Fall Care of House Plants ... By Gladys Jeurink

          Their vacation outside will soon be over and if you have as many house plants as I do, its time to be getting them ready unless you want to bring in an assortment of bugs. Some of the plants may be hardy down to 28 degrees F. but some of my tropical directions say no lower than 40 degrees F. and some even 45 degrees F.

          I begin my fall care with the more tropical plants such as angel wing begonias and carry them to the hose. First, if they are out of shape, too tall, or have bad looking sections, I trim them to fit into their allotted space. Then I wash them with a fair amount of water force. At the same time I flood their pots to get rid of accumulated fertilizer salts. While doing this I hope to remove any bugs or eggs, or bug droppings, or plant debris such as Linden seeds or cottonwood fluff, and let them drip dry.

          The plants that grew too big will then need to be cut back or potted into a larger pot. Tropical hibiscus I usually cut back very much in June or July as they are very leggy even if they were in a south window all winter. They are one of the most likely plants to be carrying white flies or their eggs so I check the underside of the leaves and spray with “Safer soap” (insecticidal soap). If you think you might have missed a bug, there are systemic insecticides you can put on top of your soil and then water in. Do this before the plant comes inside as some systemic insecticides don’t smell too good.

          It is a good idea to take your plants out of the pots and check their roots before bringing in. If they are solidly entangled and fill all visible space in the pot, make at least 2 slices all the way down the sides and another across the bottom. If you have to cut the plant back a lot, they can probably go back in the same pot. Otherwise, find another pot about an inch bigger and fill the extra space with new potting soil for the roots to wander in. It doesn’t hurt to loosen some of the top layer of soil and replace with new. When repotting a plant, do not increase the size of the pot more than 1 inch to 2 inches.

          The days are still fairly long when plants come in so they could use some fertilizer. As a general rule I don’t fertilizer very much in the winter. Short days and less light than they had outside slow down their activity. If your plants have grown too huge outside, you can take cuttings and start new little plants.

          After I bring them in, some of my large ones will be spending the winter in an insulated garage that will not freeze unless it goes below zero. I watch the weather closely and if below zero is reported I have a small “milk house” heater which will keep things above 35 degrees F.

          My “Clivia”, “Norfolk Island Pine”, cacti, and “Mandeville” all spent the winter in a garage with 2 small windows and a 300 watt bulb. Bulbs, such as amaryllis and pineapple lily can have their tops removed and put in a cool dark place to wait for spring.