The end of the growing season doesn’t mean you have to give up some of your favorite plants. Get tips for bringing tender plants indoors for winter.
By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms garden guru Photo courtesy of Costa Farms
In spring, it’s tough to resist the allure of a beautiful hibiscus,mandevilla, or other tropical plant. Over the summer, it’s easy to build a relationship with this beautiful plant you’ve cared for. So come fall, it can be heartbreaking to sacrifice your little friend to cold weather. Happily, you may be able to save your plants and keep them going indoors over winter. Here’s my strategy for saving plants.
Evaluate Your Indoor Space
First off, make sure you have an environment to keep your plants over winter. The biggest thing is light -- most tropicals are high-light plants that won’t do well in a dark room. If there’s a spot near a large, unobstructed window or glass patio doors, that can be perfect.
Hint: Don’t have a spot with good natural light? If really want to keep your plants going, invest in an inexpensive fluorescent light; I once bought a ballast for less than $50, for example, that worked well in my basement.
Be Realistic About Care
If you have a good spot, the next thing to think about is ongoing care. Will you be able to keep your plant watered over the winter?
Hint: Your plants need a lot less water over winter. You also don’t need to worry about fertilizing – it’s best to let plants essentially coast over winter, so they take a rest. Resume fertilizing in spring when days grow longer.
Start the process by taking your plants from the sun and letting them live in the shade outside for a couple of weeks before you move them in. It’s a big shock to plants to move from an outdoor to indoor environment, so help ease them into it by acclimating them to lower light.
Give Your Plants a Haircut
After a couple of weeks in the shade, cut your plants back by about a quarter. This helps your plants transition. They’ll likely lose fewer leaves as a symptom of shock; a cut back will reduce the mess they make once they shed leaves inside. But it serves another purpose, too: When you cut plants back, it encourages new growth – and this new growth will be adapted to indoor conditions.
It’s easiest to bring in plants that are already potted. But you can move plants that are growing in the ground. For those, dig them out of the ground and pot them up before moving them to the shade. Be sure to use a potting mix made for container gardens. Do not use soil from your garden – it doesn’t drain well and can bring pests or diseases into your home.