Bringing Plants Indoors for Winter


A woman with dark, curly hair watering her houseplants.

Stretch your garden budget by overwintering tender plants indoors.

The beauty of tender plants doesn’t have to end with the summer season. Moving plants indoors during the colder months can extend their growing season. Plus, plants that make it through the winter can be moved back outside the next year to help stretch your garden budget.

Tender plants to bring indoors 

Some of the most popular plants to overwinter indoors in pots are pelargonium, also known as geraniums, tender succulents and tropical plants like mandevilla.

Choose healthy plants for overwintering and avoid bringing diseased plants in. Space and light are too limited for most of us to fuss with a sickly plant that likely won’t make it through the winter anyway.

Give them a trim

While the plant is still outside, trim away any dead or damaged leaves. Cut back leggy growth so the plant can consume its energy during the winter.

Avoid bringing in bugs and dirt

Spiders, slugs and other pests might try to hitch a ride inside if you skip the process of debugging. Be sure to remove any debris, such as decaying leaves, from the surface soil.

To eliminate bugs like aphids and mealybugs, a bath might be in order. Fill a large tub with water and a small amount of mild dish soap. Lower the plant into the tub of water so the soil is saturated. Foliage that remains above water can be treated with the same dish soap solution applied with a spray bottle. Let the plant soak for about 15 minutes, then gently lift the pot from the water and let it drain well.

Any dirt that remains on the outside of the pot should be easy to scrub off after the soak.

Also, if you’re repotting a plant to bring indoors, consider using a commercial potting soil. Soil mixtures supplied by garden centers and big box stores are sterile and won’t have any pests.

Designate an indoor place with adequate light away from heat

As we move toward the winter solstice, daylight decreases each day. A south-facing window will help maximize life-giving light for most sun-loving plants. East- and west-facing windows are often a good choice for shade-lovers such as begonias and fuchsias.

Also consider nearby heat sources and vents when bringing  outdoor plants inside during the winter months. Plants directly in the path of heated air will dry out and experience water stress. If sources of hot air cannot be avoided, consider using a humidifier to increase moisture around the plants.

Ensure pots have proper drainage

When bringing in pots, make sure drainage trays are intact. Small cracks can develop over time and you don’t want leaking water to damage furniture or floors.

Fertilize only if necessary

As plants adjust to an indoor environment and less daylight, most will stop growing. Unless you notice active growth—like new leaves or elongated stems—don’t fertilize. If fertilizing is necessary, use about half as much as usual.

The time to increase fertilizing again is late winter or early spring when daylight hours increase.

Understand your plant’s lifecycle

A plant that loses its leaves may not be dead. For example, bougainvillea can go into dormancy and shed all its leaves. If a plant goes into dormancy, let the soil dry completely between waterings and suspend fertilizing until new growth starts. A quick search on the internet can help you understand the basics of your plant’s lifecycle.

Overwintering plants indoor helps your budget

Overwintering plants is one way to make your gardening budget go further since you won’t have to replace as many plants in the spring.

Another smart money move is to set up a dedicated Consumers savings account for garden expenses. Saving any amount each month will give you a financial head start on next year’s garden. For example, $30 deposited for each of the next six months will result in $180 available when you visit the nursery next March. Start growing your savings now to harvest the benefit next spring!

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