How can it possibly be September already?
That means a whole new list of things to do in the garden as the seasons change.
If you gave your houseplants a vacation outside for the summer, now is a good time to start prepping them to go back inside. That way they will be prepared when night temperatures start to go below 50 degrees and it won’t be such a shock to their system when they have to make the big move.
Since most of our houseplants are tropical, temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit can cause chilling injuries such as damage to leaves, or dropped flower buds. However, some plants such as winter jasmine, cymbidium orchids and Thanksgiving/Christmas cactus will tolerate temperatures in the 40s.
They actually need the colder temperatures and shorter days to stimulate flower bud production in order to bloom. Just don’t let them get frosted.
Moving plants indoors is a drastic change in their environment, so start now by acclimating them to lower light conditions. Gradually reduce light levels by moving plants from sun to light shade to heavy shade and then back indoors over the course of a week or so.
While you are getting your plants ready to move, clean your windows, inside and out. More light can pass through a clean window than a dirty one.
Once back inside, make sure the light conditions are close to what the plant was experiencing outside. Sudden changes in temperature, light and humidity can result in yellowed leaves, dieback, wilting and even death.
Before you move plants back into the house give them a good cleaning. Remove any dirt or mold from container surfaces.
Spent flowers and any damaged or dead leaves and stems should be snipped off. Remove all dead and rotting plant material from the soil surface.
Spring is usually the best time to re-pot your plants, but if you have a plant that is ready to burst out of its pot, go ahead and re-pot it. Try to do it a couple of weeks before you have to take it back inside.
Check for pests that may have used your plants as a home base during the summer. Aphids, mealybugs, scale, spider mites, whiteflies and thrips can quickly get out of control indoors.
While checking your plants, carefully examine both leaves and stems. Inspect the undersides of leaves as many insects reside there.
Inspecting and cleaning plants is important as you do not want to bring these uninvited guests into the house. Plants already infested will need continued vigilance and possibly multiple pesticide treatments.
You may decide that the plant is not worth the trouble so continue to enjoy it outside until frost. Infested plants should be quarantined from other houseplants until you are sure the treatment has worked.
Spraying plants with a forceful — but not too hard — stream of water can remove some insects. Get underneath the foliage as that is where most pests hide.
If necessary, use an insecticidal soap or other recommended spray, such as Neem Oil, covering all parts of the plant thoroughly. This is much easier to do when plants are still outside, especially if multiple treatments are needed.
Systemic granules that are sprinkled on the soil surface and watered in, may also be an option to control some pests. If you go that route, start now as the plant needs time to take up the insecticide via its roots.
Whenever you use any type of pesticide, always follow the label instructions.
Check the soil for pests such as slugs, snails, earwigs, sowbugs, fungus gnats and even ants that may have taken up residence. Plants in small containers can be gently removed from the pot to be examined.
Usually slugs and sowbugs will be near the drainage holes and are easily removed by hand. Pests like fungus gnats and earwigs usually live in the top layer of soil.
Allowing the soil to dry between waterings can help reduce fungus gnats. Ants can be difficult to eradicate as they leave eggs behind that will hatch.
This is also a good time to take cuttings of annuals, such as impatiens, begonias, geraniums, plectranthus and coleus. They root easily in water and make attractive houseplants for the winter.
This is one way to overwinter them for planting in the garden next year and cuttings take up less room than a full-sized plant.
If you have accumulated too many plants this summer, give priority to the healthiest plants. A plant that has been struggling outdoors, is going to have a really tough time indoors.
It may be best to relegate that plant to the compost pile and try again next year.
Once back inside the house, plants that require bright light should go in south and west windows. Plants that can tolerate lower light are good candidates for east and maybe even a north window.
Keep house plants away from cold drafts — windows and doors — and hot air vents.
Try to move your plants inside before you have to turn on the furnace. This will give them time to adjust to indoor conditions without the added stress of dry, less humid air.
Winter is a time of rest for most houseplants so you can usually cut back on watering and fertilizer. Let the soil surface dry to the touch between waterings.
To avoid root rot, be sure the plant does not sit in water. Plants should be fed when they are actively growing so they can take advantage of the nutrients.
Fertilization should be stopped, except for winter flowering plants, as the low light conditions and short days reduce plant growth.
Have a gardening question?
The Master Gardener office is open. Please wear a mask when visiting the CCE office and check in at the reception window.
Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office 10 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday. You can stop in at our CCE office at 420 East Main St. in Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or e-mail at: email@example.com.
Next ‘Garden Talk’
Garden Talk on September 3 will be held on Zoom and will start at Noon. The topic will be “Pet Friendly Plants.” There is nothing nicer than the scent of flowers in our garden and home, but many plants can be dangerous for our cats and dogs. Learn what is safe for our furry companions, as well as what to avoid for their safety and well-being. Please register at our CCE website events page - http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/.