October can be such a transitional time, especially for gardeners. Our borders and beds teeter on the edge of a climatic cliff. Colors change as deep green foliage morphs into mellow butter yellow or fiery scarlet. Forms change as plants drop their leafy garb to expose the structure of bare bones. Sounds change as migratory birds mass on the telephone wires to chat and plan travel routes. Who doesn’t love these windy, slightly crisp, fall days when you can walk through the woods and watch leaves dance and listen to acorns beat out a rhythm as they fall to the ground.
We’ve got a couple of chilly nights under our belts, with the night temps as low as 45 degrees. So it’s time to check any houseplants that have spent the summer months outdoors for insects and disease. Treat them appropriately with systemic fungicides and insecticidal soap before bringing them into the house. Infestations can move quickly from your infected plants to healthy ones. And pay attention to where you are putting those plants in your house when you bring them back inside. High light plants like Ficus, Crotons and Hibiscus will need to be sited near your sunniest windows and out of cold drafts to help avoid leaf drop. Spots near heating ducts should also be avoided.
If your houseplants grew a lot during the summer, you should prune them back to a more manageable size. Keep in mind though, when you reduce the size of a plant’s top growth significantly, you should also reduce the frequency of watering. Over-watering is the most common killer of houseplants, so water only when your plants need it. As the days shorten and the temperatures cool, houseplants will be going into semi-dormancy and growth will slow or stop until spring.
Gardening with cacti and succulents is still a hot trend. As you transition yours to an indoor environment, it becomes crucial that you find the correct watering schedule. Small plants and dish gardens need to dry almost completely between watering and the large barrel-type cactus might not need much watering until spring. And be sure to keep them in places with the highest light, but cooler temperatures.
Switch to a bloom boosting fertilizer for your orchids and fertilize them every third time that you water. Water, water, feed is the orchid mantra. Make sure that the potting medium has been freshened and replenished to provide the perfect drainage that your orchids require.