Moving plants indoors for the winter

First published on Charleston Gazette-Mail.

It’s mid-November, and I have begun to move many of my potted plants inside. This is always a sad time for me and for my plants. It means keeping the doors and windows shut and bracing for the colder temperatures of winter.

My big, lovely, decades-old (so old I can’t remember where it came from) schefflera plant, commonly called the umbrella tree, spends the warm summer months on my back deck. It is very happy there, but now that frost is near, I will bring it inside to be near a window in my dining room.

Because the deck is covered and against the house, I can push the season a bit longer than if the pot was in my yard fully exposed. This plant will survive the winter with indirect sunlight and regular watering. These are also reasons the schefflera is a good choice for year-round indoor living.

I have an areca palm tree that I inherited from a neighbor who was moving far away. This tree lived across the street from me for many years, but now Ping (yes, the tree has a name) lives on my bottom deck.

Ping will move into my basement for the winter. He’s a little too heavy and too tall for me to bring upstairs. This palm, often referred to as the butterfly palm because of its arching shape and yellow-greenish color, needs quite a bit of light to thrive, so I will make sure it is near the window.

Before moving any outdoor plants inside, it is a good idea to check for bugs and disease. My schefflera had aphids early in the summer. Washing the leaves thoroughly and a quick trip to the garden center for spray easily solved the problem.

It’s wise to do a thorough check while the plants are outside. It’s not worth the risk of infecting other indoor house plants.

When thinking about your indoor space, plan to keep plants away from heat vents.

Remember, they have been outside for months, and the change to an indoor climate may cause them to shed a few leaves. Don’t worry, once the plant acclimates to the indoors, the leaves should return.

You may need to occasionally dust the plant leaves. When outdoors, they had wind and rain to keep them clean. Inside, they may need your help. Keeping the leaves clean will help keep the plant healthy.

But let’s be honest, if you have a house full of guests for turkey dinner, you may need to leave your plants outside. This is a risky move. If you decide to try it, when the temps dip to the low 30s, you can throw a cotton sheet over them for the night.

Please don’t cover them with plastic. Once the sun comes out the plants will bake and suffer damage. Don’t forget your herbs — you can cover them, too. If you have them growing in pots, bringing them inside is worth a try. Just imagine having fresh herbs throughout the winter months.

Writing about November and turkey dinners makes this seem like the perfect time to give thanks for my garden. It gives me exercise, fresh air, vegetables, flowers and reason to hang out and share with other gardeners.

Whether your garden is on several acres, a kitchen window sill or pots in your dining room, consider yourself lucky that you get to play in the dirt and watch something grow.