MASTER GARDENERS: Summer is over for houseplants

With the advent of cooler weather, it is time for a plant rescue operation for houseplants that have enjoyed a summer at the spa.

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With the advent of cooler weather, it is time for a plant rescue operation for houseplants that have enjoyed a summer at the spa.

Many are tropical and cannot withstand temperatures in the 40s. Plants also need to transition to the lower light levels in our houses. Supplemental light sources or different placement of some of those plants may be in order.

Many of these houseplants have grown too large for our indoor spaces. Some can be divided and repotted in a new soilless mix in a clean pot. Others can be pruned back a bit and tatty leaves removed. All must be cleaned and examined thoroughly for insects and disease. Remove any debris on the soil surface; it can lead to disease and, as it decomposes, harbors those annoying white flying insects.

If there is a build-up of white crusty material on the pot, salts have accumulated and repotting is required. Lifting the plant out of the pot to examine the roots will tell you if it is pot-bound, if there are encircling roots or if any are rotted. Cut rotted roots away and repot in new soil. Gently tease encircling roots apart and spread out in a larger pot. You may need to divide overgrown plants or pot up into a larger-sized container. The Propagating Plants by Cuttings page on the Missouri Botanical Garden website illustrates it well.

Another technique is to clone desirable plants. Cuttings or slips of these plants can be rooted successfully and easily now. As daylight shortens and nights cool to the forties, plant chemistry changes. The rooting process then becomes more difficult.


Choose plants that will grow successfully in your house. Those lovely impatiens plants that are blooming so well outdoors do not thrive in the dry and lower light conditions of our houses. Leaves yellow, the stems become weak and plants become susceptible to aphids. Avoid those plants that have brought more problems than joy indoors.

Pelargoniums, commonly known as geraniums, are on my hot list as well as German ivies, cane begonias and Lysimachia, or golden creeping jenny, and some Tradescantia species, or inch plants. These root quickly and easily with stem cuttings and can be potted up to enjoy in our homes for the winter. There are slightly different techniques depending upon the species.

Stem cuttings are the primary method for these species. You will need a sharp knife to make angled cuts of 4-6 inch stems that are newly formed, not woody, old ones. Avoid those with blooms or well-formed bud stems. Cut one-fourth inch below a node where leaves emerge.

With geraniums, allow cutting to rest on the potting bench or kitchen counter for a few hours to form a callus. Remove lower leaves except for one or two; dip the cut end in rooting hormone; poke a hole in a moist, sterile, soilless mix with lots of perlite and insert stem about one inch. Put in a plastic bag that you can open when it gets too moist and place in a light but not sunny area. When new growth appears, pot in a small pot and put in good light.

Thin cane begonia stems root easily in the same mix and using the same method. Vines such as creeping jenny, inch plants and German and Swedish ivy can be rooted by pinning a stem to a separate pot of moist soil. New roots usually and easily form.

One can’t save them all but the fun is in the trying!

These local garden articles will reach you each week throughout the gardening season, but gardening information can be found year-round by clicking on "Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website, , or by visiting our Facebook page at .

Local Master Gardeners will respond to questions via voicemail. Call (218) 444-7916 , and leave your name, number and question.

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