GARDENING: Welcome your winter tenants!

By Sara Moran, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Horticulture Agent for Midland and Ector Counties

It is the time of the year when some precious plants we have growing outdoors, under the porch, and containers should come inside because they won’t tolerate cold nights. Extra care is needed since they prefer warm environments, and our winters can be harsh and partially damage their tissue or cause them to fail.

Bringing plants indoors can be a great way to enjoy them indoors, plus they can create an aesthetic appeal to your living space. So, consider the following aspects for a happy transition.

Provide adequate light and temperature. Some plants will prefer direct sunlight, while others might tolerate some shade. Be sure to place your plant in an area that receives the light it needs. To ensure even growth, periodically rotate your plants so that all sides receive adequate sunlight.

Place your plants where a constant temperature can be maintained. For example, avoid placing them under an air vent. Our climate is very variable, and some days, you might need to switch from AC during the day to a heater during the night. It is better if the plant slowly adapts to those temperature changes.

Check the water and moisture environment. Monitor soil moisture: indoor plants might not need to be watered often since they are less exposed to outdoor conditions (e.g., wind). However, you can stick your finger in the soil or use a soil moisture meter to determine if your plant requires water. A rule of thumb is to water the plants when the top inch of soil is dry. Ensure your pots have drainage holes and be mindful of plant-specific water needs.

Additionally, indoor environments can be dry, and many plants, such as tropical, appreciate increased humidity. You can use a humidity tray or a humidifier to help maintain proper humidity levels. You can also use a spray mist and, from time to time, spray around the foliage.

Inspect for pests and diseases and watch for signs of stress. Do you notice dead leaves? Yellowing leaves? Any drooping leaves? Abnormal growth or any other signs of stress? Do you see any unwanted insects? If this is the case, consider a quick shower or manual removal of the insects. Identify your pest; this is the first step for providing an appropriate treatment plan. Chemicals (organic or inorganic) can be used; use them correctly and follow label directions.

Be aware of their growing conditions. If the plant has outgrown its pots or the soil has become compacted, consider repotting them into larger containers with fresh, well-draining potting mix. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust, which can reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize efficiently. Additionally, trim any dead or yellowing leaves and prune overgrown branches. This not only helps the plant’s appearance but also its overall health.

Not all plants thrive indoors. Know your plant and do some research about their growing needs. Yes, they will be indoors, in a relatively more controlled environment, but still monitor your plants occasionally. Regular care, attention, and a little research can go a long way in maintaining healthy and thriving indoor plants. Your winter tenants will appreciate it!

If you have questions or want more information, contact your Texas A&M County Extension Office in Midland (432-686-4700) and Ector (432-498-4071) counties. You can also send an email to [email protected].