Overwintering Plants – Some Tips

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, my personal recommendation, based on years of moving container gardens and patio pots indoors, is to bring your plants inside the home before we get “cold wet” rains in autumn.

What do I mean by that?

Well, this week, here in CT, we had two cold days. It was cold enough for me to put my red winter work jacket on while I was taking apart plants from big containers in my garage. And it rained. It was damp, cold, and raw. It was cold enough for my bones to feel it. I wasn’t up for being cold all day, so I wore that darn old red coat.

But the very next day, Wednesday, it was humid. In fact, so humid my prototype pumpkin, which I’m going to use for a demo tomorrow at the market, was covered in moisture (dew) from sitting in the garage overnight. I took a paper towel and wiped all the moisture off – and within an hour, dew was on it again.

When we start getting “cold temps” combined with “rain” in the fall season, our plants outside get subjected to cold moisture almost like my pumpkin was subjected to it in the garage this week.

The soil in the patio pot gets really wet from these scenarios, and then, it may stay cold over night if our temps tend to drop down a bit, thus, it stays soggy. Maybe more than normal because summer is gone now, even though we may get an occasional humid, or the opposite, warm and a pleasant sunny fall day, autumn is coming and so are those cooler temps.

When our patio pots with plants have wet soil, and you move them in your home, I believe that is a big invitation for two things:  Foliage or stems to rot (if tender especially, meaning if the stems are more soft or tender, like a Begonia’s, for example) and insects to move in. Insects like moisture and if the soil is wet, they like to make it their home (think fungus gnats) before it is too late. They are probably looking for winter homes. Moisture is an open house invitation for those pest like insects.

I always move in my cactus plants before the “cold wet” rain routine starts. Sure, it is warm enough still for the cactus to enjoy the weather of fall, and they will even tolerate a drop in temps at night, BUT, I always have the best luck with overwintering those plants inside my home when I move them in before they get subjected to the cold, wet rains of fall. The soil is on the dry side in the pot, and it hasn’t been “stressed” by elements.

When moved in, before we get cold wet rains, the soil is dry (before the rain is my goal) and the critters are not settled in. I will, however, a few weeks before, hose off the plant, the pot, inspect it for any bugs, remove any dead leaves which started to fall and land on the cactus plant, and just kind of give it a once over.

As far as houseplants, I had a few in mini pots on my deck table. I moved those in already too. Some houseplants can take cool weather, like ferns, for example. I have a few of those in hangers that did amazingly well this year. The rabbit foot ferns are gorgeous in the hangers right now. I moved those to my wood shed (ooops, that is the hubby’s wood shed) but I moved them there for now to keep them outside for a bit under cover. They can still take the cooler temps, but I am protecting them from major elements. This all may sound premature or even somewhat anal but it works for me and leads to success.

As for tender (soft) succulents, which you may have in hangers or in various styled patio pots, they too are affected if subjected to cold and fall rain. They can especially rot once that soil gets too cold and stays wet. This is not the case technically for hardy succulents, like hens and chicks.

In the fall, wet soil in a patio pot takes LONGER to dry out – because some plants are going into a dormant state, so the roots are not taking up the water as actively as in the summer months. That is another reason why I don’t like plants, like succulents, to sit in wet soil too long when temps are cooler. They, too, have tender soft like bases, leaves, and stems. If stays sitting on “wet cold” soil, it can lead to rot, bugs, etc.

Please though, don’t panic if you still have those types of plants outside right now (cacti, succulents, houseplants), but try to consider maybe moving them to coverage outside, like if you still have patio umbrellas or if you have a cover over your steps, so they can enjoy the sun. This will help to start to dry out the soil in the pot – before you move them inside.

As for the tropical plants (elelphant ears, banana plants, canna lily) – well, those can be subjected to frost (early October usually) – if you plan to dig up the tubers, corms, rhizomes, bulbs (not gonna specify the technical names of each type of plant for simplicity sake here) but you know what I mean, if you are planning to store those underground tubers from these types of plants, you can wait till we get frost in October. All the foliage will turn black when hit by frost and flop over usually if they are tall. At that time, you will have to cut that all off, and dig up the tubers to store.

By the way, if you are local, I am offering the service to show you how to do this at your own home by appointment. If interested, reach out.

As for me, I started taking apart some of my tropical plants early – why? Because I have sooooo many to do. The other day, I made the mistake of not wearing gloves, and there must have been a slug in the soil. My hands started to feel itchy, and then my arms, and then I thought, OMG, what if there is a poisonous caterpillar in that soil? I went inside and had to wash my hands repeatedly 5 times to get the itch to go away. I even grabbed some olive oil to rub on my hand cause there was some sticky slime on my hands, and that must have been, what I call, “slug juice.” Never realized I could have a reaction to that.

As for my really big red banana plants, they are swaying in the wind these days, and reaching towards the heavens. They are so tall right now. It will be a big job to take those down, but it is worth it to me. I love love love having those in my landscape in big huge pots. I still have time to get to those, but may wait til later in the month so I can continue to enjoy them.

Well, that is my simple tips for overwintering plants – do it before cold and wet rains, inspect the plants for insects, remove any leaves or debris blown into your pots, rinse or wipe down the pots themselves, make sure they are clean, and then of course, put them in the appropriate place in your home for the condition of the plants.

Look for insects too – if you see any, treat them before moving the plants inside. If the plant is super infested or damaged, and you have other plants in your home, it may not be worth it to keep them over the winter inside, BUT that choice is up to you. I don’t take in plants that are unhealthy.

And last but not least – check for seed pods for mature seeds on your plants to save for next year.

If questions, holler, oh and by the way, here are my October events coming up.

Hope to see you soon!

Cathy T.

Horizontal Collage Flyer 2018 Upcoming Events

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