This post shares all about how to debug plants to bring indoors for the winter. After your plants have enjoyed their summer holiday, make sure you rid them of any pests they might have picked up by following these few simple steps.
- How to Debug Plants to Bring Indoors for the Winter
- What are the benefits of cleaning your plants?
- When should I bring plants indoors for the winter?
- Supplies for debugging plants to bring indoors for the winter
- Debugging Smaller Plants to Bring Inside
- How to Debug Large Plants to Bring Indoors
- How to Bring Outdoor Plants Indoors
- How to Transition Houseplants Indoors for Winter
- 4. Acclimate Your Houseplants
- 5. Maintain Your Indoor Garden
- Transition Houseplants Outdoors Next Spring
- How to Care for House Plants
- How To Acclimate Plants Indoors For Winter
- Before Bringing Plants Inside for Winter
- Acclimating Plants Outdoor to Indoor
How to Debug Plants to Bring Indoors for the Winter
I have been dreading The Great Plant Debugging of 2019 since getting the garden up and running. (Yes, I know I need to live more in the moment.) Debugging plants isn’t hard, but it can be time-consuming and messy. Especially when you have as many plants as we do!
I am planning to bring in some of our outdoor plants that we bought specifically for our backyard. Like the large yucca cane that we’ve had for a few years…he lives in the basement over the winter. I’m also planning to try to keep my potted rosemary alive over the winter (we’ll see how that goes).
However, I also have quite a few small- to medium-sized plants that I brought outdoors for the summer. The extra sun and humidity does wonders for many plants. My german ivy started plant, which was struggling along indoors over the winter with like 2 or 3 leaves, absolutely exploded with beautiful lush growth outdoors on the patio. And of course the succulents and elephant ears all did enjoyed the little vacation outdoors as well.
What are the benefits of cleaning your plants?
But with temperatures are dropping into the 40s here at night now, it’s time to bring many of these bad boys inside. And that means we need to talk about how to debug plants to bring indoors for the winter.
I don’t mean to suggest that all outdoor plants are infested with bugs. They are not. But the chances of them picking up a few friendly visitors are much higher outdoors, and it’s best not to bring them indoors. Debugging plants to bring them inside is also an easy process—so better safe than sorry, I say.
In addition to remove bugs and other unwanted pests from your plants, debugging them with a good soak really cleans them up. I don’t know about you, but I tend to let my houseplants get a bit messy with falling leaves and whatnot. It also gives you a chance to repot them with fresh, nutrient-rich soil if they need a bit of a boost.
When should I bring plants indoors for the winter?
When you should bring plants indoors for the winter depends entirely on the climate you live in and the type of plant you’re caring for. We live in zone 7 (find your zone here), so my very unscientific and lazy way of bringing plants indoors is to do it gradually when I have time in early to mid October. 🙂
I had a bunch to debug and bring indoors for the winter, so I started the process in late September and just worked on it when I could. We had some very hot and humid days in late September, so it was hard to bring the plants indoors. But I know that Maryland weather is so unpredictable, and the temperatures can turn on a dime. Best not to tempt mother nature in a four-season state.
If you notice your plants looking droopy, dull, or a bit sad, it’s probably past the time to take them in. They should rebound once you take them indoors and they get comfy in an indoor hibernation spot for the winter.
Above all else, everything needs to be in before your first frost date (look yours up here). Since general frost dates can be predictable, I’d give yourself some buffer room in there, too. Don’t push it—frost can destroy many houseplants.
Supplies for debugging plants to bring indoors for the winter
(Affiliate links below. You can read more about that here.)
- Mild soap, I used biodegradable Sal Suds, which is a great gentle all-purpose cleaner. I have also used dish soap. If you use dish soap, make sure it doesn’t have a degreaser or anything else harsh in it.
- Tarp or large thick black contractor trash bags (we don’t have a tarp)
- Bucket, the largest you have
- Hose or sink
- Sturdy rubber gloves
- Neem oil spray or other natural insecticidal spray
Debugging Smaller Plants to Bring Inside
I’m going to chat about debugging smaller potted plants to bring indoors first. I had a bunch of these and did them mostly the same way.
Step 1: Fill a soapy bucket
Fill a bucket with water and soap. I don’t measure mine—I just squirt enough in to get some good suds going. I love the Sal Suds for that reason—the cleaner is concentrated and foamed up really nicely. It makes me think it’s debugging the plants extra well. Although that’s probably just in my head. (It’s also the same stuff I used to clean our outdoor rug.)
When I was working on debugging a couple of smaller plants one evening after it had gotten dark, I used our sink instead of a bucket. I filled the sink with soapy water, brought the plants in, and set them immediately into the sink to soak.
Note: You don’t have to replace the soapy water solution for each plant you soak. However, I’d recommend starting with a fresh tub of soapy water if yours is beginning to look nasty.
Step 2: Soak and spray (if necessary)
Soak for about 15 minutes. Enough to kill off any unwanted visitors. If you still have foliage above water, make sure to turn it and ensure the soapy water has a chance to soak every part of the plant. If you can’t submerge the entire plant, grab your neem oil and give all of the foliage a thorough spray down. Don’t do this inside.
Note: If your plant doesn’t have a drainage hole, you can still use this method. But it’s best to do it on plants with drainage holes (which most outdoor planters have anyways). If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, you’ll want to remove the plant and soil from the pot after soaking it so it can air out. Then repot.
Step 3: Scoop and tidy
While the plant is soaking, scoop out things that float to the surface. Bark, sticks, soil clumps, dead foliage, whatever. Keep the water as debris-free as possible so you can reuse it on the next plant.
Step 4: Remove, rinse, repot (if necessary), and dry
Once your plant is done soaking, remove it and rinse off all of the soap residue you can. I like to run a few rounds of fresh water through the plant (like I’m watering it) to flush everything out the drainage hole.
Now it’s time for the plant to dry and fully drain out the excess water. You can take the plant out of the pot and lay it on its side if you want—especially if you’re planning to repot it in fresh soil or a larger pot. I did that for quite a few of mine. Otherwise, just let the water drain completely, let the plant dry out a bit, and bring inside.
I let most of mine dry in the backyard on a thick black contractor trash bag, but these pictures are from a few plants I was working on at night after R had gone to bed. So they are on the counter on a kitchen trash bag. 🙂
Want more plant care tips? You’ll also love my guides on how to take care of snake plants, how to take care of pothos plants, how to take care of rubber plants,how to care for elephant ear varieties, and how to care for philodendron
How to Debug Large Plants to Bring Indoors
The steps above probably answer most of your questions about how to debug plants to bring indoors for the winter…unless they are really big! I have a stunning Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig) that has just exploded this summer. It is so beautiful. Between this plant and my stunningly large yucca cane, I need a debugging solution other than soaking. So here’s what I do.
Step 1: Spray neem oil
First I spray down all visible areas of the plant with a neem oil spray. Try to really get into the nooks, crannies, and undersides. I’m really not afraid to go overboard—I soaked my plants. Then let that sit for about 15 minutes while you work on soaking some of your smaller plants.
Step 2: Flush out soil
Squirt a bit of your mild soak around the top of the soil and begin watering the plant with your hose. This will mix the soap in with the water. Make sure the soil gets completely soaked. I did two rounds of this.
Then fill a bucket with soapy water and dump it on the plant from above a few times. This will rinse off the neem oil (down into the soil) and also give the foliage a proper rinse with water.
Step 3: Rinse and let drain
After I’d assaulted my plants with soap water, I used the hose on its shower setting to give the plants a good thorough soaking of plain old water. Then I set them out in a sunny spot to fully drain and dry out the foliage.
A few hours later, I took the plants inside and put them in their desire spots. Don’t forget to add a drainage saucer if necessary. I like the cheap plastic ones from the home improvement store because they (mostly) blend in.
I think I’m going to build a little stand for this plant. I love it in this space, and I think there’s enough light to keep it happy here. But It needs just a bit of a boost to feel less crowded, I think.
- Keep only healthy plants. If something has been struggling all summer under the best of conditions, it is not going to improve indoors. Time to face the compost.
- Never bring in a plant with pests or diseases. Don’t try to convince yourself that you’ll quarantine the plant until it’s been coaxed back to health. Problems spread more quickly among indoor plants than in the garden. There are no natural predators of insects in the house and indoor conditions can be ideal for a disease to spread. Check all plants thoroughly for any signs of problems, before you bring them indoors.
- Give priority to your favorite plants, the ones you’ve been coddling for years, like a bay tree, anything you’ve trained into a standard, and sentimental favorites. Of course, expensive splurges are worth the effort, too, if you have the room.
- If the plant would look good as a houseplant, bring it in and use it as one. Many people have the light to successfully grow winter geraniums, fuchsia, begonias, and even passion flower, in full bloom. They may not look as lush as they would outdoors, but it’s still nice to have something blooming in winter and they’ll be ready to start blooming outdoors early in the spring.
- If you have the room, consider bringing in some small pepper or tomato plants. These are actually tropical perennials and given enough light, will continue to produce fruits all winter. Tomatoes need a large pot. You’ll have more success growing a compact, patio variety. Cherry tomatoes and small-fruited peppers like chilies or cherry varieties will fruit easiest and give you a higher yield. Just keep in mind that there are no insects or gentle breezes indoors to pollinate your plants. That will be up to you.
How to Bring Outdoor Plants Indoors
When frost threatens, it’s time to move many of your outside plants indoors. Many tender bulbs, annuals, herbs, and tropical plants will only survive the winter inside. Here’s advice on which plants to bring indoors this fall and how to winterize plants and pots.
When to Bring Plants Inside
True annuals and plants that we grow as annuals (considered tender perennials in southern regions) cannot survive cold winter temperatures. But there’s no need to say farewell to these plants forever! Many “annuals” can be brought inside, even tender plants that need a winter dormancy period. These come indoors before nighttime temperatures dip below 45°F (7°C). As fall approaches and night temperatures reach about 50°F (10°C), start bringing the plants inside for the winter.
Most tropical plants will suffer damage at temperatures below 40°F (4°C), a few even below 50. You will need to act well in advance of any actual frost or freeze to acclimate them.
Where to Put Plants
Even though we have a greenhouse attached to the house that gets plenty of sun and the temperature in there doesn’t usually drop below 45°F, I still have a hard time finding room for everything. Luckily for me, many of these plants would undergo a dry period in their native lands and don’t mind being shoved under a bench to rest.
The greenhouse fills up fast, especially when the pots are big.
If you don’t have a greenhouse and have a lot of plants that need high humidity, think about creating a shelf or area to group these plants together. Some folks mist their indoor plants and—while this does help—it only lasts for a short period. A better long-term solution is the use of a pebble tray under your plants. Line the trays with waterproof material, add a layer of gravel, and place the pots on top. Keep the gravel moist. If you have hanging plants, perhaps you want to install some ceiling hooks. It’s also a good idea to clean your windows—both inside and out—to ensure that plants will get adequate light this winter.
Which Plants To Bring Inside
You may need to make some choices about what’s worth keeping and bringing indoors. Which plants are your keepsakes? Which are the most expensive to replace? Also, keep only the healthy plants and not plants with disease or pest problems. Your indoor lighting will be important, too. In winter, even a west or south facing glassed area has only the winter light intensity of a shady area in the summer.
Plants which can be brought inside fall into two groups:
- Plants that require a winter dormancy period.
- Plants that can remain actively growing through the winter months.
This canna will get a winter rest when it is cut back and dried out.
Plants Requiring Winter Dormancy
Some tender bulbs require a “dormant” time in a cool place where the temperature is still well above freezing. Many of these bulbs are expensive and worth over wintering. Examples of tender bulbs are:
- Calla lilies
- Elephant ears
- Tuber roses
For tender bulbs in pots, just stop watering them, cut off the dying foliage, and tuck them away in a dark, cool, spot. Check the soil moisture periodically.
For tender bulbs in the ground, dig them up and cut the foliage back. Brush off as much soil from the bulb as possible by hand. Place them in a warm, dry area for 7 to 14 days to dry. This removes excess moisture. Pack them loosely in a cardboard box or open container, separated by shredded newspaper or dry peat moss. Tuck away in a cold, dark place. Pot them up in the spring about a month before you want to put them outside for a jump on the season.
Read my post on how to store tender bulbs for winter.
This Bolivian begonia will keep blossoming for a few weeks indoors before it drops its leaves for the winter. We have kept the tubers going, in the same pot, for several years.
Plants That Keep Growing in Winter
Many of my annuals, herbs, and tropical plants will keep growing through the winter and some will even reward me with a bloom or two. These will need a prime spot in the sun, but they don’t seem to mind the cool temperatures.
- Fibrous begonia
- Geranium (if given plenty of light)
It’s best to acclimate the plant to a lower lighting level for a few days before moving them fully indoors. For example, move a plant that’s in full sun outdoors to a shadier area outside. If your plants have been used to bright light, try to put them in similar light indoors, like a south window or under plant lights on a timer for 16 hours a day. Do not be too worried about leaf drop as the plants adjust to interior conditions; they will recover.
Also, if your plant needs some pruning to temporarily reduce its size, prune it before bringing it inside.
This hibiscus will sulk and drop its leaves eventually, but perks right back up in spring.
The fuchsia are a bit of a bug magnet, so I cut off their leaves and water the roots just enough to keep them living. In spring they will start up again with fresh new growth and be in bud when it is time to go back outside.
The cymbidium produces its first flower stalk as soon as we bring it in and will bloom for much of the winter.
We keep the geraniums blooming all winter as well, but if you lack a sunny place for them you can let them go dormant by cutting back by about half, putting a bag over the top and watering only if they begin to shrivel. Some people even remove them from their pot and hang the bare-root plants upside-down in a dark, cool place, spraying with water occasionally to keep them from shriveling up. Soak the bare roots in the spring for several hours to rehydrate them and then repot.
If a combination worked well and you want to repeat it again next year, take some cuttings.
Get Rid of Pests
To make sure I’m not bringing in any unwanted visitors, I rinse all the leaves down with a vigorous spray of water and check the pots all over, especially under the rim, for bugs, slugs, cocoons, and egg masses.
As soon as they are observed, treat an infestation with an insecticidal soap or other insecticide labeled for these pests. I try to spray all the leaves down with a soapy spray made from 1 tsp. of non-detergent soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s liquid lavender mostly because it smells so good) mixed with water in a 1 qt. spray bottle. Spider mites have a 7 to 10 day life cycle so weekly spraying usually halts their growth. If I notice whiteflies, I’ll put up some yellow sticky cards to catch them. Don’t forget to spray under the lip of the container as well as the bottom of the container where insects can hide.
Other Indoor Plant Care Tips
Don’t over-water! This is the most common cause of death for indoor plants, which really don’t need much water in wintertime. Let the top 1/2 inch of the soil get dry to the touch before watering again. If in doubt, don’t water. Water succulents even less often, when the soil has been dry for several days. Don’t water in cloudy or rainy weather, as plants won’t get sufficient light indoors to dry out.
Plants require little, if any, fertilizer during the winter months due to lower light intensity levels. Fertilize in the spring, just before new growth begins.
You can save yourself a bundle by overwintering some of your expensive tropical plants. If you have more plants than window space allows, offer them to a gardening friend!
This pink mandevilla was given to me because it was too large for my friend to fit on a windowsill and she could not bear to throw it out.
Just to be on the safe side, I also take cuttings of some of my favorites—like the iresine, begonias, geraniums, impatiens, and coleus. All will root easily in water and make attractive houseplants.
If you lack space to store pots over the winter, cuttings are a wonderful and inexpensive way to create more plants.
To take a cutting:
- Choose healthy shoots and trim them back about 2 to 3 inches just below a leaf node. Remove any lower leaves and flower buds.
Insert the cutting in a moisted rooting medium—such as coarse sand, vermiculite, or sterile potting mix (which typically contains both peat and perlite). Also, insert at least one leaf node below the medium surface. Tip: It is optional, but consider dipping the cutting in a rooting hormone prior to planting. It may help the odds of success.
Place the cutting in bright, indirect light. Maintain an even moisture level. Covering the container with a plastic hood or clear bag will reduce overall moisture loss.
Rooting typically takes one to three weeks, depending on the plant. Once the roots are well developed, you can transplant to a larger container.
Moving Plants Back Outside in Spring
In spring, your plants will start to send up new growth and you can drag those pots back into the sunlight and resume watering them. If needed, I will give them a new pot with fresh soil.
To be on the safe side, wait until after the last frost to move them back outside.
A Few More Winterizing Tips
- Plastic and wooden containers can be left outside for the winter. Terracotta clay containers, however, may crack and should be brought inside.
- Before the temperature drops to freezing (32°F / 0°C), disconnect garden hoses from any outdoor faucets. Fully drain the hoses and screw the ends together to keep out any insects and debris. Then store them under the deck or in the garage.
- Good tools are expensive! Spend the time to take care of them properly. Clean tools with a wire brush and sharpen the surfaces. Apply a coat of light oil or product such as WD-40 to metal surfaces. Wipe wooden handles with an all-purpose cleaner and apply a light coating of wood preservative. See how to care for and sharpen garden tools.
Read more of my tips on fall garden clean-up.
Here is more advice on preparing your garden for winter—from the vegetable beds to rose bushes to trees and shrubs!
How to Transition Houseplants Indoors for Winter
If you detect pests, treat the plants while they’re still outdoors. Wash the pests off with a strong spray of water, and then spray all of the plant parts and the soil surface with Sevin Ready-to-Use and Miticide Concentrate. Let the foliage dry, and then re-spray the plants with water. Wait seven days before repeating the treatment.
Even if you don’t see any active pests on your houseplants, it’s best to wash and spray them with Sevin Ready-to-Use and Miticide Concentrate as a preventative measure. Once your houseplants are indoors, check them every two weeks for pests that might have returned.
4. Acclimate Your Houseplants
Your indoor environment differs from the outdoors, especially in terms of light. To prevent transplant shock, slowly acclimate your houseplants to lower light conditions while they’re still outdoors. Over five days, reduce the amount of light they receive by moving them to progressively more shaded locations outdoors each day. Once you move them indoors, plants may experience some leaf drop, which should stop once they adjust to the new light conditions.
5. Maintain Your Indoor Garden
Help your houseplants thrive indoors by following these tips:
- Water. Houseplants grow much more slowly indoors, especially as the weather cools. This means they require significantly less water than they did outdoors. After you move your houseplants indoors, don’t water them until the top two to three inches of soil has dried out. At that point, mix Pennington Ultragreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1 with water (as directed) to help houseplants avoid moving shock, which can cause excessive leaf drop.
- Fertilize. Because houseplants grow slowly indoors, they require less fertilizer during the winter months. Feed your houseplants when you first move them indoors with Lilly Miller All Purpose Planting & Growing Food 10-10-10, which will give them the nutrients they need throughout the fall and winter months.
- Humidity. As temperatures dip outdoors, the heat is raised indoors, drying the air inside your home. Many houseplants require extra humidity to keep their leaf tips from turning yellow or brown, or from curling. Some plants can lose leaves or buds completely. Provide additional humidity by spraying plants with a fine mist of water two to three times a day. Also, group plants to raise the humidity level, or create humidity trays — gravel-filled dishes or containers that you fill with water to just below the top of the gravel. When you place plants on the gravel, the water beneath humidifies the surrounding air — and the plant — when it evaporates.
Transition Houseplants Outdoors Next Spring
When temperatures remain above 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night in spring, it’s safe to transition your houseplants outdoors. Start by placing them next to the house in a shaded area, and then gradually move them to brighter locations over the course of five to seven days. Avoid putting houseplants in a final location that gets full sun, as such light is often too harsh and will burn foliage. A location that gets morning sun or dappled sunlight is generally best. With the first spring watering outdoors, once again apply Pennington Ultragreen Plant Starter with B1 and Lilly Miller All Purpose Planting & Growing Food 10-10-10.
Bringing houseplants indoors for fall and winter is a great way to preserve your favorite plants, enjoy the attractive greenery they bring, and assure that they remain strong to survive the outdoors once again next year.
Total Time Required to Bring Your Houseplants Indoors: 5 days (15 minutes to 2 hours per day, depending on the size of your indoor plant collection and the required task).
Effort: Easy to achieve through simple tasks.
Time breakdown (Depending on the number of plants in your collection):
- Preparing indoor growing area: 15-60 minutes
- Checking plants for pests: 15-30 minutes
- Treat pests/wash houseplants: 1-2 hours
- Move houseplants to facilitate acclimation: 15 minutes per day for five days
- Ongoing maintenance tasks (watering, fertilizing, providing humidity, checking for pests) 15-30 minutes per week
Lilly Miller, UltraGreen and Worry Free are registered trademarks of Central Garden & Pet Company. Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
How to Care for House Plants
Almost all house plants come from tropical and subtropical climates with temperatures very much like those in our homes. A daytime temperature range of anywhere from 65° to 75°F (18° to 24°C) is just perfect for them, and most plants have no trouble tolerating occasional summertime highs of up to 90°F (32°C).
Generally speaking, indoor temperatures that you find acceptable will also be just fine for healthy growth of your house plants.
These geraniums grow well in the indoor temperatures of most homes.
Controlling Temperature for House Plants
Even tropical plants like cooler air at night than during the day. As a result, healthier growth will be seen if temperatures drop 5° to 10°F (3° to 5°C) at night. Night temperatures naturally drop indoors, especially near windows, but you can also turn the thermostat down at night to accentuate the change. Such cooler night temperatures are not only good for house plants and humans, they also help conserve energy.
Long periods of extreme heat can be harmful to house plants. You can increase ventilation through screened windows or a fan. Air conditioning will also help bring temperatures down to acceptable levels, but house plants should not be put directly in the path of cold drafts. Since humidity is removed from the air through air conditioning, some means of increasing humidity may be necessary, especially in dry climates.
Some Like It Cool
Subtropical plants, especially those forced into winter bloom in cool greenhouses, are not as tolerant of warm temperatures as most indoor plants. They can be placed near a cool window in winter or in a room that is only slightly heated. You can also make a mini-greenhouse by bending two clothes hangers into a half circle and attaching them to the window frame, then covering the hangers with a sheet of plastic. Temperatures inside the mini-greenhouse will often be up to 10°F (5°C) cooler than the surrounding air.
In the next section, we’ll talk about fertilizing house plants.
Want to learn about house plants by type? Try these:
- House Plants
- Full Sun House Plants
- Bright Light House Plants
- Filtered Light House Plants
- Light Shade House Plants
- Hanging Basket House Plants
- Floor Plant House Plants
- Table Plant House Plants
- Terrarium Plant House Plants
- Very Easy House Plants
- Easy House Plants
- Demanding House Plants
- Temporary House Plants
- Flowering House Plants
- Climbing or Trailing House Plants
- House Plants with Colorful Foliage
- Fragrant House Plants
Every day, gardeners look at something that’s of no use to them but is still good – from a plant to a pot – and say, “There has to be someone who would want this.”
Meet Trina Studebaker of Aloha who runs a plant rescue and exchange business with the catchy name of From My Bed to Yours.
Studebaker – another great name – takes in “rescues” just as other kindhearted souls adopt animals. People bring her unwanted or sickly plants and she nurses them back to good health. She then sells them for less than a commercial nursery charges. Larger plants are divided into smaller pots to make them affordable.
Some of her clients bring in their divided perennials and receive credit to buy new plants.
“I keep my prices low so everyone can garden,” says Studebaker. “Plants are my passion and I love people, too.”
She holds prices down by keeping her overhead low: She operates out of her backyard.
Walk through her front garden and beyond a 16-foot green hallway covered with eight types of climbers.
Then wander around the tables made from salvaged shipping crates and old fence boards. Scoop down to look at the unfolding ferns or check out some of the exotic offerings, from Lonicera involucrata honeysuckle to fast-growing Chitalpa tashkentensis flowering trees.
Also keeping her expenses down is her big use of reuse. “I employ a lot of sustainable gardening practices and have many examples of it that allow me to teach others,” she says.
Jordis Yost, an OSU Master Gardener coordinator, says Studebaker has volunteered to be Washington County Master Gardeners’ class coordinator for two years.
“The program couldn’t manage the volume of new trainees each year if we didn’t have dedicated mid-managers,” says Yost. “Trina is very good at what she does, mixing organization with a super pleasant personality. She’s one of those volunteers who makes you smile when you see them headed your way.”
Listen in on this conversation I had with the effervescent Studebaker, a redhead in a tie-dye shirt packing red pruners, and try not to fall in like. If you’d want to have your own conversation with Studebaker, call her at 971-645-8049 or visit her at 17475 SW Washington Court, Aloha.
Q: I have to admit that the name of your business, From My Bed to Yours, got my attention. Describe what you do.
A. My business right now offers gardening at affordable prices. Since gardening is such a healthful hobby, money should not keep people from reaping the benefits of it. Offering the plant exchange to gardeners makes it so much more fun and affordable.
Q: Tell me more about the exchange?
A: When a gardener brings in their divided perennials, they receive credit for them and can use that credit to purchase other plants. It works on a 2-for-1 basis. If a 2-gallon-size perennial comes in, that’s enough credit for a 1-gallon perennial. How awesome is that? There are guidelines to this on my website.
I also divide the perennials from my own yard. I have a variety of about 500 plants in my front yard alone.
Q: What if I have a brown thumb and have nothing to exchange but I want to learn how to care for plants?
A: Gardeners do not have to bring plants in for exchange. I also sell my plants outright at low prices.
Q: When are you open for business?
A: Two days a week – 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday – but because the business is on our property, I open for appointments as well. I really love it when gardeners take advantage of that.
Q: Everyone’s interested in sustainable living. Tell me the methods you use.
A: My business is extremely focused on being sustainable. Cut-up plastic mini-blinds are used for my plant tags. My rain barrels provide gallons upon gallons of water. I use fish emulsion and worm castings/poop for my fertilizer. We have a giant worm bin that provides amazing fertilizer.
Also, gardeners drop of their unbroken nursery pots for me to reuse and friends bring their Costco boxes that customers use when they purchase a lot of plants.
Q: You created an inviting nursery here.
A: My retail space offers a comfortable atmosphere to gardeners who are beginners and have lots of questions. I offer free handouts from Oregon State University extension. I also have unusual plants available to plant collectors because I happen to be one.
Q: In the three years you have been doing this, what have been some highlights?
A: I’d have to say one of the highlights is when customers come back and
tell me how well their plants are doing. When they are so ecstatic about it, I am ecstatic as well.
Q: I want to impress serious gardeners. Tell me about some of the unusual plants you have.
A: Some unusual or uncommon plants would be like Chitalpa tashkentensis, Euonymus kiautschovicus, Mukdenia rossii, Hypoxis hemerocallidea and Lonicera involucrata.
Q: What’s been the most unusual plant that has been deposited at your front gate?
A: I am known as a safe haven for plants. It is common to come home and find dying or unwanted plants at the front gate. It’s so exciting, never knowing what I’m coming home to. The most unusual plants dropped off were two 7-foot Aralia spinosa trees know as the Devil’s Walking Stick.
Q: Do you know of other plant rescue services? Did you model your business after someone?
A: I’m winging it as the business evolves. If I go to someone’s home to do a plant rescue, there might be a fee involved. It depends on if I have to pay someone to assist me with the larger shrubs and such.
I did model the plant exchange portion of the business after Aloha’s local used book store, Jan’s Paperbacks. They deal in books, I deal in plants.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’m super excited to be offering a field trip to a group of underprivileged youth. How great is it that I get to introduce them to gardening?
Eventually, I’d like to hire a crew to go into a property before developers clear it. I want to save plants, especially the natives.
And I’d really like to have funds to go to gardeners who are having health problems and help them with their gardens. Depending on their needs, I could revamp it to be low-maintenance, wheelchair-accessible or adapted to whatever they need.
I’ve had the ability to garden taken away from me as I rehabilitated from devastating injuries. Without the help of family and friends, my garden wouldn’t look as lovely as it does. Now, I’m in a place with my health that I can offer that to others in need.
One contribution I’ve already been able to make is to local garden clubs spring plant sales. What I’m most proud of is my donations to the new demonstration garden at the Jenkins Estate in Beaverton that the Washington County Master Gardeners are building. It’s fabulous.
Q: This seems like a lot of work with little profit or payoff. Why are you doing this?
A: After all the health difficulties I’ve faced in this life, I have found such contentment in bringing my two favorite things together: people and plants. It is possible to live your dream. I am living mine.
— Janet Eastman
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When your plant gets struck down with the most awful of illnesses, do you choose to treat or throw….? Is throwing a plant is the bin cruel, and should you be desperately trying to save its life even when the prognosis isn’t good.. I am forever having such emotional wrangles when it comes to plants. So, is it ok to just throw away plants?
What about when your annuals finish blooming? Do you leave them to squeeze out the very last of the blooms during September, or do you allow them to go to the big plant graveyard in the sky and replace them with a cheerful autumn display? My suspicion is that most people leave them in place until they are frost-damaged, thus missing out on a whole potential autumn season of colour.
I learnt a lot about ‘throw away plant’ attitudes when I was working in Japan a couple of years ago, as I was asked to run some practical demonstrations with a range of students. The way the ladies planted up the containers really blew my mind- they were shoehorning more plants into each container than I’d ever seen done before.. and they were mixing annuals with perennials and shrubs too!
The ladies were basically flower arranging with real live plants. Upon enquiring with my translator about this planting style, she informed me that they only expect the container to look good for a few weeks, then they’ll replace it with a newly planted one!
The way we plant in the UK is a lot more purist, and we expect a lot more value from our plants. In fact, during my time working in the marketing of mail order plants, one of the most important USP’s was always something like ‘4 months flowering’ or ‘non-stop flowers’. I was wondering why we expect so much from our plants? Is it because our plants are more expensive? Or perhaps we have less disposal income that we want to ‘fritter’ on such things as plants? You’d probably spend more on bunches of fresh flowers for your indoor vases each week!
In fact, I know that many Dutch households replace the plants in their gardens and houses much more often. In the border, once the flowers fade, plants are usually pulled out. It’s only the evergreen structure plants that get to outstay their welcome!
When Bloombox Club came onto the scene with their revolutionary plant subscription service, the question on many people’s lips was ‘if I take a whole year of deliveries, what will I do with all those plants?’ Well, to garden traditionally, you may soon have a garden full of plants, depending on the space you have. However, if you rotate your plants, and use them only when they’re at their best, and dispose them when they’re not, then the concept can work. In fact, I wrote about the ‘jigsaw garden’ a few months ago, read it here.
Of course, the quickest disposal method would be to compost your plants, and indeed this creates a nifty sustainable solution for your plants. However, the more community conscious way to behave might be to donate your faded plants to a local eco-therapy project. This way, you’ll be helping others to enjoy the mental benefits of living plants with your ’delayed donation’. You can easily look up your nearest eco-therapy project with the help of Mr Google.
So, perhaps plants really shouldn’t be expected to last forever.
However, don’t be hasty with your disposal when those plants could be used to help someone in need.
How To Acclimate Plants Indoors For Winter
Many houseplant owners move their houseplants outside in the summer so they can enjoy the sun and air outdoors, but because most houseplants are actually tropical plants, they must be brought back inside once the weather turns cold.
Bringing plants inside for winter isn’t as easy as simply moving their pots from one place to another; there are a few precautions you need to take when acclimating plants from outdoors to indoors to prevent sending your plant into shock. Let’s look at how to acclimate plants indoors for winter.
Before Bringing Plants Inside for Winter
One of the most common issues houseplants have when coming back indoors is bringing unwanted pests with them. Check your houseplants thoroughly for small insects like aphids, mealybugs and spider mites, and remove them. These pests can hitchhike on the plants you bring in for the winter and infest all of your houseplants. You may even want to use the hose to wash off your houseplants before bringing them in. This will help knock off any pests that you may have missed. Treating the plants with neem oil can help as well.
Second, if the plant has grown over the summer, you may want to consider either pruning or repotting the houseplant. If you are pruning it back, don’t prune back more than one-third of the plant. Also, make sure to root prune an equal amount off the roots as you do off the foliage.
If you will be repotting, repot to a container that is at least 2 inches (5 cm.) larger than the current container.
Acclimating Plants Outdoor to Indoor
Once the temperatures outside reach 50 F. (10 C.) or less at night, your houseplant must begin the process to come back into the house. Most houseplants cannot stand temps below 45 F. (7 C.). It is very important to acclimate your houseplant to the environment changes from outside to inside. The steps how to acclimate plants indoors for winter are easy, but without them your plant may experience shock, wilting and leaf loss.
The light and humidity changes from outside to inside are dramatically different. When acclimating your houseplant, start by bringing the houseplant in at night. For the first few days, bring the container inside in the evening and move it back outside in the morning. Gradually, over the course of two weeks, increase the amount of time the plant spends indoors until it is indoors full time.
Remember, plants that are indoors will not need as much water as plants that are outdoors, so only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Consider cleaning your windows to help maximize the amount of sunlight your plants get through the windows.