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Gardening: Coleus - A cold-sensitive houseplants Image

Cool crisp mornings make it a joy to get out and work in the home landscape and garden. They also serve as a reminder to make plans for the care of cold-sensitive houseplants that spent the summer outdoors.

Photo Credit: William M. Johnson

Make plans for moving houseplants back inside

By Dr. William M. Johnson, Galveston County Extension Agent - Horticulture

November 07, 2007

Upcoming Programs

WHAT: Galveston County Pecan Exhibition & Bake Show

DATE: Thursday, November 8

TIME: 7:00 p.m.

PLACE: Walter Hall Park Pavilion, 807 Hwy. 3, League City

WHAT: Growing Tomatoes from Seed

DATE: Saturday, November 17

TIME: 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.

PLACE: Galveston County Extension Office, 5115 Hwy. 3, Dickinson

RSVP: Pre-registration not required

The cool crisp mornings over the last couple of weeks not only make it a joy to get out and work in the home landscape and garden, such mornings make it a joy to be outside! As the days of November move along, it is not too early to make plans for cold-sensitive houseplants that spent the summer outdoors. You will need to bring them back inside when it starts to get cold, and there are a variety of jobs you can look at doing now.

After a summer of growth, some of your container plants may have become pot-bound. Finish any repotting you need to do, so plants will have a chance to recover before being brought back inside.

Be sure to think carefully about pot size before you repot the plant. For example, if you shift the plant into a larger container, will it still be convenient to move inside, or will the larger pot make the plant unwieldy and too heavy to easily move?

Here’s a way of dealing with a pot-bound plant and keeping it in the same size pot. First, remove the plant from the pot and trim off one-quarter to one-third of the lower part of the root ball. Put a layer of fresh potting mix in the bottom of the original container equal to the amount of the root ball removed. Place the plant back in the pot, adding a little more soil around the sides, if necessary. Water well, and place the plant in a shady location to acclimate to its new “upgrade.”

Use a quality potting mix when repotting. Gardeners generally rely on commercially available potting soil mixes for growing most types of houseplants. A lot of brands are out there; however, not all of them are especially good. In particular, avoid heavy, black potting soils. If the bag feels dense and heavy for its size, put it back. The best potting mixes include peat moss, vermiculite, bark and perlite in proportions that create a fairly light, loose mix that water penetrates readily and drains from rapidly.

Houseplants also need to be acclimated to lower light conditions before they are moved back inside. Light conditions are not as bright indoors as they are outside. Houseplants growing in sunny or partly sunny locations should be moved to shady areas. This will help them adjust to the lower light conditions they will receive when they are moved inside.

Houseplants that spent the summer outside also should be groomed so they will look their best. Grooming them well also means you will be less likely to bring pests inside with the plants. Be sure to:

– Clean the outside of containers by using a brush and a mild solution of dishwashing liquid and water.

– Remove dust and debris from the foliage by gently hosing down the plants. Wipe the foliage clean with a soft damp cloth.

– Remove all dead, yellow or damaged foliage, old flower stalks and dead or injured branches and stems.

– Pull any weeds that may have found their way into pots.

Another thing to keep in mind is that pests have had all summer to infest and build up populations on your houseplants outside. You definitely want to get all of those problems taken care of before you bring plants inside for the winter.

If pest control is necessary, it is far better and more convenient to use pesticides outside than indoors. Begin to inspect plants carefully now. Look for signs of insect pests such as scale, caterpillars, aphids and mealybugs in addition to spider mites.

Snails and slugs love to hide under pots on patios, porches and decks during the day, so regularly tip over the pots, check for snails and slugs and remove those you find. Also be on the lookout for critters such as frogs, toads and lizards that may hitch a ride inside with the plants. These beneficial animals should be carefully removed and released unharmed.

With a little effort now, you can get these jobs out of the way and not feel so rushed when cold weather arrives and protecting the plants becomes the main concern.

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