Ask Elaine: Bringing Plants Indoors for the Winter

Dear Elaine,

I have annuals planted outside and I brought my houseplants out to enjoy the warm summer weather and fresh air. What shall I do for winter? Thanks.


Dear Cindy,

Yes, get ready for winter! A killing frost generally occurs mid-October in the Wayne area. The frost is close to the full moon date (full Hunter’s moon is October 24). Your annual flowers will also slow down with cooler weather and shorter days. If you have favorites, or large plants, you can dig them up, put them in a pot and bring them indoors. A warm house will protect from frost but the light is generally not strong enough so supplemental light may need to be provided. Check for water. Let the top of the soil dry out. Do not fertilize. Through the winter, the plants may get a little leggy or scraggly. Wait until March 21, the first day of spring, when the day length starts to get longer than the nights, to trim back the plants and fertilize them.

Houseplants (any plant brought indoors) need to be inspected for insects and diseases. Look closely at the soil and under the leaves.  Give them a shower with a garden hose – not too strong. Soak the pot in a tub for 15 minutes to force insects out of the soil. Remove dead, spotted or yellow leaves. Clean the windows that the plants will be placed in front of to increase light. To increase the humidity indoors, put your plants on a tray with pebbles or gravel. Keep the gravel moist.

At Laurelwood, we dismantle some of our gardens and flower pots about October 16. This includes the Sensory Garden and the Summer Garden across from the upper greenhouse.  Large, valuable tropicals and other annuals are brought inside to overwinter.  Huge bananas, Brugmansia and plumbago are brought into the educational greenhouse and Knippenberg Center for Education. We will allow many of our tender annual plants to reseed – cleome, forget-me-nots and nasturtiums. We allow our cannas to get frosted so that the tops die. Then we dig up the tuber while the soil is still warm, allow it to dry and store them in bags with peat moss.  In late winter, we pot up the cannas to start growing in time for our annual plant sale the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

Enjoy autumn!  Happy Gardening!

Elaine Fogerty, Executive Director

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