Gardening Basics

Bringing Plants Indoors

By Jean Starr


Bring Your Plants Indoors

As October drops the curtain on summer, I lament the inevitable. The asters and mums are beginning to unfurl, but my attention is drawn to the tender plants that won’t fare well during a frost. I’ve gathered small pots and stockpiled soil for cuttings and starts of those plants that have won a place on my limited table space indoors through the winter.

One of them is a tiger fern (Nephrolepis exaltata variegata ‘Tiger’), a Boston fern that is variegated green and gold. This stunner was discovered in Indonesia in 2000 as a naturally-occurring plant mutation, and was grown on for several years to assure its stability. Its constitution belies its delicate demeanor, and it held its own in a big pot in partial sun along with Pentas and Pelargonium (annual geranium) throughout the summer.

Transplanting Tips

I asked Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist, if I could dig out the fern without destroying its roots. He recommended knocking the entire rootball out of the pot and teasing the individual plants apart on the lawn or another area I wouldn’t mind making a mess of. While that is the most effective method, it wasn’t practical for me, as the container was quite large.

Hancock had a plan B for that scenario. “If your pot is pretty large and it’ll be hard to get the entire rootball out, then carefully dig out the fern, maintaining as much of the fern’s root system as possible,” he advised. “Then, depending on the size of the fern, I’d give the foliage a good rinsing with a garden hose or under a sink.”

I found it helpful to use the Radius Transplanter (//radiusgarden.com/collections/digging-tools/products/ergonomic-transplanter) to cut around the base of the plant while making a minimum of mess. When you bring plants indoors that have been growing outside for several months, there is a chance of hitchhikers in the soil that you really don’t want inside.

Hancock has a solution: “Soak the fern’s rootball in water for an hour or so and look to see if any insects try to escape. That should be a good indicator if there’s anything lurking.”

Another fern I decided to try indoors is Microsorum musifolium (crocodyllus fern). No shrinking violet, the crocodyllus fern’s fronds are stiff and wide and forgiving about being moved around during the summer. I left mine in its pot and kept it in the shade. By September, it was obvious it needed to be repotted. I easily knocked it out of the pot and ended up with three plants, one of which I shared with a friend.

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