Prepping Potted Plants for an Indoor Winter Vacation

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Prepping Potted Plants for an Indoor Winter Vacation

If you have perennial plants (those that live for several years, as opposed to annuals that live only one season) growing in containers, you may be wondering what to do with those plants during winter months.

If you live in Southern California or a similarly mild climate, your entire winter plan may involve bringing your pots inside for the one or two nights of below freezing temperatures your area gets each year. However, if you live in an area with weeks or months on end of freezing or near freezing weather, most (or all) of your plants will need to come inside until next spring.

The first thing to do is to decide which plants need to come inside. As I mentioned earlier, annuals are going to die whether you leave them outside or bring them in. You might as well toss the plants and soil, clean the pots, and store them for next year. If a plant is hardy to several zones below your zone, and it is planted in a pot that won’t crack during the thawing-freezing cycle, you can leave it outside. Remember that temperatures above ground are colder than those below ground, which is why you need to give plants left outside at least a two zone hardiness buffer. Those plants that are not hardy in your area, or are in ceramic pots that are likely to crack if left outside, should be brought indoors.

Now that you have picked the plants you want to bring inside, you need to clean them up. Use a small hand broom (the kind that comes with a dustbin) to brush off any spider webs, debris, or insects that may be on the outside of the pot. Don’t forget to inspect the bottom. If you believe the soil is inundated with pests, consider drenching the soil with a neem oil solution (1 tablespoon neem oil to 1 gallon water). Be sure to remove any leaf litter that may be on the soil surface, as that is a favorite insect hiding spot. Examine the leaves as well. Remove any egg sacs and treat any pest problems (insecticidal soap and/or horticultural oil are good organic options).

This is also a good time to repot your plants if they need it, and prune off overgrown foliage and dead branches.

Now your plants are ready for a winter stint indoors. Deciduous plants can be stored in a cool, dry spot. Light isn’t particularly important and they won’t have any leaves and won’t be growing. Don’t water them unless the soil becomes bone-dry. Evergreen plants will need a bright indoor location, preferably with a southern exposure or underneath grow lights. Indoor light is filtered through windows and is never as bright as it is outdoors. Most outdoor plants merely tolerate indoor living, so be sure to put them back outside as soon as all danger of frost has passed.

Remember to enjoy the winter break from gardening. For everything there is a season…