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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bring Houseplants Indoors

Allspice and Bay Rum plants moved indoors.

Ozarks Gardening
Copyright© 2012 Jim Long

Every year I put off the job of bringing my indoor plants back into the house. They always do better outdoors on the deck than they do in the winter. But it’s a job that has to be done and as the nights get cooler, the plants need to come indoors.

I cease all fertilizing in early August. Giving houseplants fertilizer too late in the summer may cause a growth spurt, then when there’s not enough sunlight indoors, the plants suffer. The plants can even die due to too much fertilizer at a time when they’re going dormant. So definitely no fertilizer this time of year (that holds true for outdoor shrubs and roses, as well, they are all slowing down and going dormant for winter).
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Year around I keep Horticultural Oil Spray on hand. It’s mixed with water and sprayed with a small pump sprayer, and works well on vegetable crops in the garden as well as on houseplants (but not on African violets). So before I bring my plants indoors, I prune them some, then give them a thorough spraying, enough that the spray solution is dripping off the leaves. I’m careful to spray the undersides of the leaves as well as the stem or trunk of the plant, and even the top of the soil and edges of the pots.

If I dig up something from the garden - for example I’m bringing one of my hot pepper plants indoors - I’ll spray that the same way. Then in about 2 weeks, on a warm, sunny day, I’ll carry all the plants back outside and give them a second spraying. Why, you may wonder?

The life cycle of most houseplant pests is about 10-14 days. If you sprayed well before your brought the plants indoors, you’ve killed the insects that were on the plants already. But any eggs they laid will hatch out in about two weeks. The second spraying is necessary  to prevent new batches of pests.

The most common insects that plague indoor plants include: red spider mites, scale, mealy bugs and aphids. All of those are easily killed with the Horticultural Oil Spray. It’s available in some garden supply stores and on-line. I keep it on hand for sale when someone requests it, as well. It’s the most reliable way of keeping indoor plants healthy and pest free.

Scale insects are slightly more difficult to deal with and may require 3 or 4 sprayings over a couple of months. If you have old ferns or citrus plants, you’re likely to have scale. It looks like little bumps on the stems and undersides of leaves. Horticultural Oil Spray kills those in one spraying, but the eggs that haven’t hatched yet remain and repeated sprayings are necessary.

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