In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
September, 2010
Regional Report

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3555

Abutilon, also called flowering maple, features leaves that are soft and variegated, resembling maple leaves, and colorful hibiscus-like flowers. It's an easy care houseplant for a bright spot indoors.

Transition Time for Houseplants

My houseplants appreciate spending the summer outdoors. They respond by producing healthy new leaves, and some of them even flower. And who can blame them? Outdoors they get fresh air, bright light and lots of elbow room.

But now in September, the 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 can be stressful for them when the nighttime temperatures are too cool. 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 I carefully inspect each plant and remove any freeloading insects I find. Aphids, mealybugs, spider mites and scale insects like to hitchhike on houseplants. I've learned from experience that aphid eggs will hatch within a few days of being exposed to spring-like 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. Aphid eggs are usually hiding on the undersides of leaves, so check carefully for little white bumps before moving your plants indoors. You can hose them off with a strong stream of water from the hose, or spray them with or insecticidal soap.

Cramped Quarters
It' not unusual for plants to outgrow their containers when summered outdoors. I like to wait until active growth slows before I repot, so the plants will suffer less transplant shock. I usually give them 4 to 5 weeks to settle down after being moved indoors; 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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