Moving Maintenance: Bringing your Houseplants Indoors or Out

Bringing your houseplants out into the warm weather is tempting, we know.  It seems like a great idea at the time too.  Your plants are looking a little dismal from the winter, and it’s a good opportunity to liven up your outdoor entertaining space with plants!  But when summer heat starts making your porch look more like a scene from The Jungle Book, you begin to rethink your initial enthusiasm.

Maintenancing Houseplants

Don’t despair, we can give you the 411 on how to maintenance your houseplants before moving them indoors or out.  The following tips will help discard your jungle scene for the trendy Architectural Digest look you were originally going for.

Pruning Your Houseplants

If your houseplants have become unwieldy, it’s time to prune.  Pruning doesn’t require a degree in horticulture, or even a keen eye.  A good rule of thumb is to trim the houseplant’s top in equal proportion with the depth of its roots.  To clarify, if your plant’s roots are 15” deep, you may trim your plant height back to 15”.

Trimming your plants into small homages of the ‘Flat-Top’ is not the goal.  To avoid flashbacks to popular haircuts of the 90’s, keep these three rules in mind for basic pruning guidance:

1 Prune any limbs that are dead, diseased or deformed.

2 Make your cuts flush with the adjoining limb. Who wants to look at plant stubble?  Old limbs sticking out all over the place can make your masterpiece look worn out.

3 When topping your plant, give your cuts a small angle.  Cutting at an angle allows the water to roll off the cut, rather than to sit and possibly create a fungal issue. 


Repotting Houseplants

Repotting your plants into a slightly larger container will give the roots some much-needed breathing room.  Clean out the inside of the pot if it has been used before, then add a fresh bag of potting soil.  Make sure not to use soil from the garden, as it may be harboring fungal disease or insect eggs.  (Honestly, who wants their Snake Plant’s soil birthing some gigantic spider in the dead of winter?)  You should repot your plants once a year, even if it’s back into the same container.  The intent of an annual repotting is to renew your houseplant’s food source and assess if a bigger pot is needed.

Preventing Shock

Imagine working every day in an office with a ton of natural light, then suddenly moving into the basement and working eight hours by lamp light.  Besides your emotional upset, you’d probably look worse too.  Your skin would get pale, and you may look more tired and drawn because of the lack of light.  Plants are living things people!  When you bring your houseplants indoors or out, gradually expose them to the change in lighting, (if necessary).  A Carolina room is a great place to start out your leafy friends.  Expose your plants to the new lighting gradually, but you can expect some leaf loss no matter how carefully you prevent shock.

Watering Requirements for Houseplants

There are a million watering devices sold on TV and in garden centers, but the unvarnished truth is that you’re the best judge.  Let the surface of the soil dry before watering.  It’s best to stick your finger down into an inch of the soil, if it’s moist— it’s fine.  If it’s dry, it’s time to water.  Another concern is watering according to the specific plant’s requirements.  Use apps like Leafsnap and LikeThat Garden to identify the plant’s genus and species, and then Google it.

Cutting Costs with Cuttings

Besides the visceral gratification of bringing your houseplants indoors or out, there is a financial benefit too.  You don’t have to run out and buy another Croton or Snake plant.  The same applies to your Summer annuals.  You can let your annuals die with the frost like last year, or… you can take some cuttings inside to cut down your costs of planting in the spring!

To bring annuals indoors, cut a 6 inch, fleshy (meaning green and flexible) piece off each of your annual plants.  Annual cuttings usually root easily in a glass of water and make for some nice color on the kitchen counter.  If you find over time that you have trouble rooting certain annuals, add a cutting of Coleus to help the rooting.  It is a little-known fact that Coleus naturally excretes the root growth hormone called Auxin, shortening the time it takes for your science projects to establish.

After growing roots, feel free to pot your little pops of color.  You can get small plastic trays or 4” pots from most garden centers, including Lowes and Home Depot.  It may seem like too much work, but it’s a great introduction to science for those of you with little ones.

Happy Planting!