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Oklahoma State University

Acclimating outdoor plants to the indoors for winter

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Moving patio plants indoors before cold weather strikes means your spring patio will be brighter with colorful, healthy plants.

Oklahomans may not need snow boots and parkas anytime soon, but they still should make plans to move patio plants indoors before Old Man Winter arrives.

Bright sunshine and warm temperatures are great for plants during the summer months. However those wonderful tropical patio additions will not last long as temperatures drop, said David Hillock, Oklahoma State University Extension consumer horticulturist.

“Once we begin experiencing nighttime temperatures in the 50s, gardeners should begin the transition process,” Hillock said.

One of the most common issues associated with houseplants coming back indoors is that they bring unwanted pests with them. Hillock said to check plants thoroughly for small insects such as aphids, mealybugs and spider mites and remove them. Those little creatures use patio plants for transportation, just like an Uber or Lyft for human passengers. Once inside, they can infect all of the other houseplants.

“Check under the leaves, on the stems and even the area between the pot and the saucer,” Hillock said. “Some pests like to hide out in that area. If you discover any insects, treat the plants with an insecticidal soap or other approved insecticide outside before bringing them into your house. Another option is to remove them with a steady stream of water.”

Once gardeners are ready to move plants inside, they need to be acclimated to lower light levels.

“It’s never good for the plants to simply bring them inside and leave them. This can shock the plants and cause them stress due to the sudden change in temperature, light and humidity,” he said. “Light levels inside your home are much lower compared to the bright sunshine outside.”

To move plants indoors, Hillock said gardeners should follow these steps:

  • Move plants to a shaded part of the yard for about a week.
  • Next, move plants indoors for a day or two during the week, gradually leaving them in for longer periods of time. This helps the plants acclimate to lower natural light.
  • Once nighttime temperatures are continuously in the 50s or less, the plants need to stay indoors until spring.

Once the plants are indoors fulltime, keep in mind they will not need as much water compared with life outside. Only water them when the soil is dry to the touch.

“Houseplants certainly add another dimension to your home’s décor. Taking the time to properly acclimate them will help ensure they stay healthy until it’s time to move them back outside next spring,” he said.

For more information about indoor plants, see OSU Extension’s fact sheet on houseplant care.

MEDIA CONTACT: Trisha Gedon | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-3625 |

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