In the Garden:
I love the papery textured flowers of this Abutilion pictum 'Thompsonii'.
Houseplants on the Move
My houseplants always seem to appreciate spending the summer outdoors. They respond by producing healthy new leaves, and some of them even flower. Who could blame them? Outdoors they get fresh air, bright light, and lots of elbow room.
Keeping Houseplants Warm
However, summer weather is slowly retreating, and it's time to bring the plants back indoors. As long as the nighttime temperatures remain above 55F, they're perfectly happy, but since houseplants are generally tropical in nature, it's stressful for them when the nights cool down below that. This time of year I usually haul the plants indoors at night and take them back outdoors during the day. This process helps them gradually readapt to indoor conditions. Within a few weeks they'll be spending all of their time indoors again.
Scout for Pests
During this transitional time carefully inspect each plant and remove any freeloading insects such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. I've learned from experience that aphid eggs will hatch within a few days of being exposed to springlike indoor weather. I was totally amazed the first time this happened! It took some detective work to figure out how a full-blown colony of the pests managed to appear overnight on my favorite flowering maple (Abutilion). Aphid eggs are usually found on the undersides of leaves, so check carefully for little white bumps before moving your plants indoors. Spray them with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
It isn't unusual for plants to outgrow their containers when summered outdoors. Growth slows considerably once the plants return to the house. I like to wait until active growth ceases before I repot, so there'll be less shock. I give them 4 to 5 weeks to settle down; by then it will be cold and rainy outdoors and I'll be happy to remain inside, playing in the dirt with my houseplants.
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