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December 11, 2016
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House plants; Prepare them for the journey back inside

The trimmed-back basil plant needs at least six hours of sun a day. Take care not to overwater it.
Photos by Anne Hart

Change your watering habits. In the summer, the heat can dry out a potted plant very quickly. Plants won’t need as much water inside because temperatures inside are usually lower. Plants also grow more slowly under lower light conditions. Water only when the soil is dry to the touch, and don’t let standing water sit in the bottom of the tray. This can foster root rot in the plant. If you can, group the plants close together. You can also place them together on a tray filled with pebbles. A little water in this tray will help boost humidity. Again, don’t let the pots sit in standing water. Remember, no wet feet!

Know your plants. Some plants have an easier time transitioning than others. Herbs are particularly difficult because they generally like full strong sun and warm conditions. If your potted basil is tall, cut it back to where there are multiple branches so that it will be smaller and bushier. Don’t let the stems become woody. Place it where it gets at least six hours of sun a day. It needs to be in a pot where it quickly drains after watering. Water only when the top inch or so of soil feels dry, every seven to 10 days. Rosemary is difficult, and some varieties are easier to overwinter than others. It likes full sun, cooler temperatures than basil or other herbs, and should be kept evenly moist. Keep it in a sunny window in the coldest room of your house. Its growth will be spindly and slow in January and February, so pinch it back in March so that more sprigs will be created and they will have shoots which are sturdier. Succulents need lots of light, not very much water, and no fertilizer. Keeping them in a cool spot will keep them in a semi-dormant state all winter, which is ideal. Christmas cactus likes indirect sun both outside and in. It likes to be on the dry side, but the soil should never completely dry out. This can cause the flower buds to drop. Overwatering has the same effect. I have a plant that descends from a Christmas cactus dating back to the 1960s. My mother would bring the plant inside in early October and keep it in the attic, which had one east facing window, watering it once every 10 days or so. She brought it downstairs in early November, and it always bloomed at Christmastime. I don’t expose mine to that prolonged period of darkness, so mine is either a Halloween or a Thanksgiving cactus!

[Anne Hart is proprietor of Domesticities & The Cutting Garden in Youngsville, NY.]