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Proctor's Garden: Caring for plants brought inside this fall

Your outdoor plants don't need to look perfect, they just need to survive the winter.

DENVER — If you brought plants inside this fall--and I hope you did--here's how to keep them healthy.

The first thing is to realize that their conditions have changed. The days are shorter and the light is much less intense. The sunlight that comes through windows is even less intense.

Given their new circumstances, your plants may announce their displeasure by dropping leaves, growing less vigorously, and blooming less. That's perfectly fine. Don't overreact by pouring on more water. That could drown them. They don't have to look great; they just have to survive. 

Don't freak out about bugs that may have hitched a ride when you brought plants inside. Most can be controlled or eliminated with a soap spray. Make sure to spray the undersides of leaves where pests such as aphids and whiteflies congregate.

It's also fine to use a systemic insecticide. This type of insecticide is generally sprinkled on the soil and watered in. The roots take it up and it becomes distributed throughout the stems and leaves. This will kill insects that chew or suck the sap. We never should use this on outdoor plants while they are outside because it can kill bees and butterflies. But there aren't any bees and butterflies in your house so there's no problem there. Effectiveness wanes after several months and before the plants go back outside. 

Throughout the winter you'll want to pinch and groom plants as needed. This will help keep them bushy and it will keep your green thumb from getting rusty. 

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