Frost Arrived in Connecticut Overnight in 2023 on…

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If you are on practically any Facebook gardening page, you saw the plethora of posts by people preparing for the pockets of freezing temperatures in areas of Connecticut and Massachusetts, as announced by the weather stations for the evening of May 17, 2023, and early morning of May 18, 2023.

Many nurseries also posted warnings to take in your hanging baskets, potted plants, and cover any plants you may have put into your gardens of the ground. They wrote titles such as, “Frost/Freeze” warnings. It was noted to occur in areas of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was important for plant lovers to heed their warnings and take “precautions” depending on where in the state you are located.

Because we have had spectacular weather for the past week or so, and Mother’s Day was just last weekend, many people got their plants started outside and patio pots were probably potted up and hanging baskets of annuals were hanging. Some of these items were probably easy to take in (such as the lightweight pots, and the hangers) while others may have been a real chore to move for some protection.

Even though I know the potential for frost and kept some of my plants in my greenhouse, I still had some out too which I was acclimating to the outdoor environments, and I even moved a few plants up to my deck but most of my pots have been empty because I wait till Memorial Day to plant my tomatoes, peppers, succulents, cacti, agaves, and Alocasias and Colocasia (elephant ears), etc. Anything tropical, cold sensitive, and any warm loving vegetables stay inside. I only take them out to harden off (acclimate) on good days this time of year and wait it out till Memorial Day to plant permanently in their intended locations – but it was rough to wait!

Light sheets were used to cover up the plants I did move out to the deck that I felt would be okay, like some Yucca plants I have in pots. But a lot of the smaller items I had out got moved in. My petunias, a few of the Mandevillas I was acclimating on my driveway, the Alocasias in two pots still small enough to lift, the Mangaves, and some Agaves. Anything with succulent like tender foliage (like the Mangaves, they have foliage similar to Aloe if you crack them open, they have gel inside).

So, we got our exercise last night. I did not cover up my amazing tree Peony as shown below in the photos. Plants which have been growing in my landscape for years, like my gorgeous yellow-blooming Peony, I didn’t bother to cover up. I checked them this morning and they looked okay.

Frost on the windshield of your car or truck is a good indication that yup, it got cold enough to get “frosty” on windshields, but just how long did the drop in temps last? It may have been quick, only an hour or so just above or just below freezing. At 4:30 am, it was reading 35 degrees F on my weather app. So, bear in mind, it was quick and not a drop you would get in winter that would surely completely kill your plants.

While this type of frost may not outright kill some of the plants you risked leaving outside, it will stress them. I didn’t want to subject the Mandevillas I am holding for a client to this quick frosty episode because then the plants’ leaves drop off, the plant gets a bit stressed, and they are temperamental to start with so even those have 5 ft poles in them, I took 3 into my house. The rest of my Mandevilla are still cozy in my greenhouse.

After years of stressing out about plants, I kind of know which are more susceptible and need to be babied in these situations and which are possibly okay risking. As I have noted in my recent posts, I always use May 12th as an estimated last frost date. This year, frost came a bit later (May 17-18, 2023) and I have already marked this on my calendar so that when I get my 2024 calendar to hang on my office wall, I will have already noted that it arrived on May 17-18. Even with me noting May 12th, that is safe because I don’t permanently put the plants out – I am usually hardening them off – by putting them out during the day to get acclimated and taking them in at night if I felt it dropped below 50 degrees.

I do believe that we are safe now – except for tonight – they said this occurrence of a quick drop in temps may fall again tonight, May 18th, for some areas of the state. Massachusetts was colder than CT last night, and my uncle, who has an amazing garden in New Hampshire, posted snow falling yesterday! When I see his posts, I know it is true that frost will hit us. And it did.

I tend to make a note here on my blog to serve as my reminder.

What I took in:

Sky Petunias – which are in tiny pots (they smell so strong; I took them in last cause I’m actually sensitive to the scent).
My Mangaves – because a) not frost tolerant and b) tender succulent foliage is more likely to get damaged.
Mandevilllas – They tend to get stressed, and I don’t like that cause it sets them up for leaf problems. They don’t care for below 50.
Agaves – Those prob would have been fine, but what the heck, if they weren’t too heavy, I took some smaller ones inside.
Alocasias – That were overwintered in the greenhouse, were outside to acclimate for a few days already, and were not too big yet and still in medium pots. They have tender foliage too. If the foliage were to get damaged from the frost, it would probably regrow from the tubers below the soil, but I just figured, take those two in.
Cacti and smaller Succulents – I had some on the deck in small terracotta pots, what the heck I took those into my bedroom, so it would be easy to put them back outside. Cacti can take cold drop, but the succulents cannot.
Houseplant Hanger – I overwintered a houseplant in the greenhouse and had that hanging outside for a few days now, in it came.

I probably will leave most of the smaller pots in today and tonight. I’m taking the Mandevillas out for the day and back in tonight and then finally this routine will be done! Friday night will be plant celebration time! Along with happy hour!

Remember, note the 2023 Frost Dates for reference and reminders next year. And enjoy the rest of your spring and summer planting season. I hope next week’s weather will be as pleasant cause I have lots of plant work to do.


Cathy T.
Container Crazy CT Blog
Zone 6b
Broad Brook, CT

Screen shot at 4:30 am on 5/18/2023
My gorgeous tree Peony blooms before the frost episode!
After the frost episode – a little stressed but the flower petals didn’t drop off – yet!
Frosty on the vehicles this am!
Two Alocasias that were in my greenhouse and outside for a few days – Took these in last night – Pots not too heavy.
Mandevilla and Dipladenia I have in the greenhouse
Yuccas I had put outside for a few days, then had moved to the deck – I covered these up with a light bed sheet last night.
Agaves with thick skin may have been okay – like this one but I took a few in, and others are still in my greenhouse.

Possible Pockets of Frost in CT and Mass 2023

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That is what two televisions station weathermen said last night (5/9/23), that we may get “possible pockets of frost in some areas” of Massachusetts and Connecticut.

If you look at my prior posts and some from past posts about when to expect our last spring frost date, I always use May 12th. The possible frost in some areas of CT (and MA) was announced for last night.

I am not going to count my chickens before they hatch, but this could mean we are fairly safe to put out warm season annuals, at least during the day, like Petunias.

Tomatoes and peppers wait till Memorial Day still for me – but it is a great time to harden off plants outdoors that you have started indoors from seed to acclimate them to the sun and temperatures gradually – remember shade first for those baby seedling starter plants and gradually into the sun every day for a few hours, back inside at night. If you put them directly into sun, the leaves will get sun scald/burn, and you will see white patches on the leaves the next day. And avoid windy days as you harden off plants.

As for the tropical plants, I still wait on some, like I won’t put out my Mandevillas yet, but other plants are going out! Yippee. Oh, and I don’t put out basil yet either – they like warmth like tomatoes or peppers do.

Last night, I used a bed sheet to cover up some Yucca plants which have been in pots in my greenhouse all winter. They are hardy but they were inside all winter, so with every plant I take out of the greenhouse, I introduce them to shade for a couple days first or dappled sun, then move them into full sun if they are sun lovers.

All the deck furniture is out – the patio umbrellas are out; the cushions are out! Just waiting to glam up all with my plants!

Hope you are enjoying this fantastic weather this week. (P.S. I saw a couple hummingbirds this week, so I put out the feeders too.)

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b
Container Gardener
Date of this post: 5/10/23; Wednesday
Potential Frost Pockets: 5/9/23, Tuesday evening

Light Bed Sheets are perfect for a little protection when the weatherman announced a potential light frost in springtime overnight.

Is it okay to buy annuals now and plant them now?


This was a question posed by a person on a Facebook group page of CT gardeners today (5/5/2023). Great question, and it also included the statement of, “There are annuals being sold everywhere right now.”

Yes, the garden centers and nurseries are packed right now. Not unusual, I think, especially with Mother’s Day around the corner (next weekend). However, as tempted as we are to plant now, some plants (such as annuals) should probably wait until we are beyond chances of a spring frost and when the soil temperatures are warmer.

What is confusing is that our climate is constantly changing. We have global warming experiences and fluxes of crazy warm temperatures sometimes during the spring season. All of this leads us to wanting to plant now.

What is a person to do? Wait? Plant and risk it? Get plants and wait. All of these choices are applicable.

Comments and Responses to the Question:

I loved the commenters’ responses to the question posed above. I had to share them and my thoughts on each! Here they are:

“I look at the ten-day forecast in the middle of May. If it looks good, I plant. I get too anxious.”

  • That is good advice actually. I’ve always told folks watch the weatherman/women talk about the weather in mid-May. They usually give a heads-up if a frost is about to occur but usually that is only a one-to-two-day warning or less. However, you may use your weather apps or watch weather forecasters on television to get an idea of the next 10 days. As noted in my prior posts, I always use May 12th as my estimated last spring frost date in Connecticut (Zone 6b) area. So, start watching the weather next Friday.

“May’s full flower moon, and fully leafed out maple trees are always a good indicator for when it’s safe to plant annuals, tropicals and most herbs. I’ll start Sunday.”

  • Interesting on this commenter’s comment of the fully leafed maple trees! We use the maple trees to determine when to take the pool cover off our pool – after our maple tree is fully leafed out and because they drop samaras (winged seeds) first, and those make a mess. I never use the “moon” to gauge my planting time, but people do – and that was interesting advice.

“I always wait until after Mother’s Day and full moon. Last year was so cold but I planted my tomatoes around May 20th and I had a bumper crop.”

  • May 20th is probably somewhat safe; only about 9 days before Memorial Day timing (which I use as safe planting for tropicals, tomatoes, succulents, cacti, and annuals). But be sure to also tack on the ‘ten-day forecast in middle of May advice’ along with that timing by watching the forecasts, and you may use this as your gauge if you are okay with risking it and your internal mind is sure all is okay. (Again, I use Memorial Day as the safest planting date.) It is possible your yard or garden has a unique micro-climate situation based on how it is situated too. I know this is confusing, but some people get anxious and go for it.

“I buy now to get the best selection and then store on an enclosed porch until planting time in mid to late May.”

  • Also, excellent advice. If you have a place like an enclosed heated porch, heated greenhouse, and an attached garage that doesn’t get too cold at night, picking up plants to get the best selection now and waiting to put them outdoors is a choice. Just bear in mind, environmental stress is not good for plants and can impact their growth somewhat. I would use caution for plants that really need warm temps, but many people probably do what this commenter noted, pick up and store until safe. Or you may put some plants out on warm above 65-degree F sunny days and put them back inside the home (like hanging baskets for example) during the evenings until it is ultra safe outdoors around Memorial Day in May.

“Experience tells me to wait…some years I planted annuals before Memorial Day and spent the entire summer trying to backfill those that rotted.”

  • Note she said she planted annuals (in the ground). Remember, the ground is still very cold. Dig a little hole and feel the soil right now. Warm loving plants like warm soils (think tomatoes). So, while the air temperature and sunshine may feel right, the ground is cold and sometimes very damp from April showers. This led to rot on some of her annuals as she noted.

“From someone that has lost many plants due to frost in May, I’d be patient a little longer.”

  • I always note the frost incidents on my calendar, and I swear, I just don’t recall a frost in May of last year (2022), but IT DOES HAPPEN usually – thus, why I personally use Memorial Day as the safe planting time for annuals, tropicals, tomatoes, succulents, cacti. You may be safe putting out containers and patio pot during the day right now, because those are easily movable, or putting out hanging baskets, then if a frost comes thru one night in mid-May bring them inside that night so they don’t get killed by frost, but planting in the cold ground is riskier for warm season and non-hardy plants. They will suffer and not perform well and may die or rot.

“This is the magic questions. Usually, I wait till Memorial Day for annuals, tropical plants, succulents, warm loving tomatoes, and peppers. Frost usually occurs in mid-May but global warming seems to be changing that. It’s a tough call. Depends how safe you want to be.”

  • This comment above was my response to the question. I know, I know, it is super frustrating to wait. I have to wait for some of my client site plantings because I certainly don’t want to do all that work and have it fail. I so wish I could start right now! But at home, I tend to mix up the rules a bit. I have a Yucca in a pot – I moved it outside and it is fine. I actually moved it out because I found tiny ants in it – I also moved out one of my Alocasias in a pot because it was struggling anyhow (so, willing to risk it struggling and see how it does). But anything really healthy that needs warm temps, I’m waiting on. Next week, we have a mid-40’s at night range to anywhere from 62-70-75-degree days! Today’s temperature range (per my weather app) is from 42 degrees F to 62 degrees F and supposed to be mostly cloudy. Combine all the factors and make the decision which is best for you. Everyone is different. I know my Dad always said he waits till Memorial Day to plant his garden and today is his birthday, so it is a reminder, he is a wise old (sorry Dad, LOL) gardener. He has decades of experience!

The second part of this person’s question was: “Should I wait a week or two to be sure the threat of frost is gone?”

If you want to be super safe, and not risk the plant’s health and growth, then I say, yes. But this is the crux of it all, I believe, in my opinion, global warming is changing things. Years ago, Canna Lily plants would not survive in the ground, now they are – as an example. We have been having crazy weather experiences all over the country. What I mean is the golden “Dad” rule of waiting is best and has been for years, but things are changing with our climate and weather.

And don’t forget that Mother Nature creates unusual freakish weather scenarios sometimes. One year, after I planted on Memorial Day, we had the worst windstorm, torrential constant cold rain and the temperatures dropped super low over that weekend from a freak storm. I was devastated. I did lots of work and was worried about the damage and how the plants would or could recover! That is just an example. No matter what we do, we can’t fool Mother Nature.

Have a good weekend!

Cathy Testa
Plant Enthusiast and Plant Blogger
Container Gardening Obsessed
Broad Brook, CT 06016

Date of this post: May 5, 2023 (Friday)

Is it okay to buy annuals now and plant them now? Great question, See people's responses and my comments on that subject! Enjoy!
Variegated Yuccas – Were in the Greenhouse all winter, the one on the right had tiny ants in the soil I discovered – I put it outside and left it there since last week. It is doing okay. Need to repot it. Those tiny ants found their way to the pot’s soil – what a PIA they can be. Easily remedied though, repotting it will fix that. Note Yuccas are technically hardy, but these have been in my greenhouse all winter. So, they are okay moved outside early if need be (due to the ants!).
White Mandevilla I got recently, as noted by the person who said they pick up now and keep indoors – that is what I’m doing with a few of these healthy Mandevillas I acquired recently. I won’t put this outdoors till Memorial Day. Environmental stress is not good for these, they tend to suffer when left out in the cold! They are tropical. They have been in hot environments and shipped here, so think about that – you have been sunning in warm cozy temps and then someone puts you outdoors without a jacket – That’s shocking to the system! These are sensitive to cold snaps – keep them inside until Memorial Day.
Pansies I put out in early April – they are doing great! They are my color filler around my house until it is safe to plant the warm loving plants in my life outdoors later in May. In the meantime, stick with pansies or perennials which bloom in the springtime (and of course the daffs and tulips give us spring color) – those are options to serve as eye candy as well until we can enjoy the other heat loving flowering plants which we want to put outdoors.

Headliner Sky Petunias Caught My Attention Last Summer

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Last summer, I noticed some beautiful Headliner (TM) Sky petunias at a client’s home when watering her plants. I had seen them in grower trade magazines and didn’t think much of them at that time, but her use of them in her pots and window boxes got me a bit more interested and excited about these galaxies of spotted white patterns on the sky petunia’s blooms. I remember thinking to myself as I watered her plants, “Wow, she has some of those sky petunias I read about…I wonder where she got them from?”

Headliner (TM) Sky Petunia – Purple Color

If you haven’t seen them before, they have speckled white patterns, spots or splashes of white areas reminiscent of a galaxy of stars or perhaps, a Star Wars themed look! A purple one caught my attention yesterday when browsing a nursery because my sister-in-law’s favorite color is purple. I know it is too early to put petunias outdoors right now in early May because they prefer warmer temperatures and are not frost tolerant, but since this nursery had some small sized pots of these, I grabbed 8 of them. Two of the purple, and then grabbed 2 reds, 2 pinks, and 2 off pinks.

Headliner (TM) Strawberry Sky Petunia

I kind of felt I was taking a chance because I know I will have to maintain them indoors for a few weeks, but these plants looked very healthy with no signs of problems. I know petunias can be prone to issues from aphids or rot at stem bases, so I considered those plant care aspects, but I want to try some out this summer. I will watch them carefully for the next two to three weeks, water appropriately, and all that jazz until I plant them into a combination, hanger, or perhaps a dish garden.

So, this morning, I decided to read up on them via some google searches. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered the plant breeder/inventor is an Italian Plant Breeder, and a woman! I mean, I just got back from Rome, Italy. Life is funny like that sometimes! Seriously, a flower captures my attention enough to start researching it – and she is Italian! Bravo!

Plant Inventor – Antonello Capo

I believe this is she above in this Italian magazine I found on google this morning. Must be as she is holding those petunias. Ah, if only I was a scientist!! LOL! The article is written in Italian, and I didn’t learn enough Italian to read this but pretty cool to find this now as I was just in Italy two weeks ago. I’m also impressed by the list of patents she has at this website:

I located a list of her plant patents on the website listed in the above URL. Yes, plants have patents which means plant propagation is prohibited, and enforced by plant growers. When you look at plant labels, check out the patent number on the bottom of the plant tag. I’m sure propagating these on a large scale without obtaining the approriate approval is a no no in the bz, so that just FYI stuff.

Headliner (TM) Pink Sky

I typically avoid petunias in my container gardens because they need cleaning a bit meaning removing dead blooms, they tire out late summer into fall (and I like long bloomers into the Autumn season), and I guess they are somewhat traditional, but these sky series are a bit more intriguing to me. And the tag indicates they bloom into autumn, so that will be remained to be seen as I use these new ones. I’ll be sure to take photos all season. Also, petunias are prone to insects in certain environments, so I tend to stay away from them. I prefer the smaller ones as noted below.

In researching them further, day and night temperatures will either increase or decrease the splashes of white patterns on the blooms. This website called ZME Science, noted below, explains this scenario pretty well:,careful%20selection%20by%20Italian%20plant%20breeder%20Antonella%20Capo.

The white pattern of these flowers isn’t constant — it only emerges when there’s a big temperature difference between day and night during the summer. Basically, you need hot days above 24°C (75°F) and colder nights of around 17°C (63°F). When it’s hot during both the day and the night, the coloring becomes almost solid purple, and when the opposite happens, it moves towards white.

By ZME Science
Photo of them in a hanging basket at the nursery (photo taken on 5/3/2023 by C Testa)

I noticed the blooms have a delicate scent and I’m sure hummingbirds will notice these. My idea is to monitor how they grow, note how the color changes, and be mindful of the fact these need to be watched for insects before I plant them out into larger containers.

They are sun lovers blooming from spring to autumn per the plant tag. They like medium moisture and reach a height of 10-16 inches. Full sun means 6 or more hours a day. I will not put them outside till around Memorial Day or put them out on warm days until I feel it is safe from cold night temperatures. It is best to wait for consistent mid 50-60’s at night for warm loving annuals and/or tropical plants. Petunias are annuals here in our CT gardening plant zones.

In the past, I primarily prefer Calibrachoa and smaller petunias in my dish gardens or patio pots. I’ve paired them up with succulents many times. Here are a few photos of those. The add bloom power to the arrangements, but take note, often times the flowering petunia plants overtook the planters by the end of summer and covered the succulents.

Dish Garden by Cathy Testa
Dish Garden by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
Agave with regular pink petunias (few years back) by C. Testa
Headliner (TM) Pink Sky – Petunia – Mix with Other Sun Lovers

As for a combination, hmmm, I really will be using my eye power to figure out the best combo’s with these. I think because of their unusual patterns, it may be somewhat tricky to decide. I find when I put plants next to each other and let my eyes do the talking is the best method. You could leave them solo in a hanger as well. If I find some combinations I really find striking with theses, I’ll be sure to post photos here later this year.

Have you tried these already? What are your thoughts and experiences?!

Thank you for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Plant Enthusiast
Container Gardeners
Located in Broad Brook, CT
See also: (you are here, my blog)

See a couple Italy photos below!

Cathy Testa with Hubby, Top of Spanish Steps in Rome 2023!
Cathy Testa – In Rome!

What if I lost my vision?


As we age, things with our bodies change and some things are out of our control. I recently found out I have an eye condition which could potentially lead to loss of vision in the center of one eye. Today I go see a specialist. I really dread this appointment because I envision a needle coming my way. But then I tell myself, stop obsessing and all will be fine.

But this had led me to think about what if I did lose my vision. What if I couldn’t see my plants, all the amazing flower colors, and the beauty of what plants bring to my eyes, and my heart?

Being a “what-iffer” is not a good thing and maybe my eye issue won’t be severe and allow me to be free of vision problems for several more years. I won’t know till after today’s assessment, or perhaps for a few years, who knows.

My Mom lost partial vision in one of her eyes many years ago too. I remember going to the doctor’s appointment with her and the process they explained for a surgery at that time involved lying face down for several weeks at home after the surgery for the recovery process. It was an insane scenario to me. I remember thinking how anyone can lay face down for that long? She didn’t do the surgery back then.

She managed a very long time with partial vision in her eye, but today, as she is more in her elder years, she cannot drive due to her vision issues. She used to crochet a lot but said she cannot do that anymore, and that she can’t even read the newspaper now.

I often browse my plant photos and it really brings me a feeling of good vibes. I love colors, I love looking at the colors of flowers. Even simple Pansies are amazing when you really look at the flowers, and think, how on earth could God, Nature, whomever is responsible for these colorful wonders do such an amazing job. It is such a gift to us. Truly. Just look at these purple Pansies in the photo below. The outer edges are a lighter purple than the centers. The color is two toned! Nature does that!

If you think about the colors of the world, so many come from plants, flowers, fruits, and of course, the sea, ocean, sky, etc. Colors paint our world. Can you imagine a world without flower colors? I cannot. I am always amazed at the beauty of gardens and plants. And color patterns of birds and more.

Recently, I started playing around with needle felting and I really enjoy it. I started to think, what if I couldn’t do this if I was vision impaired. What would I do to replace this creative therapy.

Could I envision plants and their amazing colors in my mind. I guess if someone said, oh this photo of your planter with x-y-z has this and that, I think I could envision it. I could see it in my mind, hopefully.

Again, I’m not in the gloom and doom phase – don’t get me wrong, just it got me thinking about it. Certain scents can bring you back to a moment in time. I remember the scent of sugar canes in Hawaii. I will never forget that – and if I smelled it right now, it would zoom me back to that moment.

Our senses are all part of the equation.

In a jewelry class I took this winter, a woman moaned a bit and the instructor asked if she was, okay? She replied that her darn arthritis was bothering her hands. I guessed she was probably the same age as me. I thought to myself, we all have our struggles as we age. For me it is my eyes, for her it is her hands. I have heard how painful arthritis can be.

I suppose you just have to adjust and deal. Heck, my hearing is already having issues. I joke with my husband that there should be a special form of sign language for people who start to lose hearing in their later years. He said, there is, it is called sign language. I always told him; we will learn and use sign language if we ever lose our hearing.

Anyhow, until any of those days come, I will try to “focus” (no pun intended) on enjoying colors even more than I already have. I will enjoy listening to the tree frogs, birds, crickets even more than I already have, and try not to think about those what-ifs!

To see photos of some beautiful flower colors, visit my SmugMug Gallery of Flowers.

What if I lost my vision? Could I recall all the flower colors in my mind?

Photos above:

Blue and White pinwheel morning glories. Grown from seed one year. Absolutely stunning and fun.

Yellow blooms with red speck of Canna Lily. Love growing Canna Lilies and using them as big tropical thrillers in my container gardens every year.

Deep red Canna Lily blooms with purple flowering annual behind it. I think the purple is annual salvias. I love how this spontaneous photo I took came out. Truly – does it not bring joy to your eyes, and then your heart? It does for me!

Almost all photos on my blog are photos I took with my iPhone. Yes, it’s an obsession!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook, CT
Zone 6b

A Whopper of a Begonia

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Last year (2022), I decided to try out a new begonia plant in a planter on a balcony overlooking the city with an impressive view. Each season, I change up the “filler plants” in the large planters at this site and I must consider environmental factors such as extreme winds, strong full sun half the day, potential lack of watering, and flowers staying on the plant (not being blown away by the winds which are intense from time to time).

When I returned in the early autumn season, I was very impressed with the massive size and performance of this cultivar. It grew from a small starter size plant to this massive, impressive size and the color intensity of the blooms was very vivid and bright along with its darker colored glossy foliage. I definitely gasped in awe of how beautiful it looked when I walked out onto this high-rise balcony.

On each side of the planter with the begonia plant, I planted various herbs, which as you can see, grow quite well in this location. Each planter is filled with soil mix and receives a good amount of growing space below. The owners of this site are very good at watering the plants as needed as well. In addition, begonias are tropical or subtropical plants, so they do well in hot locations and bloom throughout the summer here in Connecticut, but because they are not hardy to our planting zone, they must be taken down or overwintered before frost hits them during the autumn season.

These clients like color on their balcony, and this begonia did not fail. Its growth habit is mounding, and its shiny leaves are a bronze color (another bonus); I love when plants offer darker tones to serve as contrasting colors in mixed arrangements in container gardens or planters, patio pots, etc. The flowers look a little orange toned here in my photo, but they are a vibrant red color. The other bonus about begonias, in general, is that they can take sun or partly shady sites. This site receives full sun in the mornings followed by shade in the afternoons once the sun is hidden by the tall building. The overall height of the begonia reached was about 24″. That is a whopper of a begonia, and that is the name of this one: Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Bronze Leaf’.

Photo by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT. Begonia with herb planters on each side.
Photo by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT. Begonia ‘Whopper Red with Bronze Leaf’

Another added benefit of the size of this begonia was it was visible from within the home. Nothing like seeing color when you are enjoying the expansive views from the large windows of your living spaces.

What I like about this plant above! The fleshy stems can break when you remove it however, but that was fine as I was taking it down at the end of summer or very early fall to prepare for an autumn planting.

Above is a PDF I found online by Southern Living Plant Collection for your reference.

Thank you for visiting!

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
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What Will the New Year Bring?


I don’t know!

As I sit here on December 30, 2022, I really don’t know what the new year will bring. Every time I think things will return to normal, it doesn’t.

Hopefully the new year will bring “new” things! We shall see.

No Tomatoes in 2023

Bad news first – I don’t think I will be growing my tomatoes this spring. Boo! I know!! But a potential trip will be timed exactly when I would be tending to the sprouted seeds, and I just can’t leave them be when I’m away. Taking care of new baby plants is time consuming, a daily activity of checking and monitoring them, and since I work solo, I don’t think I can grow them in 2023. When growing from seeds, there is so much involved in the “daily nursery aspect.” I open doors, close greenhouse doors, inspect the plants to make sure they are healthy, I move plants, put some under grow lights, move some, I monitor them – sometimes twice a day to maintain just the right moisture, and then there is the potting up phases! That definitely will be an activity missed in 2023, but maybe I can use that time to do some repair work in the greenhouse since it won’t be filled with seedlings. On the plus side, I will be having some type of seed packet sale – so stay tuned if you like heirlooms.

New Offerings?

Sometimes I ponder what new activity could I add to my small business offerings. I know the “organic” things which come to mind spontaneously cannot be forced! It is like it has to happen naturally. Like when you are standing in the shower, and some idea just magically pops into my head. That is usually how it happens. Hopefully a new idea will surface. There have been many in the past, like when I got totally consumed in growing sprouts in the home, remember that?!

Continue Summer Watering Services

I know I want to continue my new “Watering Services” in the heat of summer when people travel. I took care of a few gardens for homeowners and also watered a community garden plots last summer. It felt good to care for plants while someone was traveling and knowing they could relax knowing their plants would be fine and especially because mid-summer is a big harvest month. You need to water at that time, and this service is on my list to continue in the summer of 2023. If interested, look me up next summer, and I will be sure to send out reminders as well.

Container Gardening, of course, will Continue!!

Container gardening is always number one and I will continue to install patio pots, planters, dish gardens, and more at specific sites as best as I can. I’m getting older so lifting is getting harder. At least with container gardening I do not have to dig in the ground but lifting bags of potting soil mix or lifting pots and nursery pots is a thing. I need to work on building up strength so I can continue my passion with container gardening. And knowing to take your time when lifting, using hand trucks and thinking it through helps a great deal so you don’t strain anything.

Camper Style

We bit the bullet and got a small camper last year and absolutely loved it – but only got to use it once or twice, so next year, we hope we can adventure with that more during our off time. Got a recommendation for locations you love in the US for camping? Let us know. I never imagined I’d be a camper girl, but the relaxation of it and not worrying about flight problems, well, that sold me and my hubby. So, for the fun list – this will continue between work.

Seasonal and Holiday Decor

I can’t imagine going thru the fall or winter season without continuing some of my creations, such as the Succulent Pumpkins and my Holiday Wreaths. They were so fun to make this past year, and I thank you again for all your orders. It was a fast-paced Holiday and so much fun to create and handmake all the wreaths, garland, etc. I love the wreaths I made for myself too.

But More??

What more could I do with my business? Got a suggestion? Let me know. I know people still, once in a great while will ask if I still do workshops, and I don’t. I just don’t know if I could do those again, but who knows, right? We really don’t know what the future will bring. However, my stamina for the work involved in workshops faded. It was almost like throwing a baby shower or mini wedding event at times, as I did a great deal to set it up and make it happen, not to mention managing all the plants before after and during. Anyhow, it was good when they were happening, but as I get older, I find it more challenging to organize and run the workshops.

Hopefully the new year will be good to us, and we will discover new happenings which make us happy. I know working with plants keeps me happy and cheerful.

Have a great New Year’s Eve and Stay Healthy,

Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT
Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT

Helping an Upright Elephant Ear Plant Stay Upright


When I saw that my biggest of my upright elephant ear plants was leaning to the side, I was very concerned because of a strong windy rainstorm predicted to arrive in Connecticut last Friday (8/26/22).

I decided to water the soil deeply in the planter even though we were expecting lots of rain with this storm because I felt the wet soil would stabilize the planter better and help to prevent it from toppling over. Then I kept my fingers crossed.

The day after the rainstorm, I looked it over and it was fine. It did not topple over but it was still leaning quite a bit and I had to think of a plan to stabilize it and help it grow upright. This was the first time I ever had to do this with an Upright Alocasia elephant ear plant, but luckily an old belt came to mind and I had some rebar available. This is what I did.

Helping an Upright Elephant Ear Plant Stay Upright

I’m not sure why I decided to plant the largest of my tubers in the smaller planter anyhow. I think maybe I was considering that it will grow very tall in smaller planter, and the taller planter would look nice with the huge elephant ear leaves sitting on top of their long stalks next to the lower planter to the side of it. Next year, I will make a note to plant it in the larger of the two planters I typically use each season for these Upright elephant ear plants. The rebar and belt seems to be working as a splint of sorts. As you can see from this above photo, the base of the plant is super thick and becoming heavy. I also remember, I probably didn’t plant the tuber deep enough. I was concerned about some rot experienced when I took them out of storage this spring.

Taking Out the Tubers From Winter Storage

Every year, in spring, I take out my elephant ear bulbs/tubers from the basement where I overwinter them in plastic bins (with drilled air holes in the bin covers) in peat. But this year, some tubers were damp and even parts were starting to rot. This has never happened before in the 10 plus years I’ve stored the tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, etc. of various tropical plants (Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, Red Banana plants, etc.) over the winter months here in CT. The basement stays above freezing but it does not have any heat so it stays cold enough usually to keep all the tubers in a dormant state.

Why did they go soft this time? I don’t get it – is it climate change, did the basement stay warmer than usual, it is because I stacked the plastic bins on top of each other (in the past, there was a shelf there and I stacked the bins on shelves), or was it the peat I used, which was a different brand? Maybe it was COVID. I decided COVID must have changed the whole pace of life? Did someone steal my green thumb?

Anyhow, I found the tubers of some of my upright elephant ears (the largest of the elephant ear type plants I replant every season) which were plastic bins inside plastic mesh bags (similar to what you may see in a grocery store) and laid “on top” of the peat (rather than in or buried in peat), did better. Maybe these types of elephant ear tubers are better stored dry? But some of those even had rots spots but not enough to not use them. I decided to cut off some rot spots and go for it.

Timing of Over Wintering Tubers

In thinking about it this morning, I remembered now, I decided to dig up and store the tubers from the plants on my deck a little earlier than normal, around mid to late September, in order to get a head-start on my various plant related tasks and work. Maybe I stored them too early? It is often recommended to wait till the plants get touched by frost and then take them down to store. This usually means the tubers will sense the cold temps and cooler soil, and go into a dormant state. Thus, this year, I will wait till October to pull the plants from the planters, chop the foliage off the top, and store the tubers. And I also will keep them more on the dry side for this particular type of elephant ear plant, as I wish not to risk loosing them again.

2022 Photo

Precious and exotic large lush plants

If you were to ask me when I started to fall in love with big plants, I am not sure I can remember when – it was years ago. In fact, when I went on my honeymoon over 31 years ago, I was fascinated by the big lush foliage of the tropical like areas of the Hawaiian island(s). We even ventured off a long, dirt road once and found a tremendously large elephant ear plant and people accused me of photoshopping the image. I stood next to it and was in awe, not afraid of snakes or whatever might be lurking below my feet!

2020 Photo

Reusable Year after Year

Another wonderful feature of using tropical plants (not hardy to CT and must be stored in winter), is the fact they are used year after year. With having good luck with my storage technique for so many years, it baffled me as to why I had some back luck with storing them this year (i.e., the rot spots). Anyhow, the photo above was when I planted the same bulbs/tubers in 2020. I think I had purchased the tubers of these in 2019 or 2018. They are also super easy to care for once they start growing in the planters outdoors, with relatively no problems, and with this year’s tropical heat all summer, they loved it. They tend to get the most full and larger by this time of year and into the fall season. Another bonus to growing them is they last all the way till end of October. BTW, they do get flowers and I successfully grew one plant from seed I collected last year. I made a baby from the seed of this plant for the first time ever. I’ll write about that some other time.

Taking Care of Them In-Season

I pretty much do nothing more than consistently water the elephant ear plants in their patio pots and containers, as they do appreciate good moisture. I also will cut off any bad leaves (because I don’t care for ratty looking leaves), and I might do a water soluble fertilizer application once or twice a season, but often times, it is not needed. I put slow-release fertilizer into the potting soil mix in the spring upon planting as well. In most planters, I use fresh potting mix for planters, but in really big planters, I usually remove the top of the soil portion and add fresh soil. I also fill the base of the planters with foam sometimes to reduce soil usage if it is a super large planter. This also helps reduce the weight of the planter if you wish to move it around. And most importantly, I admired the plants often which I think they notice.

Where to Place Them Outdoors

One side bar, be aware if you plant these big leaves next to any pointy tipped plants, such as agaves or cacti, as I did once, realize that as the leaves of the elephant ear plants move around in the winds, they may bang against the agave leaf tips, causing holes and damage to the elephant ear plant’s leaves. But other than that, you want them placed where they are showy, do not lean like mine did this season, and anywhere there is dappled sun or part-shade. They can also take full sun but more watering is required. Some days, during the heat waves this 2022 season, I opened a shade umbrella next to the planters to offer some relief of the late day sun, however, even that became an issue because the leaves got so large and tall, the umbrella was hitting the leaves as I opened the umbrella. A larger planter is best because of the shear size of the plants. My planters are hip height and the plants are towering over my head now at probably 6 feet tall with 3 feet wide leaves. It is magnificent.

Years prior – Stunning Photo taken by a Pro Photographer

Storing Technique for Winter

As I’ve written about several times on this blog, I typically store my bulbs, tubers, rhizomes for various tropical plants in low-level bins with peat slightly covering them, but I will adjust my process for these Upright Elephant Ear plants. The bulbs get larger over time and the bigger the bulb, the bigger the plant. Often, you will find side shoots forming, as I showed in a prior post when I separated them before. Here’s a photo from last year when I took the plants apart. Unfortunately, I lost some of these due to the rot situation I noted above. I document the whole process every year, so you may use the search bar on the right side of this site to locate past writings of how I store them.

I look forward to using these plants every season. I wish I could plant them on the high-rise balconies I service but they would bounce around too much in the wind up there, and require lots of water, especially during hot drought seasons, so they are not feasible there. If I could I would totally surround my yard with these big leaved showy exotic looking plants, I would. They make me think of escaping to another place, another world, and don’t we all enjoy that from time to time? Plus my cat loves to sit under the shade cast by the big, sometimes huge, showy leaves of these upright elephant ear plants. Cute thing – my 5 year old nephew told me he could see the leaves growing on them when they were moving in the winds, which I thought was so adorable. Maybe he will become a plant lover like me!

Well, that’s all for now. I hope you find this post amusing. When I take these plants down for the winter, later in October, I will be sure to show my process as I always do. And hopefully I won’t have any scares next spring like I did this spring. I actually lost the largest of my red banana plants this season. It was too rotted to plant and I had to bow my head and think, “Whelp, you gave me many years of happiness. Guess this year was just one of those gardening learning experiences, yet again!”

Thank you for visiting,

Cathy Testa
Container Gardening Fanatic
Located in Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT

Tiny Tim Tomato – Not so Tiny!


Tiny Tim Tomato are a perfect sized plant for smaller containers, window baskets, hanging baskets, and patio pots. The plant has a dwarfing habit and I planted mine in patio pots which are 11″ deep and 14″ diameter on the top. The plant stays smaller and so do the fruits, but this year, many of the Tiny Tim fruits reached almost the size of my Fox Cherry tomatoes. Tiny Tims are about the size of a regular marble or maybe one of those bigger marbles you played with as a kid. Remember those?

Pot Size: 11″ Deep and 14″ diameter on top of the pot (Drain holes in base)

I ended up putting the 3 patio pots I planted with Tiny Tim’s on high top chairs. We find the chairs someone uncomfortable for ourselves, but they were the perfect fit for our Tiny Tim pots! They branched out and I would drape the stems and branches over the back of the chairs and onto the adjacent table. The squirrels and chipmunks never jumped up there either which was really nice. I was sure they would try but they did not fortunately. The fruit stays on the hanging clusters well and didn’t drop off.

Clusters like grapes!

I was super impressed with the abundant clusters of fruit which formed on the plants this season. It’s been a hot dry season, but I watered the pots daily with a good soaking. The sweet-to-tart fruits are ready earlier in the season than my other tomatoes, and grew to the 1″ fruit size or bigger size this year, due to the weather pleasing these plants. It probably helped that they were set on high back chairs to allow for perfect drainage and air circulation below the plants and pots. No major issues were encountered. They were the perfect dining guests all summer and still are now.

Tiny Tim Tomato Plants

In this above photo, the patio umbrella is closed but I typically kept it open. During rain storms, I made sure it was open so the plants were somewhat protected. Another bonus of having these 3 pots situated on the high-back chairs is it was easy to reach the plant to harvest the tiny tomatoes and water daily. It is a great plant when you don’t have much room outdoors, or have room to spare on a table. The seed packet indicates it does better in pots than in gardens of the ground.

Fruit Ripened Beautifully

The fruiting clusters ripened beautifully and are still ripening many fruits right now as I type this on 8/26/2022. The flavor to me is more on the tart side than sweet. I find Fox Cherry tomato fruit to be much sweeter for example, but we still enjoyed these. They are the perfect appetizer size on small crackers with cheese, or mixed with other yummy summer goodness. One day, I tossed them with fresh avocado, shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, pasta, and crushed black pepper.

I also planted Tiny Tim tomato plants, which I started from seed as well, into long rectangular planters at a high rise balcony site (think typical large window box sizes). My client’s told me the fruit has thrived all season. The planter is a self-watering type but the plants are high above on a high rise with exposure to lots of the elements and with a dry year at that – and the plants did well. I’m happy I chose them this season to try. I have photos of the balcony plants, but I have to find them in my iphone, which is overloaded with photos at the moment!

Various Sizes

In this photo above, you can really see the sizes. I have grown these before and the fruit was much smaller, but again, our tropical heat probably helped them to grow larger. I used a typical potting mix with added slow release fertilizer. I don’t recall ever applying liquid fertilizer later – they have been doing just fine all along. These would be the perfect candidate for small children to grow in pots – they are adorable plants.

Sitting Upon the Patio Table

Tiny Tim Tomato are sown 3-9 weeks before your last frost and transplanted after frost, and these may just last until mid-September. We will see. Another side bar: They probably will hold up well to the stormy afternoon weather being predicted for today. They are compact and probably, hopefully, won’t topple over. I’ll be sure to harvest all the ripened bright red fruit today before the storms arrive.

Have a good weekend,

Cathy Testa
Blogger Today!

Holding the Tiny Tims – They aren’t so tiny this year!

Looking for a Purple Flowering Plant that Climbs Quickly? This is it.


Picking up a couple vining Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ plants in 4″ small pots from a nursery was a nice little find this season for me.

I was first intrigued by the trifoliate leaves with purple veins. I like when foliage offers touches of colors to serve as color echoes in container gardens. I also had never grown these before and thought they would make a nice candidate as something different to try this season in my container gardens.

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ or Lablab (Dolichos) is a vining annual in my Connecticut planting zone (CT Zone 6b) and the plant tag indicates it would produce striking vines with ornamental seed pods, flowers, and foliage. It should be planted in full sun and provided with support for the quickly climbing vines.

If you are looking for an vining climbing plant with purple bloom colors, this is a wonderful candidate. It grows up to 10-20 feet and mine easily climbed a trellis inside a big planter at 7-8 feet tall, making the trellis invisible by now (mid July). The vines continue to reach up, looking to grow higher. Additionally, I read this plant continues to showcase its attributes into the early fall season, so it is a long (and tall!) performer.

Birds were perching on the trellis pole quite often until it became invisible due to the growth of the Hyacinth Bean plant covering the trellis, and I loved seeing them against the pink-purple flowers. Its turned out to be one of my favorite combinations this season. The stalks of the flowers are purple as well.

I included a Pink Pentas annual in the lower base of the same planter, a elephant ear bulb, two Canna lily plants to the side (one yellow with red specks blooms, and another variety with red blooms), and tucked in a Original Pink Mandevilla (bushy with limited vining), and also a little blue ornamental grass behind it. The pot is rather large with a big soil volume and it is my favorite combination this season. I water it every day, although, I read the Hyacinth bean plant is rather drought tolerant.

Yellow Bloom Spike coming up on the Canna Lily

Every day, as I leave my driveway, I look at it. It is also visible from my couch in the living room. In addition to seeing the birds visit it (when the trellis was visible), I sometimes witness little butterflies flutter by it – and hummingbirds zoom past this big planter to my hummingbird feeders. The hummingbirds probably will visit the Canna Lily blooms soon, they are opening right now.

Flowers arrive first followed by these beautiful dark purple beans. My sister-in-law, Vicky, would adore this plant because purple is her favorite color. I read that the beans may be harvested after they turn brown to save the seeds to sow, which I will do for sure for growing from seed next spring. Oh, and the tag indicates this makes a nice cut flower as well for its unique-ness!

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ – Purple Flowers

Upon researching this plant, it seems it is edible (the beans, that is) but with a specific cooking process required, thus, it is really for its ornamental value rather than edible benefits. I won’t go into the edible information here because I specifically bought it to try something different for a flowering climber type plant, and because it is a rapid climber.

I did not encounter any insect issues on this plant, which was either luck or a bonus. A plant I had next to it, a purple blooming Datura, in another pot got many holes in the leaves by an insect however, and I just cut it down yesterday because I could not take the look of all that leaf damage anymore on the Datura sitting next to my gorgeous bean plant with no issues.

Vines are Reaching high!

If you are looking for a rapid climber, easy care, and purple color tones, this is a good one to use. I’m so glad I spotted it in a nursery, which was out of town, when I was trying to locate something different. Think purple colors around it or contrasting colors to make it pop (like the green leaves of the Canna Lily). I think you will enjoy it too, and also, remember, this grew from a very small plant into a giant – so it was not a big expense to buy this plant!

Have a great weekend,

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Container Garden Designer
Plant Enthusiast
containercathy at
On Facebook and Instagram under Container Crazy CT

Thank you for visiting.