Three Ways to Overwinter Tropical Plants
By Marie Iannotti About gardening.com
It's hard to resist those tropical beauties in the garden center each spring. We've all succumbed to the imposing leaves of elephant ear (Colocasia) and the striking colors of cannas. Trumpet-flowered Mandevilla grows nicely in a container and can cover a fence in never ending color, at least until frost. Then there are banana trees, which will probably never produce bananas for us, but make quite the statement in the garden none the less. And who isn't charmed by Brugmansia, or Angel's Trumpet, with its foot-long trumpet horn flowers that obligingly hang upside down, so we can fully take in their heady scent.
These tropical plants add a touch of the exotic to our gardens, providing a taste of warmer climates for however long our summers may last. But they don't come cheap and to grow a really impressive specimen takes years. Growing them as annual plants seems a waste of not just all the resources you put into buying and caring for the plants, but also the plants themselves. However if you want to enjoy your tropical plants for years to come, you will need to find somewhere safe to store them for the winter.
That can vary from plant to plant. Some plants will happily go dormant, grateful to have the winter off and a little downtime to regain their stamina. Others make excellent indoor plants, if you have a spot with enough sun and you can control the heat and humidity. It's not easy making an outdoor plant happy indoors, especially in the winter.
Days are short, indoor air is dry and there are no natural predators for houseplant insects. But it is possible to over-winter your tender tropical's. Here are 3 ways to do it and which plants fare best for each method.
Many gardeners start their elephant ears as a bulb, but don't consider saving them over winter as bulbs. This is arguably the easiest way to over-winter plants and all the bulbs or tuberous plants, like cannas, caladiums, and even dahlias, are good candidates. You need to wait until the leaves have been browned by a light frost, then lift the plants and put them somewhere shaded and sheltered, so the bulbs can dry out for several days.
Once dry, brush off as much soil as you can, trim the leaves back to a couple of inches and store them in a box with peat of saw dust or wrap each bulb in a sheet of newspaper and tuck into a box. Keep them cool and in the dark, checking periodically to see if any are starting to rot or if they are starting to shrivel. Dispose of any rotting bulbs and spray a little water onto the peat or paper, if they are drying out. Here's more about storing tender bulbs for winter.
You can repot them a month or 2 before your last frost, to get a head start on the growing season, or save them to plant outside, as soon as the ground warms and no frost threatens. This method takes up minimal space and most bulbs and tubers make it through the winter just fine. Since the bulbs will produce more offset bulbs, saving them year after year will also mean more bulbs each year, to plant or give away.
Not all tropical plants make good houseplants, but there are plenty that do. Some, like canna, seem to attract every aphid to come indoors with them. And very often we just don't have the growing conditions a tropical plant needs to continue growing and looking attractive indoors. If you want to give it a try, start caring for them before you bring them inside. Carefully inspect the plants for any sign of pests or disease and treat accordingly.
You might want to cut it back by one-third to one-half, to make it more manageable.
Then find the brightest window you have and make a space for your plants to settle in. Make sure they are away from drafts and from excessive heat sources. Bringing your plants indoors while the windows are still open at night will give them the best chance of acclimating. If you don't have a sunny window, you can use artificial plant lights. Another concern is the dry air in winter. Keep a spray bottle handy and mist your plants daily.
Some great candidates include: banana, begonia, brugmansia, fuchsia, and mandevilla. Your plants probably won't thrive and they may not bloom, but they should survive with minimal stress. Here are more tips for bringing outdoor plants inside.
This method of over-wintering tropicals is a little more hit and miss than simply storing them as bulbs, but it's worth a try. It helps if the plants are already in containers, but you can always lift them and pot them up at the end of summer. After a light frost, cut the tops back to 6 - 8 inches and only water when the soil looks bone dry. Move the containers to a cool, dark spot that will stay above freezing, but below about 50 degrees F. Check them periodically, to see if they need a small drink of water, but water sparingly. You can resume regular watering about the same time you begin to start seeds. At that point, you should see new growth starting and you should move the containers into the light. (Don't move them directly into bright light immediately or your could burn the tender, new leaves.) When you see several inches of new growth, you can also give your tropical plants a little fertilizer. Start to harden them off, after all danger of frost.
Plants that handle this type of winter care well include: banana, begonia, brugmansia, caladium, canna, mandevilla, and tender ornamental grasses. Give it a try if you have room. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse Dougherty Iowa
Here is the rest of that article on what to do with your fall lawn.
Another fall lawn care tip that applies specifically to the maintenance of cool season grasses is fertilization. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Or purchase a product that has a low middle number for NPK; for example, Scotts' "WinterGuard" Turf Builder has an NPK of 32-0-10.
Conversely, avoid fertilizing lawns in autumn that are composed of warm season turf grasses. The latter undergoes a hardening-off process during this time of year to prepare it for winter. Fertilizing warm season grasses in the fall may interfere with that hardening-off process.
So what fall lawn care tasks should you be performing for warm season grasses? By overseeding with annual winter ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), homeowners whose lawns are composed of warm season grasses can enjoy a green carpet during the winter, instead of having to look at a lawn. But when you buy the seed, be sure to ask for the annual, not the perennial. Annual winter ryegrass will die back when summer's heat returns, turning over the lawn once again to the warm season grasses. This exit is a timely one. The problem with the perennial winter ryegrass is that it doesn't go away, competing with your warm season grasses for sunlight, water and nutrients.
Lawns composed of cool season grasses can also profit from overseeding. But in this case, the motivation behind overseeding lawns is not winter cosmetics, but to fix bare patches -- with an eye to next year's lawn.
Adjusting Mower Height for Fall Mowing: Adjusting lawn mower height for fall mowing is not an issue with cool season grasses. Just set the height as you normally would, right up until the time when growth stops and you stop mowing. But an adjustment should be made to lawn mower height in the fall for warm season turf grasses: increase the height by 1/2 inch.
So at exactly what height should you set lawn mowers, in general? According to Robert E. Kozlowski at the Cornell University Cooperative Extension, mowing your lawn with a lawn mower set at a proper height can save you from having to rake or bag your lawn clippings. His rule of thumb is, "Mow when your grass is dry and 3 to 3-1/2 inches tall. Never cut it shorter then [sic] 2 to 2-1/2 inches or remove more than one third of the leaf surface at any one mowing."
Kozlowski's premise is that the valuable nutrients in the grass clippings can do your lawn some good, left right where they lie after mowing -- as long as their bulk is kept at a minimum. By following his rule of thumb and cutting only about an inch off the top of your grass at any one time, the bulk of the grass clippings is kept low.
Employing Kozlowski's lawn care tip will entail more frequent mowing, to be sure. But the result will be a healthier lawn, fed by nutrients that you would otherwise be hauling away. Think of it this way: with Kozlowski's approach, you're essentially mowing and fertilizing at the same time. Taking care of two lawn maintenance tasks at once -- that works for me.
How Long Into the Fall Season Should I Continue to Mow the Lawn? Those of us who despise mowing can't wait to retire the mower for another year. But do not be too hasty. Nor should you think that, just because you stopped mowing last year on such-and-such a date, the same end-date will be valid this year. This question is a lot easier to answer than you might imagine, though. Simply continue to mow the lawn until the grass stops growing! Weather will determine this, not some artificial deadline.
Information from http://landscaping.about.com/cs/lawns/a/fall_lawns. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
I have been writing what to do with putting our flower beds to rest and get ready for winter, but how about our lawns? Here is some hints and ideas just take what you need to do for your lawn. Now with all the rain we have had this summer there hasn't been a week that Larry hasn't mowed till last week because too wet. So mowing will have to happen this week. How do you care for the lawn this fall is the question for today. The worst of the summer heat will have subsided soon. Refreshed by the thought of breathing cooler air, you're poised to roll up your sleeves and do some fall lawn care. But you should read these tips first. The regimen right for your situation will vary, according to whether your lawn is composed of a warm season turf grass or a cool season turf grass. If you are unsure which type comprises your lawn, take a sample to your local county extension.
Fall Lawn Care Tip: Find Out Your Grass Type Cool-season turf grasses are so called because they thrive in the cool weather usually associated with spring and autumn. Examples are rye grass, the fescues (both "fine" and "tall" kinds), Kentucky blue grass and bent grass.
By contrast, warm-season turf grasses grow most actively when the weather is warm, which is why they are the preferred grass types of the South in the U.S. Some of their names even make you think "South," as is the case with Bermuda grass and Saint Augustine grass.Other kinds include zoysia grass and buffalo grass.
To be sure, there will be some fall lawn maintenance you'll have to do regardless of the type of grass on your lawn. Let's look at these tasks first:
Information from http://landscaping.about.com/cs/lawns/a/fall_lawns
Till next week, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa
TO PLANT IN FALL
I, of course have perennials here that will not winter over, I have been wanting to plant in my 2 front flower beds but haven't done that yet, so is it too late to plant perennials? I found this article so it fired me up to try to plant the perennials this fall. I will have my helper come on Saturday to help weed, get the ground ready and plant. What will I lose? Plants that might come back and fill the bed with color, the weeding will be done for next spring, and it will be cleaned up for the winter. I guess a good plan. We will see how it goes. So if you are thinking of doing this? Moving plants, having some pass along plants to plant go ahead and try it even for us in zone 4.
Why should spring get all the glory? While you might not think of fall as a time to get outside and plant new perennials, it actually presents a golden opportunity to do just that. Not only is it bargain time for many perennials at the garden store, the growing conditions are perfect for establishing roots.
In autumn the garden’s peak is fresh in your mind, so it’s easy to remember where you need to add some pizzazz. Remember that dead spot you noticed in midsummer? How about the garden bed that needs a splash of yellow or blue? Now is the time to address those areas.
In Zones 6 and 7, the cool-down period starts around the end of September, about six weeks before the first fall frost. This is the ideal time to start your fall plants. In Zones 3 to 5, you’ll want to plant earlier if you can. And of course, Zones 8 to 11 can pretty much plant year-round without a problem. (Lucky!) Still, you want to get an early start to give roots time to get established.
Frost might seem like your biggest fall planting challenge, but it’s actually not a huge problem. Yes, frost will kill the tops of your new plants, but it won’t affect the root growth. The roots will grow until the soil freezes solid, which is often weeks or even months after the first frost hits. In temperate regions—everywhere but the far North and the high mountains—soil usually doesn’t freeze until after Thanksgiving.
In spring the soil is cold, so the roots of newly planted perennials grow slowly. In fall the soil is warm, so roots grow faster. Since the plants don’t produce flowers, they have more energy for sending vigorous roots into the soil of their new home. Do your part by planting new perennials in good soil and watering thoroughly. By the time the growing season rolls around again, they’ll be happily settled.
Wait until the soil freezes hard, then spread a few inches of mulch around your perennials—not to prevent soil from freezing, but to keep it from thawing. Roots that aren’t solidly anchored can “frost heave” out of the soil when the ground freezes and thaws, putting the plant in danger of getting killed by cold. Once mulch is on, you’re all set. Even if a few of your new perennials don’t make it, you’re probably still coming out ahead. Fall planting gives you a big jump on spring gardening, so you have more time in the busy season.
List of perennials to plant in the fall
Read more: http://birdsandblooms.com/gardening/gardening-basics/gardening-basics-planting-perennials-fall/#ixzz4LNgrzarx
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
I am sorry that I have missed a couple of days of posting. That hasn't happened too much since Feb. But I did have a weekend of family things and it was great to see so many people, and catch up with news. I have been noticing lots of succulent plantings for the fall, and one is using pumpkins. But really think about artificial pumpkins for this activity and you will not have the mess of rotting pumpkins. I am going to try this with artificial pumpkins and have been teaching Sunday School this will be an activity for the kids to do. I will post pictures of that.
So here are some helpful hints with this planting from http://www.succulentsandsunshine.com
I’ve been admiring all the beautiful succulent topped pumpkins I’ve seen lately on various social media platforms. I’ve made them in the past (including one for the Idiot’s Guides: Succulents) but was disappointed with how quickly the pumpkin rotted, despite the fact I did not cut or puncture it in any way. So I decided to try something a little different. I planted succulents in a fake pumpkin!
To start, you’ll want to cut an opening in the top of the pumpkin. I didn’t try to make mine perfectly round, but let it kind of follow the shape of the pumpkin, although fake pumpkins are pretty perfect.
You can discard the top or find another use for it. You’ll also want to drill a bunch of holes in the bottom for drainage. This will be crucial in keeping the succulents healthy.
You can fill up the pumpkin with soil! Even though I was using rooted succulents I found I needed the soil to nearly reach the top in order for the succulents to stay above the edge of the pumpkin. Start by placing your largest succulent first.
After your largest succulent is set, start filling in with the rest. I’m really happy with how it turned out! To care for the pumpkin, I’ll water it just like I would a normal arrangement. I waited to water it until a couple days after planting. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
I remember ironing leaves between 2 pieces of wax paper with my mom.
I was looking for ideas to post on this blog, and I found this. I so remember doing this with my mom, so wanted to share with you. How about you? Do you remember ironing leaves between wax paper? This is how most kids start preserving leaves. It could be the only time anyone enjoys ironing.
1. Choose thin leaves with a low moisture content, that haven’t begun to curl.
2. Sandwich your leaves between 2 sheets of waxed paper.
3. Cover your ironing board with an old cloth rag, so you don’t get wax on the board.
4. Place the sandwiched leaves on top of the rag.
5. Place another old cloth rag on top of the sandwiched leaves.
6. Heat the iron to high, but NO STEAM.
7. Slowly run the iron back and forth over the cloth rag. Don't press too hard to begin with, or the leaves will shift. Once the paper has begun to seal, use the full weight of the iron and hold it for about 4-5 seconds on each spot.
8. Lift the rag to see if the waxed paper has melted and sealed. The leaves will be much clearer when the wax has melted.
9. Allow the paper to cool, then cut out individual leaves. Leave a small margin around the leaves so the waxed paper stays sealed.
These leaves will last for months.
•Wax pressed leaves are nice for kids to play with and make collages or mobiles.
•Pin the individual leaves to curtains or hot glue to lamp shades for seasonal color.
Taken from "About Home" Till next time this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
This picture was taken 5 days ago, if we could see the sunrise this morning, the sun would be right over the road. With it being the first day of fall, that would be directly east. The placement of the sun would have moved that much.
First day of fall
Here in Dougherty, Iowa it is very wet. We got 4.7 inches of rain over night and it is still raining this morning. Looks like it could be an all day rain. Too much water. Everything in the greenhouses are flooded, water going over the road so at some point Larry will have to have 2 sub pumps pumping out the water. It could be worst as our neighboring communities of Greene and Charles City with rivers running thru them are having flooding issues. For all, prayers and hope it quits raining soon. Farmers will not be in the fields here for awhile to start harvesting. So first day of fall what does that mean? ( this is the science teacher in me coming out as I taught elementary science for 3 years)
Why is it Called “Equinox”?
On the equinox, night and day are nearly exactly the same length – 12 hours – all over the world. This is the reason it's called an “equinox”, derived from Latin, meaning "equal night". However, in reality equinoxes don't have exactly 12 hours of daylight
What Happens on the Equinox?
The Earth's axis is always tilted at an angle of about 23.5° in relation to the ecliptic, the imaginary plane created by the Earth's path around the Sun. On any other day of the year, the Earth's axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun. But on the two equinoxes, the tilt of the Earth's is neither away from nor towards the Sun. In fact, it is perpendicular to the Sun's rays.
So that is why with a sunrise or sunset on the first day of fall the sun will be in the direct west or the direct east sky. If this picture of the sunrise was taken today, the sun would be right directly over the road. Then you know that is the true west or the true east for directions. I will tell you to look at the sunset tonight to see where it will set, but here right now in Iowa we are having lots of clouds, lots of rain and not seeing the sun at all. But if you are somewhere else take a look at where the sun sets tonight as that is the true west sky. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa
We can learn so much from history, and when we use what has been before us makes us realize how far we have come.
Here is a change of post. Picture of me, using a 103 year old Singer sewing machine.
I don't usually share pictures of me, but today I am. Here I am at the Thresher Show using a 103 year old Singer Sewing machine. You sew with it by turning a wheel not a treadle by the foot. Really interesting and fun. Lots of history we saw on Saturday at a Thresher and Steam Engine show. How things have changed...unbelievable. Weather in Iowa is having unseasonable warm, and lots of rain. Sounds like NE Iowa got 2 inches of rain over night. We didn't get any here, but sounds like this afternoon and tonight. Rain, rain go away...we are all saying because the farmers would like to be in the fields harvesting.
I know if you have a vegetable garden that is what you will be doing now and soon. Everything will be coming to an end, and needs to be harvest and put up for the winter however you do it. Apples are coming around and they are fun to cook and bake with. I am slowly moving things around and getting plants back into the greenhouse. So much to do, like so many gardeners getting their beds ready for winter. Not much today, more tomorrow. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa
Question asked about spring blooming bulbs that we plant in the fall...
When is it too late to plant bulbs?
A: The best route to success with spring flower bulbs is to plant them at the optimum times. Ideally, bulbs should be planted at least six weeks before hard, ground-freezing frost can be expected in your area. The bulbs need time to root and establish themselves. On the other hand, planting bulbs too early can lead to fungus or disease problems. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs when the average nighttime temperatures in your area are in the 40- to 50-degree range. At that point the soil temperature should be just perfect for tucking bulbs in for their winter's rest underground. In colder northern climates, plant in September or October. In warmer climates you may need to plant bulbs in December (or even later).
Here basics of planting bulbs and combining plants for a spring garden.
If you miss planting your bulbs at the optimal time, don't wait for spring or next fall. Bulbs aren't like seeds. They won't survive out of the ground indefinitely. Even if you find an unplanted sack of tulips or daffodils in January or February, plant them and take your chances. No matter what, they're better off giving it a fighting chance in the ground or a chilled pot than wasting away in the garage or cupboard. Flower bulbs are survivors by nature's design. Every year stories abound of bulbs that bloom after being planted under the most improbable circumstances. Till next time this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa
This planter will go inside because of the very tender succulents growing in it. This one is 3 years old.
Thanks for all that looked at the 17th posting. Internet was down yesterday Sunday but it is up and running today, so here is the next part of the getting the succulents ready for winter. Found this information from a very interesting site so check it out if you want more information about succulents. "Cassidy Tuttle" sender email@example.com
Well Draining Soil You’ll also want to make sure (if they aren’t already) that your succulents are in a well draining soil in a pot with a drainage hole. Succulents grown indoors will do much better if they have the right soil and container.
I found that my succulents had quite a few leaves from nearby trees as well as dead leaves that they had shed. I removed as much of these as possible and then reapplied my top dressing to make sure the pot looked nice and fresh! My tweezers were extremely helpful for this part. Remove debris from pots of succulents before bringing them inside for the winter. Replace the top dressing on your succulent arrangement before bringing it inside for the winter. There was also quite a bit of dirt out the outside of most of my pots. I wiped down all around the pot and along the bottom to make sure they’d be clean for the move inside.
You’ll also want to check for bugs. I don’t usually have problems with mealybugs with my outdoor plants, but it’s definitely something to look for. Also look for any other little bugs running around your plants. I know at my house ants and roly poly bugs love to hang out in my pots. I’ve seen quite a few spiders lately too. Since I don’t want those inside, I try to make sure there aren’t any hiding in my plants. Its also a good idea to remove as many dead leaves as possible from my succulents before bringing them inside. This helps them to be healthier once they are indoors and they look nicer too! Removing the dead leaves isn’t essential, but it does promote better air flow around the plant. Remove dead leaves from succulents before bringing them inside for the winter.
If any of your succulents have died over the summer, now is a good time to fill in the holes. This arrangement stayed looking great over the summer, except for one monocarpic succulent that bloomed and then left a big hole. I filled in the hole with a few succulent cuttings and it looks complete again! I also added some top dressing since it didn’t have any. Fill in gaps in a succulent arrangement before bringing it inside for the winter.
Winter Watering for Succulents
Many succulents are dormant in the winter so they won’t need as much water. If your succulents are winter growers they will likely need to be watered more often. As a general rule though, you’ll only want to water your plants when the soil is completely dry. This is why it’s so important to have a well draining soil and a drainage hole.
The airflow indoors isn’t as good as it is outside so without the proper soil it’s very likely your succulents will stay wet for too long. Keep in mind that succulents near a heating vent might dry out more quickly as the direct air and warmer temperatures can dry things out more quickly. Learn how to properly water succulents in the winter. If you haven't read part one of this blog go to Sept 17th for the first part of this. Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty, Iowa
Hi! My name is Becky and I am a Master Gardener. I own Becky's Greenhouse in Dougherty, Iowa.