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Justin Hancock, Costa Farms garden guru

The arrival of frosty temperatures doesn’t have to mean saying goodbye to tropical plants.

It’s commonly believed that the end of the growing season means you have to put gardening on hold for the winter and sacrifice those gorgeous tropical plants you’ve nurtured over the summer. But I think that’s a myth. You can save many of your favorites and treat them as houseplants over winter, ready to enjoy in all their glory again next year.

Here are some tips:

Evaluate Your Home
First off, make sure you have a place (or places!) where you can grow the plants over winter. A bright spot with natural or artificial light is a must. Unobstructed south- or west-facing windows are ideal; an east-facing window will do. If you go the artificial route -- which works just as well – be sure you have a spot where you can hang the lights.

Give Plants a Haircut
Once you’ve identified where you’ll sustain the plants during the cold season, trim them by a third or so. They’ll put on new growth in your house that’s adapted to inside conditions, meaning you’ll have fewer fallen leaves to pick up. (Note: It’s common for plants to drop some leaves in the process of being moved in and out; don’t be alarmed or surprised if a bunch of the foliage turns yellow and falls off.)

Watch for Pests
Do a thorough examination of the plant or plants you’re bringing in to make sure there aren’t any hitchhiking insect pests. Look at both the top and the bottom of the leaves, as well as the stems and where the leaves meet the stems. If you see any pests, treat with insecticidal soap or Neem oil.

Regular Maintenance
Like any houseplants, your overwintered tropicals will need regular watering. It may be once a week, once every two weeks (or more or less!), depending on a variety of conditions, including the type of plant, the temperature and light levels, and the size of the pot. When it comes to watering, though, one general rule to follow is it’s better to keep them too dry than too wet. Because there’s a lot less light, your plants will grow more slowly. The more slowly they grow the less water they need. Many tropicals will consider their winter vacation a time to rest, so they may not bloom much, if at all.

Plants You Can Bring Inside
Here’s a list of plants I’ve had success overwintering indoors:

Learn more about growing plants indoors and out from me and the other experts at Costa Farms!

Posted October 10, 2014

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