Garden Guide: How to bring in tropical plants for the winter without bugs

Do you want to bring in your tropical plants without bugs coming inside with them? Alex has three tips that might help!

Alex Calamia

Nov 1, 2023, 10:30 AM

Updated 255 days ago


Winter is not here yet, but many gardeners are already nostalgic for the long days of summer. Despite the cooler weather, many tropical patio plants are alive and well - right up to the first freeze. It’s easy to grow very attached to these plants (pun intended).
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you want to bring your plants into the house and keep bugs out.

Keep plants outside until it’s cold.

If there’s one thing that tropical plants love, it’s the heat! Surprisingly, they can forgive a little cold, and that’s a benefit for gardeners who are trying to keep bugs from coming inside with their plants.
During cooler weather, many bug species become less active. A few nights below 45° won’t kill your plants, but it will kill pests like yellow jackets and slow down ants, mosquitoes, and beetles.
Tropical plants can only tolerate brief drops into the low 40s at night and should be inside before the first frost of the season. That is nowhere near cold enough to kill bugs, so it’s important to keep in mind that a few bugs could be hiding out in your plants when you bring them in.

Look at your soil

Gardeners use horticulture sprays with neem oil as a defense against sap-sucking bugs like aphids, mealy bugs, and white flies. It’s a great product to protect plants from pests, but it’s not effective against bugs that live in the soil like Fungus Gnats.
The first defense against fungus gnats is to know what they like - wet, decaying soil. Fungus gnats will infest soil when plants aren’t healthy because they love rotting roots. All soil has some decay so even healthy soil can occasionally get a few of gnats.
Products like yellow sticky tape will trap adult gnats and putting diatomaceous earth powder (or even cinnamon!) on top of the soil can help because they are natural fungicide.
Keep your plants a little bit on the dryer side and toss away any plants that aren’t healthy. It’s also helpful to let your indoor plants get air outside during mild spells throughout the winter.

Have a dedicated plant room.

A room that’s separate and a little cooler from the rest of the house is ideal for overwintering outdoor plants. The cooler temperatures will keep plants in a resting state for the wintertime. That’s important because new growth that occurs in low light conditions will be weak and very attractive to bugs.

The verdict

Unfortunately, plants and bugs go together and there will always be a few that come into the house. If it’s any comfort though, I’ve been bringing outdoor plants into the house now for two decades and have never had any bug infestations. There are always a few bugs that come out, but they typically are only around the first few days and stay close to the plants. Gnats are the biggest issue, but they leave when the plants go back outside for the summer. 
If you do have some tips, find me on social media. I would love to hear what your ways to tackle bugs are! Happy gardening! And you can submit your questions here!

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