How to Acclimate Plants Between the Garden and Indoors

December 29, 2023

Bring Your Plants Indoors For The Winter

Bring potted plants safely from the garden to enjoy them for the winter. Enjoy their appearance and for the edible benefits of your garden herbs. Cook with their fresh flavors all season long.

The Plants To Consider Bringing Indoors

Here are plants to bring indoors for the winter:

  • Tropical Plants. Most of the plants we consider house plants are tender tropical perennials and will not surive outdoors in temperate climates.
  • Tender perennials that will not survive outdoors in your climate
  • Edible herbs that you would like to have available for winter meals. You can bring in whole small plants or take cuttings.
  • Some of the annual plants from your summer garden. Coleus, easy to propagate and with colorful foliage is an easy option and will add beauty to a sunny space.

Your Objective In Bringing Plants Indoors

There are two important goals in bringing plants from the garden indoors.

  • Salvage and utilize plants that will not survive winter outdoors in your climate.
  • Protect your existing indoor houseplants from any pests and diseases that come indoors with the garden plants!

Give yourself some time to do this, particularly if you have many plants, large plants or you need time to take cuttings from garden plants. Also, allow some time if you have valuable house plants that need to be protected from any pests and diseases that might enter the house from the garden.

You Have A Deadline!

The garden plants that you want to save over the winter need to be indoors, in clean and ready-to-grow condition, by the time the outdoor temperatures reach as low as 50 degrees (F).

When should this happen? About two weeks before your last average frost date in the fall where you live. How to find your last frost date? Check here-just enter your zip code.

This project requires reasonable weather to work outdoors and a little time. If you have a lot of plants you may need more than one day set aside for this task.

Steps to Take

Step One: Select Plants And Take Cuttings

acclimate plants to indoors

Walk the garden and decide which plants can come indoors. How much room do you have? If space is an issue you can trim some plants, take cuttings of some and in the case of bulbs, you can salvage and store only the bulbs to plant next year.

Step Two: Arrange Indoor Places For The Plants

acclimate plants to indoors

The issues are enough space for the plants, sufficient light, and safe places where the plants will not drip and damage furniture. The full-sun plants will require your brightest south or west-facing windows or grow lights. All plants will receive less light indoors. Identify places for planting trays with gravel or stones and places for hanging plants.

Step Three: Move The Plants To Shade

move plants to shade 
acclimate to indoors

Place the plants that will come indoors in a shady location for a few days to acclimate to lower light.

Step Four: Inspect The Inbound Plants For Pests And Diseases

inspect plants for pests
acclimate plants to indoors

One Plant at A Time:

  • Look for problems; damaged, discolored foliage, bugs, egg sacs, and holes. Look under the leaves. Remove any damaged materials and bugs by hand.
  • Wash the plants with a mild soap and water spray. Because damaging pests can live in the soil itself, the safest procedure is to mix water with mild soap and submerge the plant in a tub of water. Debris and bugs will float to the top. Skim them off before removing the plant. This is the perfect time to scrub the pot clean.
  • Is the planter size still appropriate? This is your opportunity to upgrade to a larger pot with fresh soil. This is also time to trim the plant to remove any damaged material and improve the shape. Remember to root prune as you do this.
  • Is your planter too big to submerge? Wash the plant with soapy water spray and wash the entire planter and its soil with the garden hose.
  • Water the plants with fresh water and allow them to dry.
  • This is your first watering for the plant’s life indoors.
  • Is this a lot of work? Well, yes, how valuable are the plants to you (outdoors and in.)
  • You can spray with Neem oil at this time.

A Mild Soap Recipe

For one gallon of water (use distilled water if your water is extremely hard) add 2.5 Tbl. mild liquid soap, and 2.5 Tbl. vegetable oil. Mix.

Step Five: Begin The Transition Indoors

begin indoor transition
acclimate plants to indoors
  • Allow yourself about two weeks to complete this.
  • First, bring the plants indoors, overnight, and back out to a clean patio area or steps for the day.
  • We intend to gradually acclimate the plants to the lower light levels they will find indoors. You can use shaded areas or covered porches to create lower outdoor light conditions.
  • Gradually allow the plants to be indoors for more hours each day.
  • Remain observant of any signs of pests and diseases.

Create The Optimized Indoor Environment

This transition is a challenge to the plants; continue to be observant and take these steps to help them make the shift.

  • Clean the windows! Yes, you have to do it sometime. Indoor light is suboptimal; make it as bright as possible.
  • If light conditions still seem too low, consider switching to full-spectrum light bulbs.
  • Arrange hanging hooks or planter trays as needed. It is easier to have your space prepared as plants come indoors.
  • Arrange your plants In the order in which they demand light. Full sun plants (require 6-8 hours of sun per day) in your sunniest south-facing windows. Part sun plants (requiring 4-6 hours per day) behind them or in southwest-facing windows,
  • Some plants have known problems with finding enough sun indoors. Rosemary, a dry climate plant native to the Mediterranean, is infamous for this and, at the same time, so desirable for hearty winter meals. Give it your brightest light and no water until it is thoroughly dry. Here is more help on keeping your edible Rosemary plant healthy.
  • Plants, once indoors, require less water than outside. Transpiration takes place much more slowly. If you checked that the soil felt dry for one inch outdoors, before you watered, indoors look for 2-3″ of dry soil before watering. Make that a beginning rule of thumb and adjust for your house conditions.
  • You will fertilize indoors but at a much lower level. Fertilize the plants as they come in and then wait.
  • Our homes, heated in winter may offer insufficient humidity to the house plants. Consider these steps. Mist the plants with a fine water spray, perhaps 1-3 times per day. Place the plants on shallow trays filled with gravel or stones. Fill the tray with water, but ensure that it is always below the level of the stone. Fungal diseases are a potential problem. Do not have overly wet environments.


Our purpose here is to ensure the most comfortable environment we can for our plants. In nature, plants are made for soil, they grow where they have what they require and die when they do not. We are adjusting nature to benefit ourselves. Therefore we need to make the environment as natural as possible.,

Don’t Forget to Take Cuttings from Anything

You Will Enjoy Indoors.

Your colorful summer annuals.

Many of these plants root easily, and take advantage of this fact. The Impatiens, coleus, and begonias you enjoyed and cared for outside will give you pleasure during the winter indoors.