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Healthy houseplants 

Bring houseplants indoors for winter—not the bugs

Each summer, I take several of my houseplants outside to grow. This is a common practice, but not essential. Many houseplants, particularly those that thrive in low light, can live indoors quite successfully for their entire life. Some houseplants such as citrus, plumeria, cacti and succulents, and gardenia benefit greatly from growing outside for the summer. 

Most houseplants are tolerant of cool temperatures but not cold temperatures. Bring plants inside when the night temperatures drop consistently into the low 50s to high 40s. In Kentucky, this temperature change usually happens in October, varying from early October until after Halloween. It is better to bring them in early, if that works better for your schedule, than waiting and risking cold injury if you forget. 

Before bringing PLANTS inside always inspect for pests and treat if necessary. It is easier to treat the plants while outside. Often just washing the plants off with a steady stream of water is sufficient and will knock off any accidental invaders and clean them nicely. Have a plan for where plants will go, and use saucers to prevent water from damaging your floors. 

It is best to know what light levels your plants prefer and place them in the home accordingly. Houseplants require some natural light to live and grow in the winter months and should always be placed in or near a window. When this is not possible, there are excellent grow lights available to help them survive winter.

The Ficus elastica, or Indian rubberplant, pictured, is an excellent houseplant and will thrive when grown indoors over the winter, and then placed outside in a partly shady spot in summer. It is resilient and easy to grow, and tolerates bright, but indirect light indoors. Growing houseplants has always been popular, and the trend is budding because many houseplants also help improve indoor air quality. Healthy and happy plants will be more efficient at cleaning the air, so care for them well and they will help care for you.

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207.

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