Bringing in Your Houseplants

Not only do gardeners enjoy the outdoors during the warm summer months, but their houseplants do, too.  Bringing your indoor plants outside on a shady porch for the season always helps them grow and keeps them happy.  

As the weather begins to turn cooler, however, it comes time to bring them back into the house, along with a few other plants you may have in your garden.  The specific date to bring them in by varies with the weather, so it changes each year.  There are some general guidelines on when to bring your houseplants in, which additional plants you can overwinter in your home, and how to do so. 

There are two ways to tell when you should start packing it in: the first is when the leaves start falling from the trees. The second is when overnight lows start dropping below 45 degrees.  Once these cooler nights start to occur, you will need to begin to make the adjustments for bringing in your plants. 

Each houseplant has different requirements for light, water and soil, so before you make the space for them inside, be sure you know what will keep them happy.  Generally speaking, a room with southern exposure is the best place for plants during the winter, because there they will get the most light.   

Another thing to look at is the distance between the window and the plant.  Certain tropicals that you bring indoors may not do well if they are directly next to the window, as it may be too cold in January or February.  Other plants could get fried by getting too much direct sun being close to a window. 

An additional care requirement may be cutting the plant back.  For example, hibiscus need to be cut back when you are overwintering them, while peace lilies can just keep growing.  So be sure you know what each plant needs that you are bringing in, as well as if you have the space for it. If you have a plant that you’re not sure about, feel free to contact us by phone (630-323-1085) or e-mail ( and we can help you with the care requirements. 

There are other houseplants that you can overwinter indoors in addition to the typical houseplants. Some popular plants to overwinter in our area include hibiscus, croton, palms and gardenia.  Other annuals, like begonias, geraniums, coleus and shamrock, or oxalis, can make it indoors overwinter as well. There are also plants that come from a bulb that you can dig up and store in a cool dry place in a paper bag over the winter.  These include caladium and elephant ears.   

Unfortunately, there are a lot of plants that cannot make it indoors.  Flowers like petunias, zinnias, impatiens and marigolds to name a few, do not grow indoors. These are bred to only grow one season, so unfortunately we have to toss them once frost has hit them. 

Once you have found which plants you want to save, and where you are going to keep them, there are a few techniques you need to get them adjusted to their new environment. Wash the plant down with a light spray on all sides of the leaves to get rid of any bugs that might be on the plant.  Some of your plants can also be repotted into a larger pot with fresh soil to give them room to grow over the winter. 

When you move them indoors, there is a chance that they’ll go into a little bit of shock due to the change in climate.  To avoid this you can gradually move them into conditions more like what they are going to be in once inside your home.  If not, they may not look that happy for a few days, but they will come out of the shock. 

Once the plants are inside, remember that they will not need to be watered as frequently during the winter months.  Rather than every other day, you may need to water them as little as once a week.  You can also mist plants like ivy once a week to help prevent spider mites, which can often occur on ivy when they are indoors. 

While the weather outside gets to be cold and frightful, you can keep your gardening going indoors with the right plants and the right conditions.