Moving Outdoor Gardens Indoors for Winter

December 5, 2011 by

Indoor plants on a New York City windowsill enjoying the view. Photo:

The days of warm weather are quickly slipping away, now being replaced by cooler temperatures. It’s time to transfer plants from the outdoors to inside for the winter season.

Transferring plants inside season after season may seem tiresome and tedious, but moving plants outside for the spring and summer gives plants a natural growth boost. Conversely, bringing plants indoors for late fall and winter gives your mood a boost during those dark months. Brining plants inside for the winter also promises larger and fuller vegetation the following year, as your plants prosper and thrive indoors.

Rosemary in the rain. Photo: Jude Doyland.

Quick Tips
Following these quick tips will make transferring plants a simple and enjoyable venture:

Recognize the growth your plants have experienced during the summer months.
Purchase pots that adapt to plants’ sizes if they are larger than the previous year. If you repurposed pots from last year, make sure they are completely clean before planting anything new.

Purchase new potting soil.
Do not drag outdoor soil indoors, the new soil will allow the plant to accommodate to its new surroundings while providing the necessary nutrients for continued growth.

Inspect for insects.
Thoroughly check all areas of the plant for insects, from leaves to stems to soil. In addition, give plants a healthy shower prior to potting. A soft hand soap or vegetable/fruit wash can be diluted with water and sprayed on plants. Before potting, allow the plants plenty of time to dry either in direct sunlight, on a porch, or in a garage.
• Herbs like chives, rosemary, and thyme, can be especially tricky because of their many leaves. Using a light vegetable/fruit wash assures no damage will occur to the plant while reaching all its leaves and stems.

Prune heavily for healthy growth.
Cut away dead and damaged leaves and stems, but refrain from removing healthy ones. Although plant growth tends to naturally slow down during the colder months (even indoors), pruning will allow for healthy growth and help prepare plants for their spring season transfer.

Chives. Photo: Steve Christiansen

Prepare your home for plants.
Potting the plants isn’t the only step to moving vegetation indoors. Be sure to account for these factors:
• Adjust lighting and plant positioning for optimal growth–if specific lighting conditions are necessary for certain plants, make sure those are being followed as closely as possible.
• Thyme requires as much direct sunlight as possible. This particular plant can spend the winter in a non-shaded, south-facing window for maximum light with an artificial lamp close by to compensate when necessary.
• Adjust temperature as necessary–don’t freeze your family for the good of your plants, but place warm-climate plants closer to heat vents, while placing cooler-climate plants further away. Keep in mind heat rises, therefore, plants residing on higher shelves or upper floors will be exposed to greater amounts of heat.
• Rosemary is a warm-winter plant. Although it should not be placed directly on a vent, the plant will still thrive in heated conditions. Try placing your rosemary plant in a second-floor bathroom.
• Keep plants away from pets–be sure to position plants in places that are out-of-reach of both animals and children. Although herbs won’t hurt, many plants are harmful when consumed. Practice safe gardening by simply keeping plants out-of-reach.

Photo: Simone Lindengrove.

Tips, tricks and specific instructions are great guidelines to follow when transferring outdoor plants indoors. Keep in mind, however, that some plants are not suited for the inside and some plants can suffer stress. As careful as your transition may be, not all plants will survive. Do not let this deter your decision to move them, as few plants have problems and successful transitions are the most likely outcome.

Make sure to spend the next couple of weeks accomplishing this task or the winter weather will arrive before you know it! Enjoy your plants indoors and check back for a springtime transfer guide.

About Guest Contributor: Dr. Wesley Chun, Ph.d

Dr. Chun is the CSO at Grower’s Secret, Inc. He previously served for 17 years as an Associate Professor of Plant Pathology and Plant Bacteriology at the University of Idaho. Dr. Chun is an internationally recognized expert in bacterial identification and food borne toxins.

Dr. Chun is broadly trained in plant bacteriology, plant disease physiology, and molecular and physiological basis of disease in plants. He received his Masters degree in plant pathology from the University of Hawaii, where he developed a selective growth medium and an ELISA test for bacterial canker of tomatoes.  He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside, where he characterized a new bacterial pathogen of tomatoes and a chromosomally borne pathogenicity in genes.  He received additional training in bacterial genetics and molecular biology at the University of Missouri under Dr. A. K. Chatterjee.

Dr. Chun has guided research and discoveries in biological control, which have resulted in two patents for biological control strains and a process for producing stable formulations of dried bacteria for biological control use. He currently serves as a reviewer for several national and international journals, USDA research programs, and serves as a food borne fungal/bacterial toxin expert for the NSA Homeland Security office.  Dr. Chun has several publications, the most notable being the “Laboratory Guide for the Identification of Plant Pathogenic Bacteria.”  Co-edited with Jeff Jones and Norm Schaad, this manual is recognized as the definitive source by bacteriologists worldwide for plant bacteriology.

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