Bringing Plants Inside For Winter

It’s that time of year again and the backyard is almost shut down for winter.  Most of the summer veggie and flower annuals have been pulled out and put into the compost bin.  Last year, I left all of the perennial herbs outside in the hopes that they were safe in the raised beds and hardy enough to withstand the NYC winter.  Well, let’s just say that I ended up buying the majority of my perennial herbs over again.  Oops!  Hoping to not repeat that this year, I decided to bring my 3 thyme plants inside.

Bringing Plants Inside For Winter

Bringing Plants Inside For Winter


  • Are there any bugs on the plant?  It just so happens that a colony of ants made their home in the thyme pot, so repotting and washing off the plants will be needed.
  • Does the plant have any disease on it?  You will not want to infect any of your other indoor plants, so be sure to remove any affected leaves or plant sections if the rest of the plant is healthy.  Also, keep an eye on the plant once it’s inside to make sure the disease doesn’t return.
  • Indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity, and light are almost always different, so this needs to be taken into account when moving plants.
    • If the plant requires warmer weather, it should be taken in before the nights get too cold.  Do this gradually over a few days (inside at night and outside during the day) to not shock the plant.
    • Homes tend to be drier, especially in winter if you’re not using a humidifier.  Make sure to check your plants often, so they do not dry out.  You may need to water them more often then you did outside.
    • Figure out where your plant will get the right amount of light indoors.  If there is not enough light inside (like in my apartment), you may need to add a few plant lights to make sure the plant gets enough.


Once you are ready to bring the plants inside, it’s time to clean them up and, if needed, transfer them to a different pot.  If they have outgrown the current pot they’re in, they will need to be moved to a larger pot.  In the case of my thyme plants, there are 3 different varieties, so I will be breaking them apart and putting each in its own pot.

  • Pot(s)
  • Hammer and Nail (if your pots are NOT ceramic, glass or tera-cotta and need drainage holes)
  • Rocks, Pieces of Tera-Cotta, or Shells (for bottom of pot)
  • Potting Soil
  • Something to Lay Under Plants to Catch Dirt (Paper or Plastic Grocery Bags, Plastic Tarp, etc)
  • Bucket of Water (if you have enough bugs in the plant that warrant a bath, like my ants)
  • Plant(s)

1. If you have pots that need drainage holes, use your hammer and nail to make some holes in the bottom of the pots.

Adding drainage holes to pots using hammer and nail
Adding Drainage Holes To Pots Using A Hammer And Nail

2. Carefully remove the plant from its current pot by tipping it on its side and easing it out. You may need to do a bit of shaking or loosening it from the sides with a trowel or knife. Be sure to have your bag or tarp underneath the plant to catch any soil that may fall out.  It also makes cleanup easier!

Plant removed from pot
Plant Removed From Its Pot

3. Once the plant is out of the old pot, gently remove some of the roots that have grown around the sides. This will help the remaining roots branch out in their new pot better. In the case of my thyme plants, I carefully removed the roots around the sides and then separated the 3 plants and the roots that had become woven together.

Plants separated
Plants Separated

4. Place the rocks, terra-cotta pot pieces or shells in the bottom of the new pot(s). They will assist with drainage and help keep the dirt inside the pot.

Adding drainage to bottom of pot
Adding Drainage To Bottom Of The Pot

5. If your plants have any bugs that cannot easily be removed with your hands, I would suggest giving them a bath or shower before repotting. I submerged the entire plant in water as I had ants on both the branches and in the soil. (After the bath, be sure to empty the bucket as the goal is to remove pests, not drown the ants.  They can happily stay in my backyard, just not my house.)

Submerging plant in water to remove pests
Submerging The Plant In Water To Remove Pests

6. Pot the plants in the new pots and you are ready to start acclimating them to their new indoor home for the winter.

Repotted plants
Repotted Plants

I am looking forward to having some fresh herbs for cooking this winter and more money in my wallet next spring.  Now onto the geraniums…  Let me know in the comments what plants you bring inside for winter.

Happy Winter Prepping!   Nikole

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