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Sunday, January 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Home and garden

Gardening: Houseplants back in house after summer outing

Keep houseplants close to windows in the winter for the best light. (Courtesy of Pat Munts / COURTESY PHOTO)
Keep houseplants close to windows in the winter for the best light. (Courtesy of Pat Munts / COURTESY PHOTO)

Like many of you, I allow my houseplants to spend the warm summer on our deck. My collection includes a large jade plant, three equally large Christmas cacti and a real Southwestern desert cactus; all with family histories. While they were outside, they got plenty of light, water and air. Now that they are back inside, it’s a different story.

Once plants come indoors, they need to adjust to lower light levels and probably drier moisture levels. That will take a few weeks. Some plants may drop a few leaves which is to be expected when there isn’t enough light to support them. The fact that the days are getting shorter does help the plants adjust.

Getting the plants onto the proper watering schedule may be more of a challenge. When they were outside, they used more water given the warm temperatures and wind. Once the plants come indoors, they likely won’t need as much water because the lower light levels slow the plants’ growth and thus their demand for water. When they are in this transition period, it’ s easy to over water them.

Most houseplants need only slightly damp soil to survive. To maintain the proper level of moisture, stick your index finger into the soil down to the first joint. If the soil is slightly moist, then it’s time to water. Using lukewarm water, slowly pour some water onto the top of the root ball and let it soak in for a few minutes. If it is not coming out the bottom of the pot yet, add more until it does. Over the next few months, you may find that you will only need to water your plants every couple of weeks. Just keep in mind that signs of wilt are indicative of both under watering and over watering. If you over water a plant, empty the saucer of water and let the plant dry out.

Check your plants regularly for insect pests. When plants sit outside, they can pick up insect pests that don’t become obvious until you bring the plants back inside and they have a few weeks of warm indoor temperatures. Aphids, mealy bugs and scale are three common pests that hitchhike in. Mealy bugs and scale can be rubbed with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol or lightly sprayed with an indoor neem oil spray. Both treatments will dry out the insects. If an aphid-infested plant is small enough to be moved into a lukewarm shower, the aphids can be washed off the plant. Be sure to wash the undersides of the leaves. Resist fertilizing plants until March when the plants begin actively growing again.

On a funny note. When we brought in our plants this fall, a little tree frog hitchhiked in with them. It would start croaking in the living room and we’d try to find it to no avail. That is until one day, my husband was going down the basement stairs and noticed movement. The little creature was trying to make an escape. We put him back outdoors.

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