Move tropical plants indoors, but prune first

By Gregg Eyestone

Cool fall temperatures indicate that tropical plants will need protection. I have had several calls about house plants that need a new home for the winter. Most of these plants grew during the summer outside and are too big to go back to their indoor location.

Now is not the best time to be cutting plants back. Nevertheless, that is usually our only recourse. Plants are slowing down their growth. Pruning now will force the plant to use up stored energy that is needed for surviving the low light of winter. Prune back as little as possible to get the plant indoors.

Dividing plants could gain you some more room. However, this is not the ideal time to be dividing because of the low light situation. You will have smaller plants but you now will have more of them.

Finding people willing to take a small plant into their home is easier than large ones.

We have had some cool temperatures already. Tropical plants vary in their low temperature tolerance. Most tropical plants have chilling injury when temperatures drop below 50 degrees for an extended period of time. They won’t die until it freezes.

Insects may be residing in the foliage while it was outdoors. A good washing with the hose is suggested prior to bringing them indoors for the winter duration. Soaking the root ball in lukewarm water for 15 minutes will force out most potting media-inhabiting insects. Diseases are rare and weeds can be pulled.

The number one cause of death in house plants is overwatering.

Allow the media to dry down an inch or two from the top of the media. Most of my plants wilt to tell me I should be watering them. Fill the potting media with water and remove any excess through the containers drain holes.

Research has proven many benefits that indoor plants provide.

The Dutch Product Board for Horticulture commissioned a workplace study that discovered that adding plants to office settings decreases fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and flu-like symptoms. In another study by the Agricultural University of Norway, sickness rates fell by more than 60 percent in offices with plants. To increase your health, get a few more indoor plants now before flu season hits.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at

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