By Julie Weisenhorn and Adam Austing, University of Minnesota Extension
We have had a very nice, very long fall with warm days and cool nights. If you are like me, your houseplants spend the summer outside. By now, you’ve most likely brought them indoors for the winter.
Houseplants that spend the growing season outdoors typically have seeds, leaves and sometimes weeds tucked in and around the branches and stems. Likewise, the pots may be dirty from rain and algae, and the plant may need a shower. It’s also common for insects to hitchhike on plants as well.
Taking the time now to give your houseplants a good check-up and cleaning results in fewer pest issues and healthier, better-looking plants in the long run.
Repot your plants
If your plant has outgrown its current container, now is a great time to repot and start the winter with a clean plant, clean soil and a clean pot. Take advantage of a nice day to do your repotting outside, minimizing the mess indoors.
When the plant is out of the pot, examine its roots — they should be creamy white and firm — and look under the leaves for insect signs. Choose a slightly larger (2"+) pot and repot with fresh, sterile potting mix. Do not use garden soil or potting mix that’s been sitting outside all summer as both contain pests and weeds you don’t want indoors.
Examine plants for insects
Insects will hide underneath leaves, at nodes, under flowers — wherever they feel protected.
Spend time going over your plants, specifically looking under the plant parts. A magnifying glass or loop and a small LED flashlight are really helpful tools when it comes to looking for pests. If you find insects, webbing, egg sacs, etc., pick them off or use a cotton swab to dab them off.
Clean out plant debris that may have accumulated on the soil surface
Insects love to set up residence in plant debris. Cozy up to your plant and handpick the seeds, leaves and dead flowers from under leaves and on the soil surface. If you have a large plant, consider using the hose on a vacuum equipped with the pointed tool for getting into corners to pick up large amounts of debris.
Consider giving your plant a shower
Small plants can be placed in a kitchen or utility sink and washed with the spray nozzle. Larger plants can be washed in the shower.
Place a sieve over your drain to prevent soil and plant debris from going down the drain. Let the plant dry somewhat and make sure it drains before putting it back in its place for the winter.
Wipe off the pot including the bottom and saucers
Insect eggs, nests, webs, algae, etc. can accumulate on containers and saucers. Start the winter off right with clean pots.
Lastly, check each plant for damaged parts and trim off. Use a clean pruner. Wright County residents can get further information by reaching out to firstname.lastname@example.org or 763-682-7381.
For more news from U of M Extension, visit www.extension.umn.edu/news or contact Extension Communications at email@example.com.