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In an Outer Banks Garden: Cooler weather is on the way!

By Chris Stadther, Dare Master Gardener

If your houseplants enjoyed a little vacation outside this year, it’s time to consider bringing them back indoors.  Most houseplants will enjoy temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, anything below that may harm them.

But before bringing them in, there are a few things you need to do:

Start reducing their watering because they will need less watering when indoors and they are dormant.

Clean your plant’s leaves with a clean damp cloth or brush the leaves, if fuzzy or prickly, with a soft paint or pastry brush. Remove old leaves and deadhead any remaining flowers.

While cleaning your plants, check for unwelcome guests that can damage and kill the plant. Sticky tape traps are a great way for trapping aphids, white flies and thrips and will help your monitor the level of infestation. Check the leaves, both sides. Many insects hide on the undersides of leaves and on the stems. Look at the soil. If able, place the potted plant in a bucket of lukewarm water or drench the soil with an insecticidal soap. These measures will help avoid bringing insets such as ants or roaches into your home.

Keeping your plants healthy is the best way to avoid diseases. Powdery mildew, which appears like patches of white dust, or Botrytis, which is a gray mold, may not kill the plant but it can weaken it. Leaf spot, brown or black spots on the foliage surrounded by a yellow halo, is caused by a bacteria or fungi. Remove the affected leaves and spray the plant with a fungicide before bringing indoor. Be sure the fungicide is safe to use on your houseplant and follow the printed directions. Improve air circulation around the plants.

Do not fertilize them. During the winter, which is their resting period, it will be wasted and may even harm your plant. Wait until spring when there is active growth before fertilizing. Be sure to fertilize at the rate recommended on the label.

Houseplants can turn any space in your home into a peaceful getaway if you keep them healthy.

For more information on caring for houseplants go to http://essex.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/houseplants.

Chris Stadther is a Master Gardener SM volunteer for Dare County. For gardening questions, contact the Dare Cooperative Extension at 473-4290 or email greenlineobx@gmail.com.

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