Growing Tips: Bringing Tropical Plants Inside for Winter

by Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

The question we get most often this time of year is, “What do I need to do to my plants before I bring them inside for the winter?

This question actually brings up several other important ones, such as:

  1. Do I need to do a preventative pest spray before bringing plants inside?
  2. Do I need to prune or cut back my plants before bringing them inside?
  3. How do I overwinter my plants if they are large plants?

Let’s first start with the broad view, and then we’ll get into the specifics…

Plants grown outside are in their natural habitat in the summer and growing plants outside helps their vigor and strength. The beneficial bugs innately take care of any pest problems on your plants, but as soon as your plants are brought inside the beneficial bugs that are naturally outside are no longer your ally.

Pure Neem Oil

Inspect your plants first. Usually the insects are hard to see but it is good to look for them. Look for mites, white fly, mealy bug and scale. It’s a good idea to spray your plants before you bring them inside.

First, spray with water to remove mites, eggs, or cottony masses to dislodge them. Second, spray with Neem oil. Do not spray oil on during the bright part of the day, as sunlight and oil can cause damage or burn. Some plants, like oxalis are sensitive to Neem, so oxalis should only get sprayed with water.

It is best to spray twice, a week apart. First, spray with water and then the same day spray with Neem oil. When you spray, don’t use a little hand-held spritzer. It is best to use a sprayer that can be pumped up to create pressure. Thoroughly coat the plants’ undersides and all leaves and stems.

Second, pruning is often recommended to cut back a plant to a manageable size or selective pruning can be done to cut back any out reaching branches. Depending on the plant, we suggest selective pruning so you don’t cut off all your flowers for the upcoming season.

For example: a Meyer Lemon plant can be shaped, but don’t cut it back too severely or you risk removing the flower buds for next year’s lemons. Another example is Avocado. These have to be pruned back carefully in the fall because the buds form in the fall for next season’s fruit.

Cane Begonias, or Angel Wings, can be cut back to a reasonable size to fit into the indoor growing space. Always remember when your next flowering cycle is so you don’t prune off next season’s flowers.

Begonia ‘My Special Angel’ (Begonia fibrous hybrid)

Begonia ‘My Special Angel’ (Begonia fibrous hybrid)

Make sure you don’t prune winter blooming plants such as Blue Skyflower (Thunbergia Grandiflora). It will reduce the flowering. Generally, we prune as little as possible because you want the foliage on the plants going into the dark days since plants often go into a semi-dormant state in winter.

Logees-Blue-Skyflower-Thunbergia-grandiflora

Blue Skyflower (Thunbergia grandiflora)

Another issue when bringing your plants inside is the environmental stress and your plants’ response. It is normal for your plants to experience an adjustment phase when being moved inside after spending the summer outdoors. Leaves may drop and buds may blast, a condition where the buds fall off before opening. To decrease this possibility, move your plants into the same sun exposure, full sun plants into full sun; shade plants into low light areas of your home.

The dryness of a home environment can also be a factor in your plants adjustment phase. If you have an extra dry home you may want to use a humidifier or humidity tray for plants such as orchids. Once your plant readjusts it will grow new leaves. And, if you lose some flower buds, fear not, more buds and flowers may form.

Finally, if you are growing large specimen plants such as Elephant Ears (Colocasia) or Angel’s Trumpets (Brugmansia), there are many different ways to overwinter them.

Angel’s Trumpet ‘Angel’s Summer Dream’ p.p.a.f. (Brugmansia hybrid)

Angel’s Trumpet ‘Angel’s Summer Dream’ p.p.a.f. (Brugmansia hybrid)

You can take an off-shoot of an Elephant Ear such as ‘Thai Giant’ and put the bulb in a pot and then store it in a dark, cool place for winter. You will need to water it occasionally throughout the winter months so it doesn’t dry out.

For large pots of Angel’s Trumpets, we recommend pruning the plant back hard and over- wintering it in a cool garage or cellar, as long as it doesn’t go below freezing. Water every couple of weeks so the plant doesn’t dry out completely. There doesn’t need to be a light source but be prepared for the leaves to drop if you haven’t removed them all when you pruned it back. Once the leaves drop you may only need to water it once a month or when the soil dries. It will need much less water without any leaves since it is in a resting, dormant phase.

If you have room in your home, simply bring in the Angel’s Trumpet and place in a sunny location. If you have full sun windows and enough space, you can grow your Angel’s Trumpet year-round, and expect to see flowers intermittently throughout the year.

And that’s it… With a few precautionary measures, you can enjoy the tropical plants that have summered outside in the dark days of winter inside your home pest free!

Thank you for visiting Logee’s. We hope you’ve learned a few things about bringing your plants inside for the winter. While you’re here, please be sure to explore our selection of fruiting, rare and tropical plants. And don’t forget to request your free Logee’s catalog, too!