Moving Herbs to Overwinter Indoors
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Sheila Moore
Posted on: September 14, 2004

I live in Sudbury and, as such, have had my share of unfavourable experiences with perennial herbs that do not winter well. This past summer, I purchased three "tender perennials" from your location in Goodwood and, because I knew that they weren’t of the hardy variety, and to make it easier to bring them indoors for the winter, I planted them in pots. I have a few questions:

When I bring them in, what should I do to ensure that I’m not providing any unwanted six-legged critters a safe haven for the winter? I had heard about setting pots in water, that covered the soil, to drown any bugs that might be in the pots but won’t I lose half my soil by doing so? What can I safely spray on the foliage?

Spray them three times with neem oil plus insecticidal soap or with cinnamite (an aldehyde of cinnamon oil) at intervals of 2 or 3 days before moving them indoors. Neem oil is available from Richters; see their "Bug-A-Bug" product:

http://www.richters.com/Web_store/web_store.cgi?product=XHW210

The three I purchased are Rosemary, Bay Laurel and Mexican Coriander. The Bay Laurel is the only one I don’t expect to be harvesting throughout the winter.

I also have regular thyme and lemon thyme in the garden that I plan to pot and bring in for the winter. I’m tired of repurchasing new ones every spring and only getting a small yield. Because our growing season is so short, I’d like to try to get them go grow bigger indoors over the winter. Is there anything special I should know to ensure that things turn out successfully?

Pot them up as soon as possible, so that they don’t have all the shocks of root disturbance and change in conditions at once. Move them to shade about two weeks before moving them indoors into your sunniest window. If you find that they start to stretch and get skinny new growth, you may have to hang a fluorescent light fixture over them and leave the light on for about 14 hours per day.

Should I attempt to place them right in a sunny window ( my only real options are facing west ) or do one or more of them prefer less direct light?

Yes, and watch that they do not get dry. In the warmer and drier interior, their root systems will have to expand to keep up with the greater rate of moisture loss. Set them on a humidity tray to up the local humidity. (In case you are new to humidity trays: Fill a tray 3/4 full of pebbles, half fill it with water and set your pots on top. They will be over but not in water.) Bay Laurel is the only plant you mentioned that can make do with less than full sun.

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