Gladys and I take most of our houseplants outside for the summer and now it is time to start planning to bring them in for the winter. Gladys has so many she has to start bringing some in about September 1st. I don’t have that many so I watch the weather forecast to see when to bring in what. Some of the tropicals such as the Bromeliad and the Tradeskantia will be injured if the temperature drops below 40 degrees F. Some of Gladys’ tropical plants will not tolerate temps below 45 degrees F. Both Gladys and I leave our Amaryllis and Christmas Cactus out so they get a very light frost (30-32 degrees F). This seems to shock the Christmas Cactus so it starts to set flower buds. Frost will kill the Amaryllis leaves and starts the plants transition into dormancy. My Amaryllis plants are in pots so to further the process of transition to dormancy, I lay the plants on their side under my deck or on the patio, and let the leaves die back, and then cut them off. The plants then go under a bench back in the corner of my shop. Gladys plants her Amaryllis in the ground for the summer, so she lifts her bulbs after the leaves turn brown, cuts off the leaves, puts them in a box in the basement, and covers them with peat moss for their 6 to 8 weeks minimum dormancy period. I divide them when I bring them out.

          My wife has a number of plants in containers that she likes to over winter in the full length south window of our walkout basement. One in particular is a pretty pink Geranium that she originally got from her aunt who is long gone. Every year she takes a cutting and brings it in also and by January they are all in bloom and decorate the basement. They are usually just by the back door and smells very good as I go in and out.

          We also have a stand in front of a large south window by a large mop sink and the washing machine. It always has cuttings and small plants on top and they survive the winter in good shape unless we have a bitter cold spell. It was a problem for a number of years as the window was single pane. A few years ago we put in new double pane windows all around the house which helped our heating bill and the survival rate of plants.

     For all my plants when I bring them in, I make sure I don’t also bring in a bunch of critters. Many bugs can be knocked off with just a hard spray of water and this also washes the dirt and dust off the plant. For most of the plants I also use an insecticide to kill the remaining bugs. Products you can use that are labeled for use on houseplants both before you bring them in and after they are in the house includes:

·        Insecticidal Soap-labeled for use for organic gardeners and can be used indoors without an odor. This is the one Gladys and I use the most inside and outside. Some insecticidal soap brands are made from the Neem plant so you get the benefits of both the Neem oil and the soap.

·        Neem Oil-comes from the Neem Tree and is an insecticide, a fungicide and a miticide. As a miticide it is labeled to kill spider mites and is acceptable for use by organic gardeners inside and outside. 

·        Pyrethrin-sold under many brand names including “Houseplant and Garden Insect Spray” by Schultz. Organic made from the Chrysanthemum plant.

  • Permethrin-sold under the brand name of Eight. This is sold by many garden centers, hardware stores, and discount centers.
  • Resemethrin-sold under the name “Houseplant Helper” and is similar to Permethrin.

It is recommended that you rotate which insecticide you use as some critters may become or are already resistant to the one you normally use.

These are contact sprays and must come in contact with the insect so spray both the top and the bottom of the leaves. After spraying the plants outside, we use a houseplant systemic insecticide. The one Gladys and I use has imadicloprid (Merit) as the active ingredient. Some products use 2% Di-syston granules and is sold under the brand name “2% Systemic Granules”. The imadicloprid does not have a bad smell like the Di-syston. As a systemic insecticide the chemical goes into the soil and then taken up by the roots and into the plant so when an insect begins to chew or suck on a leaf or stem it is killed. This is an important step as usually there are eggs in the soil or on the underside of the leaf which hatch out after the plant is brought into the warm house. Read the label before use and then follow label directions as the amount you use depends upon the size of the container. Sprinkle the granules on the soil and then water in thoroughly. This insecticide takes about two weeks after the first application to become effective so apply immediately after using the contact spray. It must be repeated every 30 days for season long control. Do not use on plants with edible fruit.

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