Indoor houseplants can be gleaned from your outdoor summer containers

Transplant tender perennial plants into indoor containers for a winter windowsill of color and interest.

It’s that time of year when we say goodbye to those fabulous container plants that graced our summer landscape. However, did you know that some of those plants can easily be “rescued” and transformed into a beautiful indoor resident for winter? Plants with colorful foliage such as Rex begonia, or great texture such as Boston fern and ginger, can easily reside in our homes all winter if steps are taken now to lift them from their outdoor homes before a hard freeze.

Rex Begonia
Colorful foliage of tropical plants such as Rex begonia can be enjoyed all winter indoors.
Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension


I often find that plant roots have co-mingled into a tangled mess once they are established in an outdoor container. If you simply insert a sharp trowel or garden knife into the media, forming a reasonable sized “plug” of media at the base of the plant to be saved, you can lift this piece out and place into a new suitable indoor container. Make sure when re-potting the plant that you have an adequate drainage hole in the base of the new container. Simply fill in the gaps surrounding the root plug with fresh potting media and voila – you can enjoy that plant for the rest of winter.

Situated in bright light near a sunny window or even with grow lights, these plants will make handsome additions to your indoor plant collection in just a few weeks. As winter turns into spring, be thinking about applying a soluble houseplant fertilizer to get them going again for another season, indoors or out!

Pest patrol

Beware of transporting outdoor pests such as mealy bugs and scale indoors. According to Michigan State University Extension horticulture educator Robert Bricault, plants that you move indoors can harbor eggs of insect pests that might affect the other houseplants you already have. A couple of weeks in quarantine might be a good solution.

Another method is to treat the plants with a systemic houseplant insecticide prior to bringing them indoors. The plants will have taken up the product and as new insects begin feeding, they will be eliminated quickly.

For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening topics, visit or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464 with any of your questions.

Did you find this article useful?