It's Time to Move Houseplants Inside

Karen Russ
Home & Garden Information Center

With lower night temperatures, it’s time to get your houseplants ready for their move back into the house. Many houseplants can be injured at temperatures of 50 °F or lower. They do not have to be frosted to be damaged. Many tropical plants are injured at temperatures well above freezing.

It’s best to move plants inside while outside and indoor temperatures are similar. Move them before you turn your heating system on, so that they do not go through an extreme temperature change.

Over a period of a couple of weeks, if time is available before cold weather, gradually reduce light levels by moving plants from sun to light shade to heavy shade, and finally indoors. When you move plants indoors, make sure the light conditions are as close as possible to those outdoors. For most houseplants this should be one of the brightest areas in your house. Once indoors, the plant may develop leaf yellowing or drop as it adjusts to lower light.

Before bringing houseplants inside, check carefully for pests on the plants or in the soil. Many soft-bodied houseplant pests such as aphids, mealy bugs and spider mites can be treated with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. For best results, spray the entire plant (upper and lower surfaces of leaves), soil and pot; avoid spraying plants in full sun. Depending on the pest, reapply the spray twice more at 3 to 10 day intervals (according to the label).

Insecticidal soaps and oil sprays are considered safe for inside spraying, but they can be messy. If temperatures are above 50 °F, consider spraying the plants outdoors in a shady location.

Some plants are sensitive to soap or oil sprays. Read the label carefully to see if your plants are listed as sensitive. Some plants known to be sensitive to insecticidal soap include euphorbias, gardenias, ivies, most houseplants with hairy leaves, dracaena, palms, delicate ferns, dieffenbachia and succulents. If unsure, do a test spray on a small portion of the plant and watch for several days to see if there is a reaction. Both soaps and oils can cause damage to plants if applied when plants are water stressed, temperatures are above 90 °F, or high humidity prevents rapid drying. As with all pesticides, read and follow all label instructions and precautions.

For more information on moving houseplants indoors for winter, see HGIC 1454, Indoor Plants - Moving Plants Indoors & Outdoors. For information on successful growing of houseplants, see the Indoor Plants section of our website at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/indoor/.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.