A: Like most of us, our plants hate to see summer camp end! Their well-being depends upon the amount of light, water and nutrients they receive, as well as appropriate ambient temperature and humidity. The greater the difference between their outside and inside environments, the more stresses the plant will experience. Now is the time to make the move, before evening temperatures get too chilly.
Here are some basic ways to make sure the growth your plants enjoyed this summer isn’t reversed this winter:
1. Consider repotting. Thanks to its summer growth spurt, your plant may need a bigger pot. If so, repot using soil appropriate for the plant type. Flowering plants, foliage plants, bromeliads, orchids, succulents, cacti, ferns and African violets all have different needs. Choose a pot that is suitable to the plant’s needs (size and drainage) as well as your own (cost, weight, durability, etc.).
2. Prevent indoor pest problems. Before bringing it inside, give your plant a good bath by softly washing off soil and debris from leaves and stems. Look for insects that may have made themselves at home in the plant or its pot. Check leaves for pests like mealy bugs, aphids and spider mites. Most can be removed with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Treat larger infestations with insecticidal soap. (Use a soft cloth to wipe foliage and stems with a solution of two teaspoons per gallon of water.) Discard heavily infested plants for the sake of other plants.
3. Provide appropriate light. Ideally, locate plants in light similar to their outdoor setting. First, acclimatize the plants to their new darker inside conditions by placing them in bright areas in your house for three or four weeks. Then move them to their final winter spot. Don’t be surprised if plants drop leaves after coming inside. As long as defoliation is not extensive and slows down, the plants will adjust.
4. Water wisely. Applying too much water can suffocate plant roots and too little water causes growth to become erratic and stunted. Consider plant type, size, container volume, soil moisture and light conditions when watering indoor plants. If your plant prefers a high humidity environment, rather than misting use a humidifier or place the pot on a shallow tray filled with pebbles or lava rocks and water.
5. Fertilize in moderation. The secret to fertilizing indoor plants is to apply small amounts of fertilizer as the plant grows. Since plants grow faster outside, less is needed once they are indoors.
For more see The University of Georgia’s “Growing Indoor Plants with Success” (publication B 1318) at www.caes.uga.edu/publications.
Leaf Tip of the Week: Divide and share your houseplants with family and friends so they can enjoy what your plants did at summer camp!
Garden and lawn advice is provided by Rolando Orellana, your University of Georgia/Fulton County Cooperative extension agent. For your specific gardening questions, call the north Fulton extension office at (404) 613-7670.