Rhonda B
Rhonda B
  • Hometalker
  • Muscatine, IA

Bring Your Houseplants Inside but Leave the Bugs Outside


It is that time of year again-time to bring in all the houseplants If you are like me you have had your houseplants outside adorning your deck and front door area giving them a little vacation from being cooped up inside. Unfortunately it is starting to get cooler and that means I have to start bringing them in before the nighttime temperatures get below 45-50 degrees. Before I bring them in there are some steps I take to ensure I don't also bring in hitchhikers. Not only can I bring in spider mites and aphids there is also the fear of other creepy crawlies like millipedes and spiders that I really don't want in the house. These steps I take help to keep the bugs to a minimum and I don't need to use pesticides to do it.
Step 1: Give the plant a "bath"! I take a large tote and fill it with water and add a few squirts of Dawn dishsoap and a handful of Epsom salts. I then sink the potted plant into the "bath" for 15-30 minutes to force out any bugs that might be making the plant home.
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
Step 2: After 15-30 minutes remove the plant.
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
Step 3: Spray the plant off with a good stream of water to remove the soap.
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
Step 4: Take a sponge or rag and wipe down the pot and then rinse off.
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
Step 5: Remove any dead /dying foliage or flowers. Inspect for bugs under leaves and along the stem. Repeat the bath if the bugs are not all gone or use a sponge and wipe them off gently then spray again with the hose.
Step 6: Let drain completely. Now they are ready to be taken back inside.
cleaning tips garden plants inside bug free, cleaning tips, container gardening, gardening
Step 7: Reintroduce them slowly to the indoors especially if they were in full sun. I do this by moving them indoors at night and putting them out in the morning-reducing the amount of time outside daily by an hour or two. It usually takes about a week. This helps to reduce shock.
Step 8: Enjoy you plants! For the first month your plants may drop some leaves-this is common and caused by the shock of moving back inside but it should recover given time. Just make sure to cut back on fertilizer, give it enough light and water when needed (don't over water) and your plants should make it through the colder months to enjoy another summer outside.
This works great for most houseplants except large ones. My next post I will show you how I prepare my large houseplants for moving inside.

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Rhonda B

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!

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Have a question about this project?

10 questions
  • Joanne
    on Nov 4, 2015

    I'd like to bring my container herb garden in for the winter. Same procedure?

  • Dianna Evi Fenton
    on Nov 7, 2015

    I'm so confused, soap doesn't kill plants? Or only certain soaps are ok? I use earth friendly dish soap, will that work? Thanks!!

    • Rhonda B
      on Nov 13, 2015

      @Dianna Evi Fenton Some soaps are safe in small quantities. I am sure your soap will do fine as long as it isn't too strong. You do not need much-just add a couple squirts (no more than 2 tablespoons to 5 gallons of water). If you are still concerned you could always do a test on a small part of your plant and watch for any reaction ( it might take a week). Hope this helps!

    • Richard Tibbetts
      on Oct 9, 2016

      Have been in the greenhouse/nursery business for 20 years. I use Dawn Clear dish wash liquid at the rate of 3 1/2 tablespoons per gallon of water. This is death on aphids but does almost nothing for spidermites and mealy bugs. Denatured alcohol will take care of mealy bugs but it has to be handled with care. Only use denatured alcohol in a well ventilated area away from any flame or spark. Have not used the denatured alcohol on any plants except succulents. Have never had it damage a plant yet and I spray it heavily on plant and soil. Always best to test on a small area of one plant before use on all plants. After use on plants I wait a few minutes then wash plant and flush soil with water.

  • Laurie Smith
    on Nov 12, 2015

    Do you remove the plant from the soil before you bathe it and then repot it in fresh soil after? That is not clear in your article. Thanks

    • Nazca
      on Nov 22, 2015

      @Laurie Smith I don't think she remove the plant from the soil. what I do is spray the plant with soapy water.

    • Marti Marikovics
      on Oct 12, 2016

      I would think it necessary to bathe the soil also as it has bugs also.

    • Marti Marikovics
      on Oct 12, 2016

      Actually,it does say the "potted plant".

    • Rhonda B
      on Oct 18, 2016

      Leave the plant in the container-you can remove it if you want to but I do not.

  • Audrey Parrott Cahill
    on Oct 7, 2016

    What about bringing in herbs to continue growing for the next year. I live in Michigan and am trying to establish a rosemary plant that will be able to use next year.

    • Tami Davis
      on Oct 9, 2016

      I did this with basil & parsley last winter. They got spindly after a while but I got a shop light with one warm spectrum bulb and one cool spectrum bulb and they did great. This worked better than grow lights and was much cheaper. I didn't rinse them in soapy water though.

    • Rhonda B
      on Oct 18, 2016

      Yes-this will work for herbs.

  • Sherry
    on Oct 13, 2016

    can you do this with Hens and Chicks plants?

    • Gra8023769
      on Oct 15, 2016

      My hens and chicks survive the winter outside.

    • Rhonda B
      on Oct 18, 2016

      Yes you can do this on hens and chicks-you might lose some soil if it is sandy potting mix.

  • She4388770
    on Oct 20, 2016

    Haw about along Vera succulent

  • She4388770
    on Oct 20, 2016

    How about bathing a aloVera plant

  • Judy rogers
    on Oct 20, 2016

    Tried this and had a mess with soil coming to the top of the water. What did I do wrong.?

    • Kimberly Beck
      on Oct 23, 2016

      I save the perforated mess bags that you get onions in. put pot part in then tie closed around bottom of plant so the actual plant is out, but soil mostly contained in bag.. they are also good to cover drain holes in pots, along with a few rocks to keep soil in bugs out.

    • Kimberly Beck
      on Oct 23, 2016

      oops, mesh bags, not mess bags... silly

    • Sheila
      on Sep 30, 2017

      Would it be advisable to put some of that mesh material on top of the soil of the pot when u put houseplants out for the summer to avoid insects coming to reside in the soil of the pot?
  • Joyce Stone
    on Jul 27, 2017

    Will it work for Christmas cactus

  • Bea33975938
    on Aug 21, 2018

    I have a bougainvillea in a planter, thinking of getting it out completely and wash it, then put it in a pot with new clean soil, would that work? Will try your method with a small fig tree I have. I hope it works as I have a phobia with spiders and bugs and I don't want to bring any inside. Thank you for any suggestions,

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