Transferring Tender Plants Indoors as House Plants

“How do you bring in tropical houseplants from the outdoors without them dropping their leaves?” –Question from Annie of Portland, Oregon

ANSWER: Thanks for the gardening question! There are several reasons why your houseplants may drop their leaves after being brought indoors in fall. I will cover all of the possibilities.

Clean houseplants before bringing them back inside!

It’s smart to bring tropical houseplants outdoors in the summer months. They thrive in the natural light, humidity, and warm weather, but four precautions must be taken before you bring them back indoors.

1. Check to make sure your plants are not root bound. If their roots seem dense, then it is time to repot them in quality potting mix like Black Gold All-Purpose Potting Mix. Repotting will allow them to grow new roots and take up more fertilizer and moisture when brought indoors.

2. Make sure your houseplants are pest free. Wash their leaves and spray them with an insecticidal soap before bringing them inside. Common foliar pests like spider mites, white flies, and aphids will cause leaf drop, and eventually cause your plants great distress, especially indoors. It also helps to remove and replenish the top two inches of potting soil to catch any pests hanging out in the upper soil layers.

3. Try to give them the same light and humidity indoors that they enjoyed outdoors. If this is not possible, your plants may react by dropping a few leaves as they adjust to the transition. Just try to replicate the outdoor conditions as much as you can.

4. Keep their soil just moist, but not too wet. Outdoor plants lose soil water faster than they do indoors due to higher heat and winds. They generally need less water inside.

If your houseplants drop a few leaves in transition, don’t worry. Just clean off the dead leaves, give the plants good care, and they should pop back in no time!

Happy Gardening,

Jessie Keith


Plants are the lens Jessie views the world through because they’re all-sustaining. (“They feed, clothe, house and heal us. They produce the air we breathe and even make us smell pretty.”) She’s a garden writer and photographer with degrees in both horticulture and plant biology from Purdue and Michigan State Universities. Her degrees were bolstered by internships at Longwood Gardens and the American Horticultural Society. She has since worked for many horticultural institutions and companies and now manages communications for Sun Gro Horticulture, the parent company of Black Gold. Her joy is sharing all things green and lovely with her two daughters.

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