Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Overwintering Tender Plants, Part I

Rose from Prairie Rose's Garden asked me if I'd do a post on overwintering annuals. I'm happy to oblige Rose! Last year was the first time I did it. I'm glad to share what I learned. In order to keep this post from becoming too long, I'll break it into three parts. This one will be background on why I unintentionally ended up becoming a winter gardener during the freezing winters of zone 5a. The second and third parts will be what I do with my plants and how I do it.

When I was a kid and even as a young adult, I had lots of houseplants. I loved experimenting with propagation, and shared and traded many babies. Once I had my own home and a garden of my own, I lost interest in houseplants. I gardened outside so extensively, I looked forward to and enjoyed the winter break from caring for plants and gradually got rid of most of my houseplants.

Until moving here I was never big on container planting. One Christmas my husband signed me up for a plant-of-the-month club. A few of the plants I received were tender in our climate, such as gardenia, hibiscus, and calla lilies. I kept them inside the first winter, then put them out on the patio for the summer.Since the garden here is fairly large and was virtually unplanted when I moved in, I decided to go for some annuals in containers as a way to add some instant, cheap color, although I'd never been 'into' annuals before. In the quantities and sizes I purchased them, it became expensive. After being 'downsized' out of my corporate job a couple of years ago and not going immediately back into the workforce, I decided to slash my annuals budget.

Working part-time at a nursery for the first time last year, I found and purchased tender plant temptations at every turn. By the end of the season I was thinking about indoor gardening again for the first time in many years. I decided to overwinter as many of my tender plants as possible.
In the next two posts in the series I'll talk about how and what I overwintered and what I learned doing this for the first time last winter.


  1. Thank you so much for posting this, Linda! I seem to have taken somewhat the opposite route as you: for years I had only containers and annual plantings. Then one day I decided I wanted to be a "real" gardener and realized that perennials were much cheaper in the long run, easier to maintain, and much more satisfying. I still enjoy planting some containers, though, and seem to spend a small fortune each spring on annuals. As I try to dig up more and more of my big yard for gardening, I'm looking for more cost-effective ways to plant it, so that I don't have to go back to teaching full-time!:)

    Looking forward to your next posts!

  2. I only have a few container plants on the front porch. I bring them in and put them into the sunroom where they love it. I must keep them up high so the kitty’s dont try to eat them. I have one hibiscus that I over wintered last year in the guest bedroom with the door closed to keep the cats away. Cats do not like closed doors nor do I as it does not allow the Heat and AC to properly function. So this year I am debating the Hibiscus. I will be posting on it before the really cold stuff approaches GA... I don’t have a garage and the crawl space under the house is too low…

  3. We have a plant eating cat so there are no plants to bring indoors. I do have a Rosemary nd a very large Bay Leaf that I bring inside if the temps go below 26 degrees and only while it stays below that!

    Is the last plant a Datura or a Brugmansia? I might have to get one!


  4. You're welcome Rose!

    I know what you mean about spending a fortune on annuals! Before I started bringing stuff in I'd spend between $300-$500 on plants that ended up in the compost heap at the end of the season. This year I got a few flats and that was it - spent about $50 on them since I got some of them on sale. I have close to 50 containers of various sizes, and the rest of the plants that fill them were all overwintered or propagated from overwintered plants.

    Hi Skeeter, ah yes, the kitties! I've had them all my life until the last four years. My girls didn't want to part with our last three as they moved out on their own. My oldest daughter kept Tigger, the 17-year old orange Tabby, until old age and ill health ended the last of his 9 lives, and my youngest kept Banshee and Sherlock, the two girl kitties. Since my husband isn't much of a cat person, we only have George now, and he leaves the plants alone. Not only had my cats noshed on indoor plants (another reason I lost interest in indoor gardening,) they also occasionally mistook bigger plants for litter boxes. It's not fun trying to keep the kitties out of the plants. I probably wouldn't be bringing in plants if I still had cats.

    Hi Gail, Oh I wish it rarely dropped below 26 degrees here! If that was when I brought anything in, it would be in all winter anyway in these parts.

    That's a datura - I think it's Datura metel 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' It was mislabeled as an angel's trumpet (brugmansia.) Anyway, a lot of times the blooms just fall off, but sometimes it will form quite a large seed pod. If I'm able to get seeds from it, I'll save some for you. They grow pretty fast from seed.

    I do have three brugmansias too, overwintered inside last year as well. I'll probably be showing them off soon, as two are about to bloom.

  5. Garden girl I look forward to your series as I overwinter cactus plants
    only so you may inspire me to go beyond into the exotic variety!

  6. can't wait to see #2 & #3.
    thanks for sharing thus far.

  7. I'm having trouble with feeds to PICTURES JUST PICTURES .

    Followers cannot access it at present through their Google Dashboards and it isn't possible to click to the blog through Google Readers either. I'm assuming people using other Readers will be experiencing the same problem.

    Please excuse this format message - but I'm cutting and pasting it to 'Followers' and to other people who have left messages on PICTURES JUST PICTURES from time to time.

    When I have worked out what to do - I will. Meanwhile, I will continue to post daily.

    You can either use this link PICTURES JUST PICTURES or click through from the sidebar of LOOSE AND LEAFY.

    Internet Explorer Bookmarks still work

    (Members of Blotanical may sympathise if I say 'Isn't it Wonderful!')

    Lucy Corrander

  8. Hi Nature girl, I get kind of 'attached' to my plants, and have found overwintering rewarding for more than financial reasons. It used to be hard pitching some of them into the compost at the end of the season.

    Hi Marmee, it's my pleasure!'

    Hi Lucy, I feel your pain! The feed issues have been quite frustrating!


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