck or around the pool—can be filled with color, texture and fragrance. Your plants will appreciate the warmer temps and fresh air just like you and me.

But with the cooler temps of fall near freezing at night, it’s time to think about transitioning your houseplants back indoors. Most houseplants are actually tropicals and will start to show signs of distress after too many frigid nights outdoors (once it drops to below 45 degrees or more). And who wants that? 

So let’s cover a few things that will mean a smooth transition from outside to inside for your precious dual-citizens:

Keep things clean.

We wouldn’t begrudge a bug its home. But if the plant your resident insects call home is the one you’re ready to bring inside, you may want to take some action. Check your plants for tiny insects like spider mites and aphids and remove them. Just to be safe, you can always use a hose or pitcher of water to wash off the leaves and wipe them gently with a soft cloth. You can also treat with neem oil, a natural pesticide oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem evergreen tree.

Repot if needed.

If your plant has grown over the summer, take this opportunity to repot it into a container that is at least two inches larger than the current one. Consider it your chance to add a little color or texture to your indoor space. You can prune up a bit, too, but no more than one third of the plant and be sure to mirror that level of pruning for the roots before you repot.

Take it slow and steady.

Coming inside from a spring and summer outdoors is like coming out into the sun after being in a dark movie theater. The change is a shock to your system and it takes a while to adjust. Moving from outside to inside is a jolt to your houseplant’s system, too and one that can be better managed with a slow and steady transition from one environment to another.

As you can imagine, the amount of light and humidity your plant will be exposed to will change quite a bit. So begin by bringing in your plants at night, then moving back outside in the morning. Gradually and over the course of 2-3 weeks, increase the amount of time your plants spend inside until you keep them in full time for the winter.

Make changes to water and light.

Inside for the winter, your plant won’t need nearly as much water as it did outdoors. So check frequently, but water only when it’s dry to the touch.

And even though your plant can thrive indoors, you need to make sure it’s getting enough sunlight. If you still have your plant tag (most people don’t), check for light requirements. If not, try Googling your plant to see how much direct or indirect sunlight it needs.

If you’re not sure of the type, you can take a photo and email it to us or even bring your plant into the garden center for identification and advice on care.

And when spring comes around again next year and daytime temperatures begin to crest the high 40s during the day, you can begin to reverse the transition. Bring your plants outside for the warmest parts of the day (back in again when it gets chilly), until they can be outside with you full time to enjoy the warmth again.