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September 21, 2014
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House plants; Prepare them for the journey back inside

The trimmed-back basil plant needs at least six hours of sun a day. Take care not to overwater it.
Photos by Anne Hart

By Anne Hart

After a summer vacation on your porch or deck, it’s time to prepare your house plants for the trip back to their winter home. For their survival and your enjoyment, they need to be prepared for the lower levels of light, temperature and humidity of the house. It’s really just a reversal of the process of hardening off plants or seedlings in the spring. When night temperatures cool to the 50s, the fall ritual can begin. These tips should help with the process:

Move the plants to a shadier location. If they’ve enjoyed full sun all summer, get them used to lower light levels by moving them to your porch or a shadier side of the house. Gradually move them to shadier and shadier spots over a few days.

Check for bugs. As you move the plants, check each plant for insects both on the plant, in the soil and on the pot. Hand pick any insects you see, or spray (on both sides of the leaves) with a mild solution of vinegar or Listerine (20%), dish soap (1%) and water (79%). For bugs in the soil, prepare a bucket of lukewarm water, and submerge the plant up to the top of the soil level for about 15 minutes. Anything living in the soil should rise to the surface. Scoop the creatures away. If the soil is heavily infested, it’s better to re-pot the plant, discarding the old soil. Clean the pot on the top and bottom, and don’t forget the dish underneath.

Check for disease and tidy up the plant. Snip off any dead or diseased-looking leaves or stems. If the plant looks unhealthy, it’s kinder to compost it. Each plant will suffer some shock as it gets used to indoor conditions, and an already-stressed plant will have a harder time surviving. If the plant is root bound, repot it with new potting soil.

Quarantine. If you have other indoor plants, keep them separate from the travelers for a few days just to make sure that you haven’t brought any bugs inside.

Choose the right indoor location. Keep the plants away from drafts created by doors opening and closing, heating and cooling vents and the like. Plants that need full sun should be in a south facing window. Plants that need partial sun can be in windows facing east or west. If your house isn’t sunny, grow lights can be used.