Mandevilla Sighting

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Check out these beauties!  I spotted these beautiful Mandevilla plants in containers along a deck next door to my mother-in-law’s lakeside cottage in Ashford, CT.  She told me the neighbor keeps them in his shed over the winter. I thought, that can’t be.  It is very cold by Lake Chaffee in the winter, especially when the lake winds blow over the property and against the cottages.  These tropical plants would not survive in a shed.  So I interrupted the homeowner while he was mowing his lawn to ask about how he tends to these beauties and if okay to take some photos to share on my blog.

Staged to perfection

His face lit up at the question.  He said a friend lets him store these containers in their basement over the winter, since his lakeside cottage doesn’t have a basement.  He cuts all the plants back, strips any bad leaves, and reduces the watering to barely nothing.  His plants keep growing very slowly and look spindly, but they are still alive.  Basically he is transitioning the plants to a dormant state, which is something you can do with Mandevillas after the container season is over in our regions.

The ideal temperature in a basement for storing these types of tropical plants is about 35 to 40 degrees F.  Place the containers of Mandevilla plants in a dark place.  Water lightly.  Don’t let it completely dry out – and watch for insects when you first bring them in.  The tuberous roots will go to sleep so to speak, kind of like a bear in the winter months, resting – awaiting for warm temperatures to return the following spring.  Some references indicate that you should allow the tops of the plants to be touched by frost before you store them in the basement, but I find – as this homeowner does, transitioning them when temps cool down later in the fall is fine.  Sometimes waiting until frost can result in rot on the plant, especially if cold, moist soil touches those leaves too long.

My mother-in-law told me that every year when he takes them out most of the leaves are brown. Yet the plant is indeed still alive, awakening slowly.  After the plants have been exposed to the outdoors for a while and show signs of growth, he gives them a shot of 10-10-10.  Then, he said, the growth will take off.  The plants are fully awake, ready to receive their place of honor again on his deck.  He will give them a liquid quick release fertilizer, like MiracleGro, about a month or so later.  By July, he said they look like this!  Stunning! And look at them in September, they are beauties.

By the way, during any inside plant to outside plant transition process, it is best to transition them into shade or part-shade before full on sun.  Mandevillas are sun-lovers, but going straight from dark to sun can result in bleaching or sunburn of the leaves.

On corner

The photos speak for themselves.  Breaktaking, especially staged on the posts of his deck along the lake.  Lucky for my mother-in-law, she gets to enjoy them – or should I say scold them.  She is a bit jealous of the beauty around his home.  I guess I don’t blame her!  I would be envious too!

This neighbor of her’s is an avid outdoors type person, constantly tending and updating every inch of his property.  Not only are his Mandevilla containers amazing, he has many other hanging baskets and container gardens around his deck and along his patio.  When he bought the property, he brought in sod for the lawn, not a weed in sight!  So you get the idea.  He is meticulous about care.

Mandevilla vines or sprawling shrubs can grow anywhere from3 feet to 20 feet high – if you are successful at overwintering them here in CT to this size over time!  They are hardy to zones 10-11 and die to the ground in warmer regions, but as for us CT folks, do as this gentlemen did and overwinter them in the basement.

On angle

Mandevillas love humus-rich, moist soils.  Soon, these beauties will require new container/potting soil, as the existing soil will soon tire out and won’t be able to hold water as well, especially against the windy conditions by the lake.  That was about the only tip I could offer the neighbor, as he already has a green thumb and has been achieving success with his Mandevilla plants.  Cathy T

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