As summer winds down and cooler temperatures begin to take over, it's time to start thinking about bringing in any houseplants that you may have transferred outside for the summer season. Over the summer your plants and pots can be the perfect habitat for unwanted
pest insects such as aphids, spider mites and western flower thrips and diseases like powdery or downy mildew. To avoid infesting your indoor plants it is important to follow these steps before bringing your outside tropicals back into any indoor environment.
• Deadhead and prune your plants back to the inside diameter of the pot you will be transplanting into. Prune the soft growth from the top of the plant back to at least 6 inches. • Loosen the soil away from the edge of the planter, grasp the base of the plant and gently pull the plant and root ball out of the pot. • Shake off as much soil from the rootball as possible then use a garden hose to wash off the leaves, stems and roots of the plant. Pest insects frequently burrow down close to the roots and stem intersections of plants.
• Thoroughly wash and scrub your planter with soap and water, then rinse with a bleach solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water to sanitize or choose a new or clean planter to transfer the plant into. • Add fresh, clean potting soil to your clean pot and replant into the new soil, making sure to cover the entire root system. The plant should be deep enough for the bottom leaves of the plant to just be touching the soil and the soil should be about a half an inch from the edge of the planter. This will secure the plant and prevent flopping as the plant regrows. Leaving a headspace from the top of the soil and the lip of the planter also provides a reservoir for water and stops the soil from washing out of the pot. • At this point you can apply a slow release granular fertilizer or fertilizer spike to the planter. Granules should be sprinkled evenly on the soil and spikes should be pushed into the soil at the edge of the planter. Always follow the recommended amounts provided on the back of the fertilizer container. Slow release fertilizers only release small amounts of nutrients over time and are excellent choices for feeding houseplants over winter.
• Now you can thoroughly water your transplant until the water begins to drip through the bottom of the planter.
• Once the leaves are dry it is time to spray the leaves and stems with a biologically safe insecticide and/or fungicide to terminate any pest insects that may not have been washed off and to stop fungal issues. Products like Safer's End All (terminates most common pest insects from egg to adult stage), Safer's 3 n 1 ( controls both pest insects and fungal diseases) or Safer's Defender (controls powdery & downy mildew, rust and black spot) are excellent products which are not harmful or toxic to pets and humans. Do not apply these products under bright, sunny conditions. Plants should be sprayed before 6 am or after 6 pm to prevent burning.
• Once the leaves of the transplant have dried you can isolate your plants in a warm, well lighted room or garage, away from any existing indoor plants to be monitored for about 5 to 7 days. At the end of this period, thoroughly examine the tops and undersides of leaves and the stems of the transplants for pest insects or disease. If the plants appear clean they can be reintroduced alongside other indoor plants. If not, apply a second application of the insectide or fungicide in the same manner and wait another 5 days before moving the plant back into a regular environment.
• You can now begin watering your transplants as needed remembering that through the winter plants do not require as much water as in the summer since they are in a partial dormancy period. Apply liquid houseplant fertilizers sparingly from mid October to mid March. (Preferably only once a month). • Refrain from using water that is highly chlorinated or salty. These types of water have high pH levels and over time make it impossible for the plant roots to access nutrients. Yellowing & browning of leaves and complete plant death can occur in this situation. It is best to save and use rainwater as much as possible or use melted snow that has been warmed. You can also use spring or distilled water. Reverse osmosis water is also acceptable but a small amount of fertilizer must be also used in this case, since reverse osmosis water is completely devoid of all minerals.