Bringing plants indoors

As we have moved our houseplants indoors for the winter (along with ourselves), we can still turn on some creative juices to keep gardening throughout the winter months. I am sure that you may still be moving some plants around to see where they will fit best in your home and have thoughts about those holiday plants that will also be adorning your home too. The first step after bringing in your houseplants is to check them over carefully for insects particularly aphids. Aphids can be hard to detect when their numbers are limited. A good houseplant insecticide spray will work for many of our issues but you will need to make sure to read the label carefully to make sure that it is okay to use on that particular plant and to make sure that is it covering the insect that you are wanting to get rid of.

The second part of taking care of plants that you may have brought indoors is how to care of them generally. I do get many questions regarding geraniums. I, too, like to try to save my geraniums from year to year particularly if I get one that is rather unusual. According to Deborah L. Brown and Harold F. Wilkins, MN Extension, “prospects for success when growing geraniums indoors depend largely on having enough light to promote flowering. Geraniums thrive in full sunlight, but in Minnesota the shortest winter day is only about eight hours, and frequently there is little sun during that time. In the absence of a bright, sunny window, supplemental fluorescent tube lighting kept 10 to 12 inches from the plants will help growth. Fluorescent lights can be used from 6-10 p.m. to supplement natural light.”

The biggest problem is overwatering. This will cause geraniums to rot. Feel the soil to determine when to water. If it’s dry to the touch, water thoroughly. If it feels moist and cool, don’t water. Geraniums tolerate dry soil conditions better than excess moisture.

“Geranium pots can be either clay or plastic, but must have drain holes. Saucers placed under the pots to collect water should be emptied a few minutes after watering. If a large, shallow pan is used to display several plants, gravel can be placed on the bottom. The evaporating water from the gravel surfaces will increase humidity.

In the home, geraniums do not require frequent fertilization. By potting young plants in a good soil mix (1 part soil, 1 sand, 1 peat), additional nutrition will not be required for two or three months. Water-soluble 20-20-20 can be used at the rate of 1 level teaspoon in 1 gallon of water. For plants that are kept indoors year-round, fertilize during growth periods only.

Geraniums thrive in a wide range of temperatures. Ideally, they should be grown at 65°F day and 55°F night temperatures. Often geraniums are grown at temperatures that are too warm. Many houses and apartments have radiators by the windows to compensate for heat loss. Thus, maintaining plants near a light source without overheating may be a problem. Avoid cold, drafty areas as well as hot, dry locations.

Indoor gardeners should prune or pinch their plants. Removing the growing point will produce a plant that is stocky and well-branched. Several vigorous stems may be allowed to form a shrub-like plant. Occasionally, geraniums are trained into the shape of a tree. To do this, allow a single stem to develop and remove all side shoots. Use a stake for support. When the desired height is reached, remove the top growing point. Allow only the upper side buds to form shoots. With time and shearing, these shoots will form the shape of a tree.” For more information on gardening, you can reach me at