I live in an unheated three-season cottage May through October. The last week of September reliably presents one or two nights that dip down to 50F. Like a splash of cold water to the face, me padding about the wooden floor bare-footedly is a stark reminder it’s time to move to warmer digs. And if I’m chilly, the tropical and succulent plants I have brought outside to bask in summer’s warmth are probably chilly, too. After all, they can’t pull on an extra blanket or cuddle with the puppy. It’s time to bring those indoor plants back inside.
Prep Those Indoor Plants!
While there’s no strict procedures around bringing succulents and tropicals indoors after a summer outside, we do have some dos, don’ts and maybe shoulds to suggest. Whatever you do, after all, will be determined by your available time and how quickly the temperatures plunge.
Brush off pots. These containers have been exposed to rain, sun, dirt, spiders and other crawly creatures for many months. No doubt someone has made a home in the drainage hole or the container is covered in splattered soil. A good brushing of the pots will keep what belongs outdoors outdoors. Also check the plant and its soil surface for any stragglers—whether animal or vegetable. I’ve been known to bring in some snails and fallen leaves.
Transition time. We talk a lot about transitioning indoor plants as they move outdoors in spring. What about a transition time from outdoors to inside? These plants are moving from brighter light conditions into indoor spaces. Returning them to their dark north-facing nooks after a summer outside can be traumatic. If you have the time and the space, pile up your pots onto an outdoor deck with some shade for a few days. This also gives the spiders and snails some time to emerge and find other places to spend the winter.
One last dousing. Plants use less water and fertilizer as they grow indoors. Before you bring the pots inside—and maybe while they are transitioning on the porch—give them one last summertime supply of fertilizer.
Trimming. Also while those plants are on the deck, give them a good haircut. They may have experienced a ton of growth. Or, conversely, they may have lost some leaves or had them yellow. Trim while you’re still able to make a mess outside.
Repotting. While you’re making a mess outside, assess your plants for whether or not they need to upsize to a larger pot and do the dirty deed outdoors. Good indicators for the need to repot include roots wrapping around the inside of the pot or if empty space has grown between the plant’s root ball and the side of the pot. (Pssst! We’ve got some good potting soil to help you out with this task. Try our Premium Blend Potting Soil.)
Controlling Fungus Gnats
We have one last outdoor-indoor transition suggestion for you. One creature that you might inadvertently bring indoors is the fungus gnat. More likely, make that plural—gnats. The last thing you want in your home is a population of this winged creature that loves moist and humid environments, just the conditions your indoor plants thrive in. While the flying adult fungus gnat is harmless, it’s the larval stage that is damaging to plants. These larvae will feed on root hairs, fungi and organic material. Bringing these creatures into the home will likely lead to infestations in the soils of your plants that didn’t spend the summer outside.
What to do? We’ve got a solution for that. Spread a ½” layer of Organic Mechanics Pure Rice Hulls on the surface of your houseplants before bringing them inside. This deters those pesky flying fungus gnats. The rice hulls act as a physical barrier, preventing the adults from getting into, or out of, the soil. The rice hulls won’t kill the gnats (you’ll need diatomaceous earth or nematodes for that) but they will deter the fungus gnats from reaching your plants’ baby roots. Even the USDA deems it to be true! Read that research report HERE (bonus—rice hulls also control weeds).
We have Pure Rice Hulls available in two sizes—8-quart and 2 cubic yard bags, both of which are available from your local garden center or via our online ordering site HERE. They’re also grown right here in the USA and are a 100% organic product. Even better!