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Bringing your plants indoors and outdoors

Sword fern
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Jean-Pierre Bellemare)
Nephrolepis exaltata

Bringing your plants indoors

Lots of houseplants enjoy spending some time outdoors in summer. But with the cooler fall temperatures, it’s time to think about bringing them back indoors. Here are some tips for making the transition easier on them.

Acclimatize your plants

As a rule, houseplants should be brought indoors when nighttime temperatures drop below 12ºC. After all, most of these plants are from tropical origins. Succulents can usually tolerate cooler temperatures.

If possible, bring your plants indoors at night and take them back outdoors during the day for about 7 to 10 days. If you aren’t able to acclimatize them in this way, some species may drop their leaves. New leaves will appear once the plants have adapted to being back indoors, though.

Getting rid of stowaways

Before bringing your plants indoors, spray them with tepid water to knock off any insect pests. Then inspect them very carefully for any stowaways. Pay special attention to new shoots and the underside of leaves, where most sap-sucking pests like to hide. What are you looking for? Mostly whiteflies, aphids, spider mites, scale insects and thrips.

Cut off and dispose of any badly infested parts. As a last resort, use a low-impact pesticide with insecticidal soap as the active ingredient. You can also dislodge scale insects with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Keeping your plants healthy in winter

Give your plants the daylight, temperature and humidity conditions they need. For more information, you can read about Caring for indoor plants in the winter to learn about the specific requirements of close to 50 indoor plants.

Bringing your plants outdoors

When you take your indoor plants or young annuals (flower or vegetable plants) outside in spring, it is highly recommended that you give them a hardening off period. You can do this by gradually exposing them to outdoor conditions (temperature, light, wind, etc.) so that they have time to adjust. This will help avoid any damage.

You can start hardening off your plants as soon as nighttime temperatures are above 10-12°C. Place them in a corner in partial shade, out of the wind. Move them into a sunnier spot for a few hours, in the morning or late afternoon, for a bit longer each day. They'll be ready for full sun in 7 to 10 days.

You can also start them out in the shade of a tree or under a “parasol” made of a double layer of shade cloth or mosquito netting, and gradually expose them to more direct sunlight every day.

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