Bring in houseplants, tender bulbs

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By Dennis Morgeson

It’s time to start bringing in houseplants and tender bulbs before we get really cold, or worse, we have a frost or freeze.   Before actually bringing your houseplants in for the winter you need to do a little work to ward off problems down the road. 

The plant and pot should be washed with a good spray of water from the hose and allowed to dry completely.  Next, you should spray the entire plant and pot with an insecticidal soap.  Make sure you spray the undersides of the leaves. This is where most plant pests are located.

The last step is a pain; however it may save you a mess down the road.  Plants that are outdoors need to be acclimated to the indoor environment, this means that if they don’t get used to the lower light levels indoors, they go through a shock and drop their leaves. To acclimate your houseplants to the indoors gradually bring them in, meaning bring them in for a couple of hours one day, three or four hours the next day and so on until they are in for the entire day.

Houseplants that did well outdoors in the shade will need a sunny window indoors to get a similar light level to remain healthy and looking nice.  One last tip on houseplants, don’t fertilize in the winter.  Houseplants won’t need the extra nutrients because they aren’t growing as vigorously.  If you insist on fertilizing, do it lightly and sparingly.

Another fall project to start thinking about is bringing in your tender bulbs. Tender bulbs include such things as elephant ear, caladium, cannas, and calla lily among several others.  Tender bulbs aren’t usually hardy.  Some years they survive our winters, however, to ensure their survival, dig them up and bring them indoors.

I usually wait for a light frost to nip these plants before I cut them off.  After cutting the tops back dig the bulbs with a shovel or fork.  Shake the soil loose from the roots and allow the bulbs to dry for a couple of days before placing them in storage.  There are few requirements when storing these bulbs however things to watch for are as follows: If you are going to place them in a plastic container, don’t put a top on it.  This can sweat and ultimately cause your bulbs to rot.  The only other requirement for storage is to keep the bulbs in a cool, dark, dry place that doesn’t freeze.  This can be a closet, basement, or in some homes the attic.

If you’re growing any of these tender bulbs in pots, you don’t have to dig the bulbs.  Slowly reduce the amount of water and cut the tops back.  Storage is the same as for the dug bulbs.  If you have any questions about horticulture, give me a call at 859-336-7741.