As temperatures continue to dip, it’s time to reassess your plant mom strategy. Specifically, it’s time to move your plants indoors—and prepare those plants for the cold months that lie ahead.
Adjusting your routine is key for keeping your plants healthy from season to season. And even if you don’t have a great track record for keeping plants alive (guilty as charged), there are some easy steps you can take to get keep your plants straight-up thriving all winter long.
“Bringing plants inside in the fall needs to be a step-by-step process to ensure success,” Lisa Eldred Steinkopf, author of Houseplants, The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Indoor Plants, explains. “Many people mistakenly leave their plants outside too long until it is colder than most tropical plants want to be.”
So Step 1 is pretty obvious: Get those plants inside.
OK, but when do I move my plants inside?
Steinkopf’s recommendation: the moment the temperature dips below 50 degrees F. If you can, move your plants to a shady location outside before that happens, so they get used to lower light levels before becoming full-time indoor plants.
Be sure to wash your windows, too—those plants need all the light they can get. “I cannot stress that enough!” Steinkopf says. “Our windows need to be clean so that nothing is blocking even a fraction of the light that our plants will need to grow well.” Removing window screens is also a good move.
Be sure to inspect your plants before moving them inside.
“Unwanted pests, such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites can thrive indoors,” says Jennifer Morganthaler, clinical instructor and orchard manager at Missouri State University.
To avoid unwittingly bringing these minuscule uninvited guests into your home, make sure to wash the foliage with insecticidal soap or use a neem oil spray to treat pests prior to moving plants inside.
Try to put your plants near windows, if possible.
Maximize light by putting your plants near windows. But minimize harsh conditions by keeping them at least four inches away from cold, drafty air. “Most plants do well at indoor temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees,” Morganthaler says. “Avoid areas with cold drafts, as some tropical houseplants can suffer injury if the temperature drops below 40 degrees.”
Beware of hot air, too. Avoid placing plants too close to heaters or fireplaces, as hot air blowing on the plant can cause the leaves to brown and die.
Watch out for humidity.
The air inside our home dries out when we crank the heat in the winter. Many houseplants will need extra humidity during these colder months to keep leaf tips from turning yellow or brown.
You can mist your plants a couple of times a day with water, but that’s not really a long-term solution for achieving the humidity plants crave. Steinkopf recommends using in-room humidifiers or placing plants on pebble trays filled with water, which adds moisture to the air.
You can also try putting your plants in the bathroom (near a window if possible), which provides the warm, damp environment plants crave.
Keep checking on your plant babies.
This tip might be the hardest to adhere to, but similar to caring for any living thing, it’s important to be aware of your plants’ needs.
“The key to keeping your plants healthy and thriving is simply to pay attention to them,” Steinkopf says. “Make sure they are never too dry or standing in water. Keep them clean and give them the right amount of light.”
A good rule of thumb when it comes to quenching your plants’ thirst is to allow the upper inch of soil to dry out completely before watering your plant.
Follow these tips, and you will be on the path toward houseplant success this winter. If things go south quickly, though, they make some really, really high-quality fake plants these days.
Originally posted on SheKnows.