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A Guide to Transitioning Tropical Plants Indoors

These warm-weather beauties need TLC when it's cold outside.

Contributing Writer
transitioning tropical plants
Photography by: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/Getty Images

Leaving your tropical plants outdoors during cold winter months isn't an option when you don't live in a warm enough zone—if you want any of these perennials to live to see another season, you need to find a spot for them inside your warm, temperature-controlled home. But bringing plants indoors must be done gradually to preserve their well-being: A sudden change in temperature or light would likely shock their systems, causing them to dry out, lose their leaves, and become a casualty. It's better to ease them into any transition. Check out these tips on how to properly ease tropical plants into an indoor space and maintain them during the chilly winter months.

 

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Prune it first.

You'll want to cut off any dead leaves, stems, or branches while the plant is still outdoors to avoid carrying any disease indoors. If the plant is extra-large, prune it to a more manageable size—it'll be easier moving it in and out of doorways.

 

Let them ease into the cooler temperatures.

Consider the needs of the plants when deciding where to store them indoors. Besides disliking abrupt temperature shifts, citrus plants, for example, need to be protected from chilly drafts and heating vents. To prepare them for the big move inside, let the plants gradually get used to cooler outdoor temperatures first by transferring them to a shady spot for several hours a day. Gradually increase the time they spend in the shade until you reach an entire day. Most potted tropicals can stay outdoors as long as the temperature is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But be aware that a sudden cold spell can happen with little warning so be prepared to move them indoors quickly.

 

Give them enough light.

When temperatures drop outside, it's time to position your tropical treasures indoors in front of a window facing the sun. If your home doesn't get much natural light, put plants under fluorescents. How can you tell if your deep-hued flowers aren't getting enough light? When they start to fade or stop producing any new growth, take that as a sign that they need more light. Just like with temperature, give your tropical plants time to adjust to their new indoor lighting. 

 

Water them just enough.

A plant requires less water when it's indoors than when it's outdoors. Don't overwater or you risk roots getting soggy. They'll stay that way if your containers don't have good drainage and undermine your goal of helping your plants retain their beauty and vitality all year long.

 

Plan on fertilizing.

Like other houseplants, the tropical variety needs a good fertilizer to stay strong and healthy. But unlike those other plants, exotic flowers need less phosphorus and more iron and magnesium. That bag of fertilizer in the garage likely won't cut it with tropicals. Check your local garden center for a recommended formula instead.