Preparing indoor plants to move outdoors

By Robert Bourne - Guest columnist

Many of our tender perennials are stored indoors over the winter either in a dormant state or as houseplants. As the weather begins to warm in spring we can begin to move plants back outside. Many of our hardier plants, such as agapanthus and agaves, are ready to move outdoors, but you will need to watch the weather and bring them indoors if a freeze is predicted. For more tender tropicals we need to wait until later April to make the move outside.

Plants that are stored as houseplants often become leggy during the winter months. Plants produce long, weak shoots with large internodes, or spaces between the leaves. This is because the growing conditions are less than optimal indoors over the winter; in particular, light levels are very low. This is an excellent time to prune these over-wintered plants before they initiate new growth in spring. Look for long, weak stems to cut back. Also, prune any damaged stems. Cut back as much as ½ to ⅔ of the tissue when working with herbaceous plants. For woody material, you need to be more judicious. After all, the plant has been stored all winter to get a jump on spring. You should concentrate on opening up the center of the plant and removing any crossed branches.

If you are planning to keep your plant in a container, this is a good time for repotting. Potting media often becomes compressed over time and any nutrients added in the previous season have surely been used by now. Repotting gives our plant the best start on the growing season. Remove your plant from its container and tease apart the roots. If the plant has become root-bound, you may need to make a few strategic cuts to spread apart the root system. This is a good time to evaluate whether or not the plant will need a larger container.

Repot the plant making sure the soil line is at the same height on the plant’s stem as it was previously. It is also good to leave a little space free of soil at the top of the container to allow for watering. Use slow-release fertilizer in containers. Slow-release fertilizers deliver small doses of nutrients to the plant with each watering. These fertilizers can be incorporated into the potting soil, or simply sprinkled on the soil surface after potting. As the growth rate of plants increases, their use of water will also increase. Keep a closer eye on containers than you did over the winter and make sure plants are adequately watered.

Remember that plants should be acclimated or gradually introduced to outdoor conditions. The world outside is brighter, windier, and often cooler than the plant’s winter home indoors. Over the course of one to two weeks, bring the plant outside to a protected location for increasing lengths of time. Start with just a few hours and extend the time outdoors until you are ready to make the move permanent. Also, begin with a sheltered location and eventually move to a more exposed area outdoors.

If you have any questions, or would like further information on this or other related management topics, visit us on the west end of the Clay Jones Community Building at 1901 S. 9th Avenue in Durant, or call (580) 924-5312.

The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran, and is an equal opportunity employer.

Upcoming Events

April 6 – Eastern Oklahoma Beef Cattle Summit, Southeast Oklahoma Expo Center, McAlester, OK. Pre-registration required by March 30 and cost is $10. A registration form is available at the Extension Office or you can call the Pittsburg Extension Office at 918-423-4120.

April 6 – Poultry Waste Management training and Continuing Education class, Johnston County Extension, Tishomingo. For more information contact Keegan Varner at 580-371-9533.

April 7-8 – Texoma Spring Garden Show, Bryan County Fairgrounds, Durant, OK. For more information contact Gingerlei at 580-230-0581.

Robert Bourne is a Bryan County Extension Office educator.

By Robert Bourne

Guest columnist

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