Whether you set your house plants out last spring, for a summer vacation, or you got carried away with container gardening until pots competed with the cat for every sunny nook of patio space, the cool night temperatures mean it's time to think about bringing tender plants back indoors. Chances are you have even less sunny nooks inside, so you will have to decide what's worth keeping and how to care for them.
How Do You Decide Which Tender Plants To Keep?
- Keep only healthy plants. If something has been struggling all summer under the best of conditions, it is not going to improve indoors.
- Never bring in a plant with pests or disease. Don't convince yourself that you'll quarantine the plant until it's been treated. Problems spread more quickly among indoor plants than in the garden.
- Give dibs 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.
- If the plant would look good as a house plant, bring it in and use it as one. Many people have the light to successfully winter geraniums and begonias in full bloom.
- Some tender perennials like a period of dormancy in winter. You can winter over potted lavender and rosemary in your garage. If the temperature doesn't go below 20 degrees F. or above 40 degrees F. they won't freeze, but will stay dormant. Just don't let the pots dry out.
- 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.
- Be realistic about space and available light. You can always start cuttings. Cuttings take up much less space.
Give your outdoor plants time to acclimate to being house plants. Bring them indoors while the windows are still open. They'll adjust to the change in temperature and humidity more easily if the change is gradual, rather than waiting until a frost is expected and then bringing the plants into a dry, heated home.