At summer’s end, indoor plants need attention too


As summer draws to a close, we usually focus on enjoying the last harvest of the season, clearing away wilted plants and planning the garden for next year. But indoor plants also need our attention now.

PLANTS THAT COME IN

Houseplants that have spent the season outdoors need a proper transition back indoors to avoid shock.

If they have outgrown their containers while on holiday, this is a good time to transplant them into a larger pot. Choose a container no more than 2 inches wider than the current pot and transplant into fresh potting soil, then water well.

Overgrown plants can often be divided into two or more parts. Spider plants (Chlorophytum), peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), anthuriums (Anthurium), and peacock plants (Calathea) are among those with clumping root systems that lend themselves to division.

If you are having trouble removing the plant from its pot, check to see if any roots have come out of the container’s drainage holes. If this is the case, pull or cut off any root fibers that have emerged to free the plant.

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Then, to divide the plant, gently shake off as much soil as possible. Locate the junction where the top growth of the plant meets its root system and either gently pull the roots apart or cut through them with a sharp knife, making sure there are at least three healthy leaves attached over each root part . Repot each new plant in its own container with fresh potting mix. Keep the plant well watered (but never damp) until new growth appears.

Whether or not repotting or dividing is necessary, all outdoor houseplants should be moved to a shady spot for about a week to gradually acclimate them to lower light conditions before moving indoors. Continue watering during this transition.

At the end of the week, inspect all parts of the plant for insects — including under the leaves — and rinse leaves and stems thoroughly with water to avoid hitchhiking pests into your home. To be on the safe side, you can spray the plant with a diluted neem oil solution.

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Complete the move before nighttime outdoor temperatures drop below 55 degrees.

Plants left indoors

Houseplants that haven’t left their window poles all summer also need special care as day length gets shorter and reduced sunlight slows their growth.

While not actually dormant, most houseplants are dormant during the fall and winter, which means they need less water and often no fertilizer until spring. Overwatering during this time risks root rot and the proliferation of fungus gnats that breed in moist soil.

For most plants, it’s best to wait until the top inches of soil is dry before watering. You can check the humidity by dipping your finger in the pot up to your ankle.

Slower growth also means slower healing, so postpone pruning until spring. However, you can trim away dead or dying leaves or leaf tips in winter.

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Most houseplants come from the tropics and therefore require more humidity than is common in most homes, especially in colder areas where heating systems tend to dry the air. Run a humidifier in the room or place the plants on a pebble-filled tray of water, creating a humid microclimate around them as the water evaporates.

Never place plants on working radiators and keep them away from cold drafts and heater vents.

Next spring, when temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees, most plants can be brought outside without hesitation. However, delicate tropical plants like African violets are couch potatoes, so leave them alone.

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Jessica Damiano is a regular gardening columnist for The Associated Press. Her garden calendar was recognized as a winner at the 2021 Garden Communicators International Media Awards. Their Weekly Dirt Newsletter was honored with a Society of Professional Journalists PCLI 2021 Media Award. Sign up here for weekly gardening tips and advice.

For more stories about AP Gardening, visit https://apnews.com/hub/gardening.



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