By Wanda Curtis

Summer is coming to an end and cold weather is lurking around the corner. However, that doesn’t mean all the beautiful gardens must come to an end. Instead of watching plants shrivel up and die, why not move some indoors to brighten the house during the winter months?

According to Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester, many plants can be moved indoors, especially those grown in containers. Anna Longfellow Brown said that it’s much more difficult to move plants indoors that have been planted in the ground. She recommends growing plants in pots all summer if you want to move them indoors in the fall.

“Don’t try to dig those out of the ground because the roots will be damaged and will not be able to support top growth,” said Brown.

Although it’s best to keep plants in pots if moving them indoors in the fall, Brown cautioned that potted plants dry out more quickly so it’s important to keep potted plants in a protected outdoor location away from strong winds and baking hot sun.

Before moving any plant indoors, Brown said that it’s important to inspect each plant carefully for pests. Once indoors, pests can proliferate or spread to other houseplants. She recommends segregating outdoor plants for a couple of weeks before moving them near the other houseplants.

“If any pests are detected, treat them right away and repeat as needed or discard the plant and don’t take a chance,” said Brown. “Some people prefer to use an organic treatment like Neem Oil before transferring plants inside regardless of visible pests.”

Left: Coleus will grow well in a bright window and may provide year round leaf color Center: Rosemary is a difficult herb to grow indoors because it requires lots of light. It does best in a south window Right: Potted geraniums on a sunny windowsill may bloom all winter long. Photos courtesy Longfellow’s Greenhouse

As a top pick for a hearty indoor/ outdoor plant, Brown said that old-fashioned potted geraniums do fine near a sunny window and will usually bloom all winter. Many people have fond memories of Grandma’s geraniums in shades of red, pink and white, she said.

“If pruning is needed, do so in late winter to encourage spring growth,” said Brown.

Another plant that often does well inside, said Brown, is the tropical hibiscus. These can’t tolerate frost or cold weather so they should be one of the first plants to be brought indoors. They need at least a couple hours of direct sunlight to keep flowering and warm but not hot water.

“They prefer consistently moist soil but don’t allow the saucer to hold water for more than a few hours,” said Brown. “Dump out excess.”

When watering most plants, Brown advised that it’s best to water when the top of the soil gets dry. Water plants slowly and thoroughly to make sure that the entire root ball gets saturated, then let the plant dry out again but water it before the plant wilts.

It’s not necessary to fertilize plants as often during the fall and winter, said Brown. Some experts recommend not fertilizing plants at all during those months because the plants aren’t actively growing, especially during the winter. She said that an occasional light feed might help plants to stay healthy.

“Use a well-balanced houseplant fertilizer such as 1-1-1 (nitrogen (N) – phosphorus (P) – potassium (K)) for leafy plants,” said Brown. “If you are promoting blooms, as with hibiscus, use one that is higher in phosphorus such as 5-1-.5.”

Coleus can also grow well in a bright window indoors and provide leaf color all year long. It’s important not to move those back outdoors in the spring until all danger of frost is past.

Some flowering plants like begonias, fuchsias and New Guinea impatiens plant can be moved indoors at the end of summer. Those may flower all winter if placed in a bright window and occasionally fertilized. Photos courtesy Longfellow’s Greenhouse

Some annual flowering plants may also survive indoors, according to Brown, such as begonias, fuchsias and New Guinea impatiens plants. She said those plants may flower all winter in a bright window with a bit of regular fertilizer. If the plants have grown too much during the summer months to fit them indoors, cut them back, she said. As with the other plants, it’s important to inspect and treat for pests before bringing flowering plants indoors.

In addition to flowering plants, Brown said, that small varieties of tomatoes (like patio tomatoes), peppers, and long growing greens like Swiss chard that have been grown in pots may survive in a warm location inside the house.

Vegetable plants will need as much light as possible and providing artificial light may be beneficial. It will be necessary to hand pollinate the flowers since there won’t be any bees or wind to do the job. She recommends fertilizing indoor vegetable plants every week or two. It’s also important for vegetable plants to have good air quality so it’s important to grow them in a room where there’s no cigarette smoke.

Some herbs such as oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, mint, chives, and lemon balm may also grow for a long time on a sunny windowsill during the winter months. However, Brown said that those do need a dormant period in the winter just like they would growing in the garden. Again, only those herbs which have been grown in pots should be moved inside.

“Cutting celery, which looks more like parsley than celery, is an easy culinary herb for bright windowsills,” said Brown.

Another herb that makes an easy houseplant is bay. She said that it tolerates indoor conditions well if it has good light. Rosemary is more challenging because it requires lots of light. A south window is preferable and the plant should have soil that drains well. Soggy soil will kill the plant. However, rosemary must also be watered frequently enough to prevent wilting which can also cause the plant to die.

“Unglazed clay pots with drainage holes work well,” said Brown.

With any plant that’s moved indoors at the end of the summer season, Brown said, it’s best to move plants indoors gradually to allow time to acclimate to the new environment.

“If you have time to do this, perhaps only overnight at first,” she said.