In Bloom

<< Back to Articles

Ask Burton: Q: I bring in the houseplants I keep on the patio for the winter (so they don’t freeze!), but they look thinner, weaker, and puny by the time they go out next spring. They recover by the end of spring and look good again, but is there something I can do to help them stay better looking-throughout the winter? Fertilize them, somehow?

Posted on December, 28

A: It’s not a fertilizer issue. Light is the most likely culprit. A lack of it, anyway.

The human eye is a tricky thing. We’ll set plants in bright rooms that seem like they’d be perfect… but that’s merely because the eye adjusts to indoor light conditions. The best lit room in your home, windows and all, is likely darker than outside under the patio without direct sun hitting the plant at all. There’s simply more ambient light outside. Your plants have been growing vigorously outside with all that lovely light, and they’re unhappy about adjusting to low light levels for several months.

A certain amount of this weakening is inevitable without a true sunroom or greenhouse, but you can keep it to a minimum by making sure you do put the plants in the best lit areas you have available. Open window blinds or drapes and try to avoid rooms with windows that are tinted or have a UV screen. And if you can, don’t put plants in the garage all winter long. If the garage is the only good spot you have to store plants for the winter, move plants outside periodically when the weather is nice to get them some sunshine, or buy grow lighting to put inside the garage to help the plants do better.

Start feeding the plants again next spring, once you’re able to move them back outside