Home & Garden

It’s time to start thinking about bringing houseplants inside

Except for a couple of summery days, fall has felt like fall so far. It’s been just delightful:

Windows open for good sleeping (except for that allergy thing), car windows rolled down and sunroof pulled back for exhilarating drives – Mozart or some other surprisingly unrap music blaring from the stereo – gloriously cool walks post 7 a.m. with the sun just hitting the tops of the trees.

It’s time to get used to thin air and thinning light. I can’t really bear to be anywhere away from a window around sunset; if I miss the last rays of sun, it’s a sad evening that can’t be rectified till all the shades are down.

When I see nighttime temperatures sink below 55 in the forecast, I start to think about bringing the houseplants inside. I say start, because the pattern is not pronounced yet, and I want to keep the plants outside as long as possible.

We should do a couple of things before we bring plants indoors, Ward Upham of K-State says. First, give the leaves a sharp spray from a garden hose to knock off insects or mites. And soak the pot in a tub of lukewarm water for about 15 minutes. This forces any insects from the potting soil.

To help the plants acclimatize to less light inside, and to give them a greater chance of keeping their leaves, place them in a part of the house that gets lots of light, then gradually, over four to eight weeks, move them to their permanent, darker locations, Upham says.

I’m having a hard time visualizing my front porch this winter without all the drape and bombast of summer annuals. The plant that has been the boldest is the chartreuse Wasabi coleus. I can’t remember how little the original plant must have been when I tucked it into a big pot with another coleus whose name escapes me, along with an orange impatiens and some scrambled-eggs lantana and a purple sweet potato vine.

It has grown into a veritable small tree, sprawling across the porch and demanding more and more water. Norman Winter, executive director of the Columbus (Ga.) Botanical Garden, has suggested its use as an annual lime-green hedge, and notes that it doesn’t put up flower stalks as other coleus do (the flowers should be kept pinched off for bushier plants).

Another of the late-summer delights I’ve had is a sprig of the neighboring coleus that I had tossed aside after accidentally breaking it off a larger bush. (I’m not always the tidiest of gardeners, but I’m definitely one of the more violent ones.) The branch landed on some mulched soil alongside a row of boxwoods near the front door, and lo and behold, one day I looked down to see not a withered stem but a bunch of tiny colorful new plants growing along the stem. They’d rooted down into the soil and created a colorful new planting. I haven’t touched it since, just grinning at it every time I go in the front door.

I’ll be happy to have these sunny remnants of summer around as long as they’ll stay.