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How to Prep Plants Before Bringing Indoors for the Winter

Bringing your plants indoors for winter does not sound like a challenging task. But you might be surprised to find how detailed that process can be.

Without following the right protocol when transitioning your outdoor plants inside for the winter, you risk harming your plants in more ways than one. That’s why it is crucial to take time to learn how to prep your plants for this seasonal change.

In this article, you can find all you need to know about how to bring your plants indoors to protect them during the cold winter months.

How to prep plants before bringing them indoors for the winter.

Choose Which Plants You’ll Bring Indoors for Winter

Begin by identifying which plants you can and want to bring indoors for winter. Many of the plants that need to come inside during the winter are tropical and subtropical plants. While these plants can survive year-round in an indoor setting, they are unable to survive the winter temperatures in many parts of the United States.

However, plants that hail from warmer regions are not the only ones that people bring indoors in the winter. It is common to move herbs inside when the weather begins to change. The same is true for some perennials as well.

No matter which plants you want to be indoors for the winter, you’ll need to know how to prepare them first. Read on to see how.

Know When to Bring Outdoor Plants Indoors

Timing is critical when bringing outdoor plants indoors for the winter. You’ll need to pay attention to the daily low temperatures in your area to get the right timing for bringing your plants inside.

As you might expect, each of your plants can have varying degrees of tolerance for cold weather. While one plant may perish, another could survive an additional five to ten-degree drop in temperatures.

With that said, it is best to ere on the side of caution and brings your plants in sooner rather than later. Notice when the nighttime temperatures fall below 50 to 55 degrees. At that point, you should begin the process of bringing your plants indoors and keep the inside temperature at 65 or more.

Pot or Repot Your Outdoor Plants Before Bringing Them Inside

Some of the plants you wish to bring indoors may currently be growing in the ground. If that is the case, you’ll need to remove those plants from the soil while keeping their root balls intact.

Once you have lifted a plant from the soil, you can select a container to house it over the winter. The container you choose should be large enough to accommodate the plant’s spreading roots. It should also have excellent drainage capabilities to help you avoid waterlogging your plant.

On the other hand, the plants you want to bring indoors may already be in containers. If that is the scenario you’re working with, you should check to see if your plants need to be repotted.

By transferring a potted plant to a new container, you’re giving it more room to expand its roots and overall size. To take advantage of this time to repot any plants that need it.

Clean Your Plants Before Bringing Them Inside

The top task you’ll need to perform to prepare your plants to come inside for the winter is cleaning. Ensuring your plants are clean before you set them inside your home will go a long way towards keeping your plants in good shape and keeping your home clean as well.

There are two main ways that you’ll need to clean and neaten your plants before you take them inside. The next sections explore those cleaning methods and why they are so important when transitioning plants indoors.

How to Remove Bugs from Your Plants

When the time comes to move your plants out of the cold, you should begin by cleaning them. One of your most important goals at this stage is to remove as many bugs as possible from your plants.

Any bugs that linger on your plant when it comes inside can afflict your plant’s health and run amok in your home. Since neither of those outcomes is preferable, take your time and do a thorough job of removing bugs from your plants. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Fill a large bucket with water and mild soap
  • Place your potted plant, including the pot and soil, into the bucket
  • Let the plant soak in the soapy water for 20 minutes
  • Spray any non-submerged leaves with soapy water or insecticide
  • Skim debris off water’s surface before removing plant
  • Remove the plant from the soapy water
  • Scrub the container to make sure it is clean

After following those steps, the chances that your plant will carry aphids, mealybugs, or another pest into your home are low. Now you can move on to the next step in prepping your plants to live inside for winter.

Check out: How to Get Rid Of Gnats in a Vegetable Garden

Trimming and Pruning Your Plant

Before your plants come inside, you should trim and prune each one as you see fit. When pruning, your goal can be to improve the aesthetic appearance of your plant before you bring it inside. But there are some more practical reasons to do so as well.

Mainly, removing dead parts of your potted plants before bringing them inside will make it less likely your plant will contract a disease. Germs and insects tend to congregate where your plants are decaying. So, removing those parts will only help your plant’s longevity when living indoors.

Find any leaf or branch on your plant that is either dead, diseased or broken. Then make a clean cut to take that part of the plant off. Once you’re done, your plant will be ready to allocate all of its growing energy towards its most healthy stems and leaves.

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: 5 Simple Steps to Root Prune and Repot a Root Bound Plant

Find the Right Indoor Location for Your Plants

Once your plant is clean and pruned, you can bring it into your home. But before you do, you should know the precise location where your plant will live.

Again, each plant will call for a different set of growth conditions. Review that information to ensure your plant will make a smooth transition indoors for the winter. Below are some of the essential considerations you should make when finding the right indoor location for your plants.

Find the Right Lighting for Your Plants

All plants need light to grow, and the light needs of your plants will be just as vital when living indoors as they would be when they are outside. That is why the location you choose for your plant should provide the ideal type and quantity of light for the given species.

In many scenarios, the plants that gardeners grow indoors enjoy bright but indirect light. When these plants sit in direct sunlight, their leaves often scorch. When they don’t get enough light, they wilt and die as well.

Try placing such plants close by to a large window that receives sunlight but not directly in the sun’s rays. That setting will give many of the most popular house plants the perfect type of light they need.

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: 6 Best LED Grow Lights for Indoor Plants

Pay Attention to Your Plant’s Moisture Needs

Along with sun exposure, moisture also plays a large role in how your plants survive indoors and out. What you should also know is that watering needs will change for a plant that has recently moved indoors.

Soil Moisture

Generally, the plants you bring inside will need less water than they normally would. While it can be helpful to soak the soil upon bringing your plant indoors to help it transition to its new environment, overall watering needs will drop soon after.

Rather than following your regular watering frequency, wait until the soil in your plant’s container is dry. Waiting that long will help you avoid overwatering, which can be especially harmful in winter.

Check out our guide to using a soil moisture meter.

Indoor Humidity

While you monitor your plant’s soil moisture, you should also attend to the air moisture. Vents and radiators can create dry and drafty air conditions, which is a stark contrast to the humid conditions that many house plants love.

Try adding a humidifier to the room where you’ll store your plants. For some houseplant species, it is beneficial to mist their leaves to mimic the tropical climate they call home.

A Few FAQs About Bringing Plants Indoors for Winter

Before we conclude, here are a few answers to some of the most common questions that people have about bringing their plants indoors for winter.

Do You Have to Debug Plants Before Bringing Them Indoors?

Getting all of the bugs of your plants before bringing them inside is a fantastic idea. If you don’t, the bugs on your plant may spread to other plants in your home. In the worst-case situation, many of your favorite plants may die.

What Should You Spray on Plants Before Bringing Them in for Winter?

If you want to debug your plants before bringing them inside, one of the best ways to do so is to spray them. Use a mixture of mild soap and water or an insecticide to deter any insects that may be living on your plants.

When Can I Put My Plants Back Outside in Spring?

After storing your plants inside, there will come a time when you can bring them outdoors once again. Wait until outdoor temperatures are consistently above a minimum of 55 degrees. At that time, it will be warm enough for most of your plants to last outdoors.

Final Thoughts on How to Prep Plants Before Bringing Indoors for the Winter

Moving your plant’s indoors for the winter can be a surprisingly in-depth process. So, any time you want to bring your plants inside and away from freezing temperatures, all you’ll need to do is follow the advice above. If you do, your plants will stay healthy all winter long and ready to return outdoors in spring.


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