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A slow transition to winter keeps houseplants healthy
Nov 14

Associated Press

My mandarin orange tree and spider plants enjoyed a longer vacation than I did, having spent the entire summer outdoors on the back deck. But the party ended late last month when frost threatened.

So I gave them a thorough hose drenching -- leaves and all -- to remove any would-be hitchhikers and poured a bit of diluted Neem oil over the soil for good measure before bringing them indoors. But their transition didn't end there.

Just as when potted plants are introduced outside in spring, they undergo an acclimation period when they come back in. The difference is that at the beginning of the season, we "harden them off," or move them into a shady spot for incrementally longer periods each day until they adjust to the stronger sunlight and breezy air of the great outdoors.

The reverse, however, is often done in haste on the weatherman's whim, so it doesn't usually afford the same leisurely dawdling.

That's why your recently reintroduced houseplants might be turning yellow, dropping leaves and looking somewhat sickly as they reacclimate to lower-light conditions in the home. The same holds true for recent purchases that had been growing in a greenhouse or under lights at the nursery.

In time, they will recover, but there are steps you can take to ease their transition. Grow lights, turned on for eight, then six, then four, then two hours a day during their first few weeks indoors will certainly support their adjustment. But there are simpler, less costly ways to help.

Place potted plants near your sunniest window during their initial weeks as a houseguest. Even the brightest natural indoor light will be no match for the sunbathing they've done all summer, so it will serve as a good rest stop en route to their permanent winter residence elsewhere in your home.

If you place them on a windowsill, line the entire ledge with aluminum foil, which will reflect sunlight back at the plant, including to the underside of leaves. The refracted light will help prevent seedlings from growing leggy in spring, too.

For a similar benefit, place a mirror on the wall behind plants, but not too close or foliage may scorch.

Both practices can be employed year-round to boost light to houseplant species that require bright sunlight.

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2023

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