Potted plants are a great way to add color and foliage to small spaces like decks and patios.
The best part about having plants in pots is that they are mobile.
Many of the plants that thrive during our warm summer months cannot survive the sub-freezing temperatures we have already experienced this month. With potted plants, we have the ability to bring the plants which are not cold hardy inside to survive the winter.
There are several issues to consider when bringing an outdoor plant inside over winter.
The first is space. Even a few potted plants from outside can end up taking up a good bit of space inside. I know some folks who devote entire rooms in their houses for overwintering large-leafed plants like banana trees. Most people don't have the space to devote an entire room to plants. You may have to choose two or three of your favorite potted plants to bring inside and replant the other next spring.
We also have to consider that when we bring outdoor plants inside, we are exposing the plants to vastly different environmental conditions. They are going from an environment with natural sunlight and high humidity to an environment with dry air and low light. Because the plants are inside and are more visible, people tend to water them much more than needed.
Indoor plants often show symptoms that are caused from improper care. Many can be reversed if management practices are shifted.
As mentioned earlier, moving plants indoors greatly reduces the amount of sunlight they are accustomed to receiving. This can cause the plants to develop long, spindly stems with pale, undersized leaves.
Plants showing these symptoms should be moved closer to a window. Grow lights could also be used for supplemental lighting.
Water is also a major issue with indoor plants.
Overwatering leads to symptoms including: soft or mushy stems, lower leaves curling up or wilting, wilted foliage throughout the plant, yellow or mottled leaves, sudden defoliation and rot at the soil line.
Water your indoor plants infrequently. The soil at the top of the container should not always stay moist and soggy, contrary to popular belief. Stick your index finger down into the potting soil daily to gauge soil moisture. If the soil feels dry, it is time to water.
When watering a potted plant, it is best to water thoroughly to hit the entire root zone. Allow the pots to drain and discard the excess water. Allowing pots to sit in the drained water can lead to root diseases.
Browning leaf tips, as well as leaf edges that become crinkly and brown, are most often caused by low humidity. The air in our houses can be extremely dry, especially in winter with the heat running. Indoor plants can be misted with a small hand sprayer to keep consistent moisture on them. A humidifier can also be used around your plants to increase humidity.
Other indoor plant issues can be caused by excess fertilizers and insects brought in from the outdoors. Try to keep the fertilizer and pesticide use to a minimum indoors. Insecticidal soaps are best for in home use because they are not considered as harsh as other pesticides.
Clark MacAllister is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706)265-2442.