Do you want to keep growing plants all winter long? The good news is – you can do indoor gardening!
Your love of gardening doesn’t have to go on pause just because winter is here! If you’re interested in moving your plants indoors this fall, these tips for indoor gardening will help you do it.
Ultimate Indoor Gardening Guide
Which Plants Should You Bring Inside?
Not all plants need to be brought inside. If you have limited space, you might have to decide which plants you want to keep and bring indoors and which ones you can let go of.
If you have plants that are keepsakes or expensive to replace, these should be at the top of your list for the move.
You can cross any plants off the list that have problems with pests, diseases, or simply a failure to produce or grow in the way you were expecting.
Know that the indoor conditions you can provide will influence which plants can be brought indoors, too.
In the winter, west- or south-facing areas only provide the winter light intensity of shady areas in the summer.
Therefore, if you have plants that require intense light all summer long, they might not be the best candidates to bring indoors if that’s all you can give them for light.
There are essentially two categories of plants you’ll be dealing with when you start bringing specimens indoors: those that require winter dormancy and those that do not. Here’s what that means.
Indoor Gardening in the Winter
Plants That Require Winter Dormancy
Some plants don’t actively grow during the winter, but they aren’t dead, either.
Instead, they’re storing up energy and preparing for the growing season ahead.
Many types of plants require this, including tender bulbs. Some of these are also quite expensive and, therefore, are worth overwintering to save you some money (and time, too, next year).
Examples of plants that can be described as tender bulbs include:
- Calla lilies
- Elephant ears
- Tuber roses
Plants That Do Not Require Winter Dormancy Are Good for Indoor Gardening
Just as there are plants that require a bit of a rest period in the winter months, some will keep growing all year-round.
These include some tropical plants, herbs, and annuals, with examples including:
- Fibrous begonia
When you’re moving this kind of plant, acclimate it to a lower level of light for a few days before moving the plant fully indoors (it’s kind of like a reverse hardening-off process!).
Simply put your plants in a lower-light area outside for a few days before mimicking those conditions indoors.
Be prepared for some leaf drop even if you’ve prepared your plants – this is to be expected.
When Should I Move My Plants Inside for Indoor Gardening?
When should you bring your plants indoors?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question. Deciding when to bring your plants indoors will depend mainly on what plants you are growing.
If you’re growing annuals or tender perennials, for the most part, these will not survive cold winter temperatures so you will need to bring them inside before a frost threatens.
For the most part, tropical plants will suffer damage whenever temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit but some are so sensitive that they need to be brought inside before 50 degrees.
You must start the process of moving your plants inside long before the temperatures get this low, however- you will need to acclimate them to the different conditions inside to prevent any kind of shock.
Long story short, keep an eye on the temperature. Make sure all houseplants are indoors before temperatures get below 45 degrees – but know that some require it even before that point.
Any colder and you’re probably going to see some damage, particularly on stem tips and tender leaves.
Where Should I Put Plants for Indoor Gardening?
There are a few options for finding the ideal location for your once-outdoor-dwelling plants.
If you have a greenhouse, this might be a good option. That way, your plants will get all the sun and fresh air they need – but temperatures won’t drop low enough to kill them.
It does, however, make maintaining the right humidity levels easier.
If you don’t have a greenhouse and lots of plants that require high humidity levels, consider creating a shelf in your home where you can group all of these plants together.
That way, it will be easier to keep things organized and to provide your plants with the ideal amount of moisture and humidity.
For hanging plants, consider installing some ceiling hooks.
In general, heed the growing and care requirements for each type of plant you are bringing indoors to determine the right location.
Some plants will prefer bright, direct light all winter long, while others will need dimmer, less direct light (or even shade).
Humidity matters, too. Some plants might be best off in the bathroom while others will prefer to live in your bedroom.
And if you’re just going to be putting your plants on a sunny windowsill, that’s fine, too.
But you may want to thoroughly clean your windows before you bring your green friends indoors to ensure the right amount of light can get through.
How Do You Move Indoor Plants Without Killing Them? Basic Tips
Here are a few tips to help you successfully move outdoor plants indoors – and then back out successfully.
1. Overwintering Tender Bulbs
Here are some tips if you have any tender bulbs that need to be brought indoors.
Stop watering them (this applies both to container-grown and ground-grown plants – unless you choose to keep the bulbs in the original container, in which case you only need to follow the first step in this list).
Dig your plants up then cut the foliage back. Brush as much soil from the bulb as you can. Put the bulbs in a warm, dry area for up to two weeks or dry.
Then, pack the bulbs loosely in a cardboard box, separating each one with a bit of shredded newspaper.
Place the box in a cool, dark place, then put them back into the containers about a month before you want to put them outside.
2. Leave Plastic or Wooden Containers Outdoors
You’re welcome to bring plastic or wooden containers inside, but know that it’s not necessary if you don’t have the space (or desire) to do so.
These materials won’t freeze and crack so you don’t have to worry about keeping them outdoors.
If you have any clay (terracotta) pots, be sure to bring them inside.
3. Make Sure You Care For Your Other Garden Gear, Too
Don’t forget to disconnect garden hoses from outdoor faucets – this should be done before the temperature drops to freezing.
Fully drain all hoses and screw the ends together, as this will keep out dirt and bugs. Stash the hoses beneath the deck or in your garage.
Make sure you care for your tools, too. Sharpen any surfaces and give everything a good coat of WD-40.
Store them in the basement, garage, tool shed, or another spot to keep them out of the harsh winter elements.
4. Take Time to Acclimate for Indoor Gardening
We mentioned earlier that it’s important to “reverse-harden-off” your plants when you bring them back inside.
This involves putting them in a shaded spot for a few weeks before bringing them back inside. Check for pests, treat them, then continue the process.
You can also trim them back at this time, removing dead leaves now so the mess is contained to the great outdoors.
It’s also a good idea to acclimate your plants before bringing them indoors in one other way – cut back on water and fertilizer.
For most plants, winter is a quiet time – it’s a rest period after a busy season of growing.
Some plants don’t go dormant at all – like the ones we mentioned above – but they do tend to slow down slightly.
You’ll want to either stop or cut back on fertilizer before you bring plants indoors to get them used to it and cut back on watering, too.
5. Consider Supplementing With Grow Lights
For the most part, even dormant indoor plants need some sort of light in the winter.
As the days get shorter, you might want to supplement with grow lights.
This will help you ensure your plants are getting the light they need without having to play the window-jockeying game constantly.
Give them a bit more water or at the very least, some extra humidity if you’re supplementing with grow lights.
These can cause plants to dry out faster than they would in front of a window or in a more natural growing environment.
6. Prepare the Indoor Growing Area Ahead of Time
Before you bring a single plant indoors, ensure you’ve taken the time to prepare the growing area.
Ensure that all plants will receive adequate light by cleaning the windows and adding grow lights if needed.
Stock up on the tools and supplies you’ll need during the winter, too, including ties and stakes, a watering can, fertilizers and any other chemicals you might need, pruners, potting soil, and containers with adequate drainage.
7. Always Check for Pests
We mentioned this earlier, but make sure you always check for pests when moving plants indoors or outdoors and back again.
It’s far too easy for pests to ravage your plants when given these ideal indoor conditions.
You may want to soak your entire container in a tub of water for fifteen to twenty minutes before bringing your plant inside.
This should force any garden pests out of the root ball before you bring it inside.
How to Put Your Indoor Gardening Back Outdoors Next Spring
Just as important as moving your plants indoors is knowing how to move your plants back outside when the time is right.
Once temperatures remain about 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night in the spring, it’s probably safe to transition your houseplants back outside.
Again, this will vary slightly depending on what plant you are growing.
Harden your plants off so you don’t shock them with the move.
Put them near the house in a shaded area that’s protected from the elements (most importantly, wind) and then gradually move them to brighter locations over the next five to seven days.
Try not to put houseplants in a final location that receives full sun. Often, this is way too harsh for plants that were used to growing indoors and can burn their foliage.
Instead, choose a spot that receives morning sunlight or just some dappled sunlight with a mix of shade.
Indoor Gardening Guide Summary
There are a few other tips to follow if you want to grow healthy houseplants indoors for winter.
For one, be aware that pest problems still exist but might be different than the ones your plants face outdoors.
For example, spider mites, fungus gnats, and whiteflies will likely become problems when they aren’t outside.
Using an insecticidal soap can help, as can any non-detergent soap. You can put out yellow sticky cards to catch pests if you aren’t sure which ones are bugging your plants.
By properly identifying them, you can choose the right method of control.
Be careful not to over-water your indoor-grown plants, either. THi is the most common killer of indoor plants – remember that most don’t need nearly as much water in the wintertime.
Allow the top half-inch of soil to dry to the touch before you water it again.
In general, you only need to water once every few weeks.
During the winter months, plants require little – if any- fertilizing. Just fertilize in the spring before new growth begins.
Growing plants indoors over the winter is a great way to save money, and as you can see, it’s not that difficult!
Give it a try this fall – you’ll be amazed by the results!