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Time to ready houseplants to come back indoors

Published: Thu, October 24, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Dan Burns

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

Shorter days and lower temperatures signal that it’s time to move houseplants, which have spent the summer outside, back inside for the winter.

But before you move them into your home, some important steps should be taken.

Some insects that feed on houseplants may have made their way onto your plants over the summer.

The higher temperatures indoors could trigger a population explosion and spread the hitchhikers to your other plants.

Other insects that thrive in the cool, moist environment of the plant’s pot or saucer may not harm the plants, but would not be welcome indoors.

Mice, slugs, sow bugs, pill bugs, centipedes, spiders and a host of other creatures can be unknowingly brought inside.

Great fun, perhaps, for the kids and the cat, but far less for the homeowner.

First, move the plant to a table or potting bench so you can inspect it closely.

Is the pot cracked? Is the plant root-bound?

This is a good time to re-pot it. If the plant is in good shape, clean the pot. Remove any mineral deposits, algae, or plant material.

If you can safely remove the plant from the pot, do so. If not, shake and tap pots vigorously to disturb the bugs and encourage them to leave their hiding places.

Many insect interlopers like the space at the bottom of the pot and the drainage hole is a convenient way to come and go.

Next, inspect the plant for any insects that may have invaded it while outside: whitefly, aphids, spider mites and other common pests.

Sometimes, leaves that are curling or deformed can indicate the presence of insects. If any are found, take appropriate action.

If the plant is insect-free, wash it with a garden hose and allow it to dry.

It is a good idea to give the plant a precautionary wash with insecticidal soap, which is safe for people and pets. Follow the instructions on the label. Some plants can be burned by insecticidal soaps.

Over a period of about a week to 10 days, allow the plant to gradually adjust to indoor conditions by moving it indoors at night and outside during the day. Slowly reduce the amount of time outside until it is accustomed to being indoors.

Once inside, it is common for some leaves to yellow or drop as it acclimates to the lower light and humidity levels.

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