Outside In – Bringing Plants Inside for Winter

Starting in mid-August every year, e-mail begins hitting my mailbox concerning bringing plants indoors for winter. Some of you may not be concerned because your plants are indoors all year long, others move their plants inside and outside seasonally.

I opt for leaving plants indoors year round if possible. The exception for me is some orchids like Phalaenopsis, bromeliads and a few “test subjects”.

The plant care questions I receive concern two areas:

  • Overwintering mandevilla
  • How long can my plants stay outside? For those that move their plants indoors for winter and outdoors for the summer.

Let’s hit on them both.

Over Wintering Mandevilla and Other Flowering Plants

mandevilla burgundy


Mandevilla is a beautiful vining plant, with pink flowers that has become popular during the spring. Many people have enjoyed their plant(s) during the spring/summer season and just don’t want to “lose” their plant to “old man winter”.

How Long Can My Plants Stay Outside?

This area is a little more tricky and you’ll need to make the call. I cannot give you a date on “when” your plants need to be moved, just some guidelines.

Each group of plants will be somewhat different, and varieties within that group will vary also. Here’s what I’ would advise.

The date isn’t important the weather conditions are.

South Florida usually has two distinct times that have always been my preference to growing. These are the months of October/November and March /April.

During those months the day temperatures are still warm in the 70-80 degree range. We normally see a drop of night temperatures of 10-15 degrees. This forces the plants to slow down and produce very sturdy growth, not the soft summer growth that sometimes I feel is “over lush”.

Once the temperatures start hitting a very consistent 60 degree nights growth on most tropicals just stops. The plant may be able to handle lower temperatures but don’t expect much growth, if any.

So far we have only talked about temperature, but there are other factors to take into consideration.

Wind

Just because the temperatures hit 60 a nice breezy evening can make the plant “feel” much colder than it is. The wind will dry the plant and leaves out, and it’s possible you may begin to see damage.

Once the evening temperatures begin hitting the 60′s regularly, I would look at moving your plants indoors. A one night or a few hour cold blast boom – and you have a damaged plant.

Before Moving Plants Indoors

Before you move plants inside do a little maintenance

  • Clean the leaves – a good washing would probably help
  • Check for plant pests
  • Maybe even some pruning
  • Leach the soil of Fertilizer

Over a period of time even if you’re not using fertilizer you may experience a salt buildup in the soil. Leaching will help remove those salts from the soil. Fill the pot with water and keep filling until you have run an extra 1/3 of a pot full of water through the plant. Let the plant and soil drain off before you move the plant inside.

The soil may be moist but not wet. This is very important.

Let the soil drain completely before putting the plant back inside. Do Not let the plant sit in water. Now that you’re moving the plant back indoors, it must begin the process of acclimation to lower light levels. Depending on the plant you can expect some leaf drop – Ficus are Famous for this – and some new leaves from a more stable temperature.

For those of you who bring your plants inside and out every year My hat’s off to you. Although I enjoy the temperature changes and the results the plants show in producing sturdy growth inside I prefer a normal and consistent environment.

Plant Buying Tip:

During the winter months take a look at Dracaena marginata, it will take cooler temperatures indoors, is a little cheaper and more available than Dracaena ‘Massangeana.’

How about you? Do you bring plants inside for the winter?


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Juno Beach January 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm

Hi, Thanks for the site,
I’m still confused about my mandevilla – as to dormant period, changes in winter and pruning.
A. I see one place on this site it recommends feeding with liquid fertilizer, pruning back to 12″ and bringing in to warmish garage in plastic bag.
B. Other place seems to say, leach out salts, nothing about pruning.

My question:
My mandevila were exquisite in Summer & fall. Stopped flowering and new growth in Oct-Nov. Now lots of leaf drop. Stems getting woody, no new growth. Like a dormant period.
I have the urge to prune them back.
?But to 12″???
that seems kind of strong.
Live in south Florida, block from ocean, lots of sun, lowest temp usually mid 40′s and only briefly that low.
Thx, Nancy

admin January 10, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Nancy,

The article on over-wintering Mandevilla is geared much more for those up north who MUST bring their mandevilla indoors for the winter.

Living in south Florida you can most likely leave your plant outdoors all year. Yes it will get ugly. Personally, I’d still rack it back to about 12 inches if it is growing on a trellis. That’s just me. You do what you are comfortable with.

For those up north in colder climates they basically are regrowing out the plant every year.

As for fertilizer. The liquid food is to prep the plant for over-wintering. Whenever you use fertilizers and plants are in containers, watering should be thorough to leach any excess salts. Especially on clay pots.

Hope that Helps!

Gary