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Moving Houseplants Back Indoors in the Fall

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When the nights begin to turn a little chilly in the fall, it is time to move houseplants that were on summer vacation outside back indoors.


To successfully transition your houseplants indoors, there are a few important steps and considerations:

 Timing: The date to bring houseplants indoors varies with climate, but in general the task should be done before nighttime temperatures dip into the 40s (F). When your local forecast predicts a "morning low" of 50 or cooler within the next few days, make sure to take your plants inside. 

 Lighting: Even the sunniest location in your home does not offer as much light as the great outdoors. In the best scenario, you will plan ahead and move plants into a shaded location for a couple of weeks while they're still outside. You can do this progressively, moving them from sun to light shade for a week, then to deeper shade for a week, then finally indoors. If fall creeps up on you and you miss this step, you may find the plants drop some leaves in protest of the suddenly lower light, but they will likely recover. 

Once they're inside, position plants according to their needs. South-facing windows typically offer the most sun in the northern hemisphere, while northern windows are the dimmest.

Check for pests: Before taking your plants indoors it is crucial that you check both on and under the leaves, on the stems and at the base of the plant; and from the top of the soil to the drainage holes for pests that are making a home out of your plants and pots. To check the soil, remove the plant from the pot or submerge the pot in water for 15 minutes—this often causes any hidden hitchhikers to scramble from the soil. If your plants are lightly infested, treat with an insecticidal soap—one that is safe for plants, pets and you—before bringing indoors. Repot or discard plants that are heavily infested with pests.

Quarantine: If you have some plants that have remained indoors for the summer, don't place the returning plants near them right away. Keep the latter separated for a couple weeks to monitor them for any pests you may have missed and keep these from infesting the rest of your collection. 

Maintenance: Remove any dead or damaged leaves and give the plant a quick rinse with the hose before bringing indoors. Once brought inside, make sure to adjust watering and feeding needs because indoor conditions are much different than outdoors. Water less frequently but still thoroughly once plants are inside—a good way to know when to water is to feel the soil. If the top inch of potting is dry to the touch and it looks lighter in color, it is time to water. Plants that thrive in humidity need a little extra care inside our dry interiors. The easiest ways to increase humidity around houseplants is to cluster them together and to stand the pots atop saucers filled with gravel and water.

Some of our favorite houseplant books to recommend:

Learn the ins and outs of choosing and tending potted plants inside your home with Lisa Eldred Steinkopf's Houseplants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants.

Make more of your houseplants to keep or share by learning indoor propagation techniques in Root, Nurture, Grow by Caro Langton and Rose Ray.

Explore other houseplant enthusiasts' collections through photographs and interviews in Urban Jungle by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff.

Read more interviews with houseplant lovers around the world and glean plant-care advice in The Leaf Supply Guide to Creating Your Indoor Jungle by Lauren Camilleri and Sophia Kaplan.