Sure, your houseplants have had it pretty good for the past few months – basking in the sun all day then staying out all night. But the party’s over, and it’s time to bring them back indoors!

Check leaf undersides

Make sure the stems and undersides of leaves are pest-free!

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Washing houseplant pot

Use a rag to wash the pot, and don’t forget the rim where pests can hide.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Slug salt removal

Make sure to flush out the extra salts (a by-product of fertilizing) and get rid of any hidden pests.

Photo Credit: Donna W. Moramarco

Let me be honest with you for a moment. I don’t look forward to moving all my houseplants back indoors. For years, I’ve lugged my enormous palms outside every May. I drag a hose to water them – never having to worry about accidentally watering my wood floors or making a mess while preening them. They’re so easy to groom them when they’re outside. I just take a pair of sharp scissors and snip off the brown tips. The cuttings just blow away, so I’m not dragging a vacuum around the living room! Yes, my party’s over too. It’s time to lug them back indoors for their long winter respite.

But before they come in through my front door, I carefully inspect them for any problems. That’s because it’s so much easier to deal with any plant problems outside. It’s easy to do. Just look at your plants in the sunlight and inspect them for any signs of insects. Because it’s so much brighter outside, chances are you’ll spot a problem more quickly and easily outside! Be sure to check all over for problems – and that means turning over the leaves and looking for any issues on the undersides and along the stems. Insects can be very clever, so inspect carefully.

Another thing I always do to help me find any hidden problems is to wash off my pots with a strong stream of water. Then I take a towel and wipe the pots from top to bottom and under the rim. These are all potential hiding places for slugs, sowbugs and other pests. Also, I make sure to get rid of the leaf litter that can collect on the top of the soil. I don’t want any freeloading pests to hitch a ride inside to enjoy a warm winter hiding spot!

Did you find something bugging your houseplants? If you’re not sure what the pest is, take a sample to your local cooperative extension office or garden center. Make sure the sample is adequate (the larger the sample, the better) for identification or diagnosis. Once you know what the problem is, you can determine a course of action.

Not every problem requires treatment. But, if you need to spray, make sure the product matches the problem. There are many insecticides to select from – chemical or organic. Whatever your preference, it’s imperative you read the label first! When you spray, do so outside in a shady location (never spray your houseplants in full sun or damage can result). As soon as the plants are dry, it’s time to bring them indoors.

Remember, plants need to adjust to the indoors again. Different light levels, lower humidity – it’s all part of the adjustment period. For best results, attempt to duplicate the same light your plants had outdoors. Also, avoid the temperature extremes. Keep plants away from icy, cold drafts and the hot, dry air from radiators and forced-air heaters. Don’t be surprised if some leaf drop occurs during the adjustment period. It’ll take about six weeks or so for your plants to get used to being back indoors.

When it comes to watering after you bring your plants inside, it can be a little tricky. This is what I do to help the problem: I give them a last outdoor watering to thoroughly flush out any salts from my regular fertilizing program. (I enjoy this because it’s the last time I can be sloppy with my watering!) Once they’re back indoors, I’m careful not to overwater. How do I know when they need water? I just stick my finger several inches into the soil. If the soil feels dry, I water. If not, I don’t! The plants will tell you if they’re thirsty if you check. You really can’t go by a regular watering schedule.

And just like when your plants were outdoors, be sure to inspect your plants regularly for any signs of pests. If I find any, I treat the problem as soon as possible. If it becomes too big to handle, I pitch the plant. I just don’t think it’s worth infecting all my other plants. Plus, there are plenty more to choose from at my local garden center. For me, it’s an acceptable excuse to buy a new plant or two.

Don’t forget, between all the watering and inspecting, sit back and enjoy the plants. They can really add a lot of life to your great indoors – especially when it’s too cold to garden outside.