All I really wanted to do yesterday was create. I had an idea in my mind to make a small wreath covered in small glass ornaments, bright red and white berries, and a couple succulent plants. I wanted to pack the wreath in a way so it would be colorful, festive and fun.
It really is amazing how long something like this can take to make by hand. In fact, I would start working on it but then had to stop to do an errand or get the other tasks around my property done, but all I really wanted to do was create.
I played holiday music from my Pandora holiday line up of Christmas music which I play every season this time of year. It started with listening to Micheal Buble’s “White Christmas” song and continues on from there to Elvis or Etta – You name it. Every song gets me into that holiday creation vibe, along with the pitter patter of birds or trees moving in the wind outdoors. In fact, a bird landed on the greenhouse roof to visit while I was in there. These moments make me pause while creating.
Yup, I did. I put on the holiday music playing from the tiny new Bluetooth speaker. So let’s see, holiday music on for the first time on Nov. 19th. I think that is my earliest yet. It does set the mood, along with warm sunshine casting upon me in my little heaven of a greenhouse, where I often create, if it is bearable outside for winter temps. Once it gets even colder, my hands get cold in my special greenhouse, kept at a low even temperature during the winter months. Sometimes it gets too cold to create in there, unless I’m bundled up from head to toe. But it is one of my preferred places to be.
After doing errands, I finally got back to making the trio set. One thing that really annoyed me was a sticker was on the bottom of the round hanging globe and it was stubborn. I was like, oh gosh, now I have to go up to the house to remove this sticker, as I don’t have a working “sink” in the greenhouse with hot water. I was thinking, just let me create – no more interruptions, which I found removing a stubborn sticker to be – an interruption. I had to find a spray adhesive removal product and finally was able to completely remove it.
After that, and getting back to my greenhouse and continuing on my creations, my stomach started growling and right then, my husband texted me he was on his way home from work. It was almost dinner time, and yet, I still wasn’t done. The sun would be going down soon, I thought. I need to wrap this up. I left everything there to ponder more for tomorrow, which is now today!
This little mouse, I knew would be adorable in the globe. I thought of the owl found in the Rockefeller tree in NY recently, as I placed my white little mouse ever so carefully in the center, being sure the tip of his red holiday hat with a tiny white pom-pom would point up to the top. I’m not sure why, but I can not get that owl out of my head. I thought, I wish I had an owl to put in here – it would be perfect, but I only had the mouse in the house. Imagine replicating the NY tree owl with that little brown blanket tucked around him and those big bulging adorable owl eyes. OMG! That would be irresistible.
Each of the three pieces have similar color themes and the red dotted ribbon. This would tie them together. Along with the mini brown pinecones with tiny red berries. If I’m not careful, anything could be damaged or not positioned just right, this is why it takes time. I would never rush them as it takes away that Zen of creating.
One thing I have found is in order to create, you need lots of various supplies and embellishments on hand. I just can’t do something totally cookie cutter, it would be like an artist having to limit their various colors of paints, which I think may occur out there, but I don’t want to limit myself when creating.
Because these each have live succulent plants in them, they need to be displayed indoors and near some sunlight or in a brightly lit room, although the succulent plants are very tolerant and may be moved into pots after the season of holiday decor is over. The globes have succulents which are very slow growing and are sturdy, so they won’t outgrow the globes for a very long time.
So that is what I did yesterday. And now I have this feeling I want to make another set. With another color theme. We will see. I will keep you posted!
In between designing these wonderful pumpkin creations, I’m trying to continue working on overwintering plants from my home container gardens as well as for clients.
We still have not hit our hard frost here in my area of CT, but it has been a busy fall season, and I guess you could say, “I’m pausing for pumpkins!”
Custom Orders for Succulent Topped Pumpkins
I have been making Succulent Topped Pumpkins for customer orders and it couldn’t be more fun! Now is the time to get one or make one yourself.
They are the perfect item to dress up your table (make it the centerpiece of an autumn inspired table scape at home) or give one as a hostess or teacher gift.
I arrange for “Zero-Contact” Porch Pick-ups of these from my Broad Brook, CT location or some deliveries are available based on your location.
They are created on any size pumpkin you desire, from a small (the size of a grapefruit) to, what I call, an XL! A pumpkin of larger proportions than well, let’s see, a basketball. Each pumpkin is unique and has a beautiful mix of live succulents with decor. You may request prices via text at 860-977-9473 or via email at email@example.com.
But, please order soon, as supplies will eventually run out and so will the pumpkins. I source the real pumpkins by visiting local farmers here in my area. Now is the time to request your order.
And, these wonderful and pretty Succulent Topped Pumpkins are very low-maintenance and easy care. Complete care instructions are provided with each order so you know how to make them last well beyond the autumn season.
No Holiday Workshops This Year
In addition to working on overwintering plants between pausing for pumpkins, I also made the big decision that I will not be holding my big Holiday workshop this year.
I can not thank everyone enough for being here every year for the past ten years on the special day of making wreaths and holiday kissing balls!
The memories will last forever and it will be missed, but due to COVID-19, this is the year I am retiring them. Yes, I used the word retire as I do not think I will hold them going forward.
However, as I retire my workshops, I am excited to be redesigning my services to offer WORKSHOP KITS.
If you wish to make an item at home, check out my WORKSHOPSCT.com site for the details which I’m announcing over the next few weeks.
Autumn Kits are currently available for the Succulent Pumpkins and holiday kits will be announced for the winter holiday season soon.
After all, if you have to stay safe at home, you might as well get into creating something wonderful with plants and decor for any season. Kits may be requested for groups as well. Get your friends together in small groups!
And I will be taking custom orders for wreaths and kissing ballsfor December. More details will be posted on that, but for now, as noted, I am pausing for pumpkins!
I’ve been sharing my methods and timing regarding when to bring in outdoor plants (in container gardens or patio pots) indoors during the fall season to prepare for the winter months here in my area of Connecticut (Broad Brook/East Windsor, Zones 6).
But how do you actually determine which plants to bring inside and when?
Sometimes other factors come into play besides the lower temperature drops that some plants will not tolerate.
For example, this kitchen herb garden, which I planted for a client on a balcony, is booming still. I visited the site just yesterday, and look how large these herbs are in September. Amazing! All of the herb plants are still thriving and not showing much stress yet from being exhausted from growing all summer in the heat nor from drops in evening temperatures recently.
It would be a sin to take these all down right now, don’t you agree? There still time to enjoy these wonderful, fresh, aromatic, and delicious herbs. Due to the full sun conditions and appropriate watering by my clients at their residence, their herbs are absolutely thriving.
I’m especially proud of these herb plants because many of the herbs in these planters were started from seed by me earlier in the season and planted as starter plants. I’m in love with how well they did and how amazing they taste. The clients are still enjoying every snip and harvest.
We decided to let them be for a while more. While my herbs at my home are dwindling, such as my basil (which prefers warmer temperatures than we get during our fall cooler temperatures), their herbs are still perfectly fine. They get more sun where they are located compared to my location.
Just look at these matchbox peppers, which I grew from seed earlier this year as well. They are booming with small hot peppers. They are tiny and super spicy. They completely cover this plant, which was described as compact. I’ve grown these in hanging baskets too and they are perfect for them. Of course, these can remain outdoors a couple more weeks until we get frosts.
Sometimes we get a few “light” frosts before a hard frost. Light frosts may occur as early as October 4th. A hard frost could be anywhere from mid-October to very early November, based on my experience and records. So, yes, you could decide to leave something like this herb garden growing a while longer to capitalize on the wonderful harvest. The key is to pay attention to the weather forecasts and your weather apps.
Here is another example of a plant related item which could stay outdoors a while longer. It is a terrarium I made a couple seasons ago. I created it around Halloween and used decoupage glue to adhere a skull print on fabric inside of it. I remember thinking it would look super cool with plants.
You will notice the white area, ironically resembling a mask, which is where the glue will get wet. It left a white area mark there – so my test of this fabric has a flaw, or does it? It looks super cool to me.
I could leave this terrarium outdoors for a few weeks more here in Connecticut. Before any frost would hit it. But I wanted to move it indoors into my greenhouse before it gets waterlogged with rain. We initially had rain predicted for this Friday by our weather forecasters, but that seems to have changed to “chances of rain” now. Anyhow, the plants are thriving, there are no insect issues, so why chance it? It is easy to take inside to keep growing another season.
The key thing is things change fast in regards to weather this time of year. You may be humming along, enjoying your outdoor plants, and thinking it is so beautiful outside. It is warm, some flowers are still blooming, and the fall air is just right where you feel comfortable working outdoors in the 70 degree range. And the next day, it will be 80 degrees F out. Like summer! What’s the rush, right?
But there will be that night where it gets cold fast, like this Saturday, predicted to be in the 40’s. Still not freezing, still safe for many plants, but it is coming.
Determining what to move indoors has the factors of weather, upcoming freezes, but also, some of that determination is based on how you use the plants (or how you enjoy their show). As in the example of the herbs – still very much usable. Or, it could be how beautiful the plant is at the moment.
Take for example, this dish garden, also at my clients’ site. Good Lord. Look at those hot pink Supertunia annual flowers. I gasped when I saw how much they grew from earlier this season to now in mid-September. Usually, I would take this dish garden away to take apart and store, but how could we? They are still amazing. And until they get hit by frost, might as well enjoy the show, right?
This dish garden also houses some amazing succulents. All look fabulousa. However, for succulents, I prefer to take special care with removing if you are taking them indoors. I prefer to move them before things get really damp and cold. With a drop in temperatures by the weekend at night, this could happen. Then tender succulent plants may start to suffer. If you are not taking them in, you may risk it and keep them outdoors. But most non-hardy tender succulents, in my opinion, should be moved in before it starts to get chilly consistently in the low 50’s and 40’s.
What happens this time of year is we get temp swings. All will humm along fine and then BAM! It will turn cold and you will be taking out your favorite sweatshirt. As for myself, getting some of this moving in container work done early may be a bummer because you want to enjoy the beautiful creations a while longer, however, I never regret getting some of it done ahead (before warm gloves, sweatshirts, and my warmer hiking boots are required.)
And another factor is the fall mums we have available around here in Connecticut this time of year. If you are going to display them, you might as well get them out soon so you may enjoy them throughout the fall season. There are tons of mums around to be had. Some places sell out of mums by mid-October, so you want to get them soon so you can enjoy them for a while before snow comes right?
Did I say snow, OMG, don’t even go there Cathy! LOL.
Don’t forget! Towards the end of September, it is succulent pumpkin creation time. I will have some succulent new stock available if locals are interested! I will post photos on my usual feeds. If interested in a custom made succulent topped pumpkin, now is the time to give me the order.
Around this time of year is when I start thinking about how I will save succulents plants which have been outdoors all summer.
I prefer moving them in before we get dips in temperatures during the evenings and before we get rain this time of year.
Yesterday (9/10/20), I moved a few Agave plants and succulents into my greenhouse.
Every time I prepare a container for its new residence indoors, I inspect it for insects, wash down the outside of the pot, remove debris, and cut off any damaged leaves. If necessary, plants are re-potted into fresh potting mix.
Three Amigo Agaves
Before moving these three smaller Agave plants into my greenhouse, I turned them upside down and shook the pots to dump out any small debris.
Because these are so tightly rooted in, it was easy to handle them by doing the shaking method. I also checked for insects, cut off one bad leaf, and dusted off the pots with a clean rag.
I also moved in this larger Agave into my greenhouse. Due to its larger size, I used a leaf blower to blow out any debris in the pot or stuck between the leaves of the plant. Because of the sharp spines on Agaves, this is a great method for cleaning it up before moving it in.
Succulent Hanging Baskets
I also moved in 4 succulent hanging baskets I had outdoors under the roof of my woodshed. The potting mix in these were dry, which is what I prefer, because wet soil invites critters this time of year when you move them in, and I knew I was going to take these apart anyhow. Although I could have left them in these hanging baskets all winter, these were perfect candidates for propagation.
Another container I moved in was this one above. A round bowl of large succulents (Echeverias mostly). However, in this case, the soil was super wet from rain fall and insufficient drainage holes. The weight of the pot was heavy from the soaking wet soil. This soil would not dry quickly indoors at this point and time of year.
Knowing overly wet soil would only invite critters, and also knowing the roots will not soak up this moisture like it would during the summer periods, I decided to disassemble this pot, removing the succulents in tact, or using some to propagate babies.
This pot did not have the proper drainage, as you will see in the next photo, which is my bad. I should have taken the time to drill more drain holes, but alas, I was probably busy this summer and skipped it. Always a reminder – add drain holes to your pots.
Reminder: See My “5-Must Do’s for Container Gardening” linked below, where I discuss the importance of drain holes in your pots.
After I dumped the soaking wet soil into an empty pot outdoors and washed this bowl pot to store, you can see that tiny drain hole was just not sufficient. This is why the soil was so wet. This leads to rot and lack of oxygen for the plant, especially this time of year as things cool down outdoors and the sun is not drying out the soil, in addition to the cooler temps at night slowing down the process.
And by the way, this bowl pot had a very long flower stem on one of the succulent plants. You can cut these off and put them in a vase of water and they will last a very long time. Might as well enjoy every bit of the plants possible as our Connecticut fall season approaches.
I also potted up a bunch of Gasterias, which were from my stock. Although the growth of many succulents slows down as things cool down, I put these all in fresh soil. They will eventually root in and make nice candidates for anyone interested.
More To Do Today
I kept very busy yesterday working on these small projects. These are just the tip of the ice berg on plant items I need to get ready to move indoors before things get chillier outdoors. However, there is still time to enjoy many plants.
My focus was on the succulents first, because my larger tropical, which I store the tubers and bulbs of, wait till we hit frost, such as this large upright Alocasia.
Check out these leaves! I measured them this morning and they are a full 3 feet long from the bottom of the leaf to the tip. The stalk is 3 feet too. They are so showy. I may enjoy them up thru the end of September and early October. We usually get a light frost by early October.
I’m keeping today’s post short because I have more work to do outdoors today, and want to get to it.
Every day, I will try to share what I’ve done to help those interested in following similar routines here in my area of Connecticut.
I usually call this process, “overwintering plants,” but I figured that is a term which may be unfamiliar to newer gardeners.
Thus, this post titled, “Bringing Plants Indoors,” is referring to just that. I’m starting to bring in some plants this week (Sept 7th, 2020).
Some plants, like hardy succulents, are able to stay outdoors all winter here in our CT planting zones. They are able to tolerate frost and winter temperatures, and are referred to as, “winter hardy.”
For example, Sempervivums (a.k.a., Hens & Chicks) succulents. However, if you decide to keep any of these hardy succulents, which were grown in containers, patio pots, or hanging baskets outdoors, be sure to put them in a protected location, such as under a porch, in an unheated garage, or shed. They are more sensitive to winter conditions if in a pot versus grown in the ground in a garden.
If they have been growing in the ground, they will be fine over the winter, and do not need protection. They will go dormant when the time is right as temperatures drop in the fall and winter, and come back alive next summer season.
This particular hanging basket (shown above) is filled with Sempervivums which are looking perfect right now. There is no damage, no insects, and they are as happy as can be. I just love how they filled this hanging basket in fully. The color intensified recently, as many succulents do when they get a bit of stress of cooler temps.
I decided to move these Sempervivums in a hanging basket into my greenhouse yesterday, however, it is not because they can’t remain outdoors for another few weeks (or all winter in a protected location), but because they look so healthy. I want to keep them that way.
Tip: Move them in while healthy!
I find the best time to move some plants indoors, especially succulents and houseplants, is while they are looking great, are free of insects, and haven’t been stressed by a drop in temps during the fall season, which is usually accompanied by rain fall. When this happens, the soil, the pot, and the plant get cold and damp. This starts to invite issues such as rot, insects, and stress.
This plant above, a Jade in my red head planter, is another example. It could tolerate a few more weeks outdoors. Once it is consistently 50’s degrees at night, they should be moved in however.
It probably won’t go into the 50’s for another week or so, and even if it did – it still might be okay for one night or two of 50’s lower temperatures if our day temps stay warm (60’s, 70’s and maybe even another day of 80’s!).
But, it must be moved in before it gets hit by frost. Frost would kill it. It is not “winter hardy.” It can not tolerate the CT winter temperatures. Frost usually hits in early October.
However, because this Jade plant is so healthy right now, this week of September 7th, I wanted to take this gorgeous red head planter in before the beautiful Jade plant in it experiences any fall weather related stress. It has grown so much and has done well in this planter.
What do I mean by fall weather related stress? Well, when it drops down to chilly, 50 degrees F or below, in the fall season, we usually also get rain. Then the planter would be damp, cold, and this will affect the plant and the soil. It may not kill it – but it most likely will stress it. The soil gets cold and damp, and I find this scenario to not be ideal for plants you are moving indoors.
Tip: Move them in before major rain fall during a temp drop. And let the soil dry out in the containersoutdoors before moving them inside.
Additionally, I advise my plant followers to let the soil dry out in your container gardens and patio pots before you move them indoors, AND, move them in before they get too chilly (before there is a consistent temp in the 50’s in the evenings.) A succulent is able to tolerate drought, so let that soil dry out before moving it in.
The plant got tall enough, so I had to remove the top shelf of this south facing kitchen window that extends out. It will be good enough sunlight to keep this plant happy all winter. The window area sometimes gets a little chilly in winters, but this plant is able to take 55 degrees “indoors” during the winters at night. It won’t get too cold here for this type of plant.
Before you move it indoors, here are other things you should do:
Don’t water it before moving it indoors for a few days if possible or even a week. Drier soils are better for moving in plants.
Inspect it for damaged leaves or any signs of insects. Treat if you find insects with the appropriate spray or treatment.
Remove any fallen debris from the plant (I found pine needles in there.)
Remove any damaged leaves if possible. Wiggle them back and forth to pull away if you see leaves with holes or damage.
Inspect under the pot. (I did this. I found a small round insect cocoon.)
Wash the outside of the pot with soapy water (mild dish soap is fine).
Move it before it gets 50 degrees F or below at night consistently. (This could happen anytime between now and the next couple weeks.) Watch your weather app for night temperatures.
Pick the appropriate home location. Some plants need some sunlight, others are able to tolerate low-light.
The next plant, shown above, is an Alocasia called ‘Tiny Dancers.’ When I saw it at a growers, I had to have it. I have lots of huge monster size Alocasias but I never had a dwarf sized one, like this one. It is too cute!
It started off in a tiny 3″ square nursery black pot. I potted it into a new terracotta pot and had it outdoors all summer. Usually, I store Alocasias by storing their tubers (round like bulbs located under the soil) only, but this is a tiny Alocasia, in fact, more along the lines of a dwarf. It makes it a houseplant candidate in my book, at least, I can test it out as such this year.
I decided to move it in and give it a spot by my south facing kitchen slider. It will receive sun light only a portion of the day during the winter which should be sufficient.
I don’t think it would do well in a north facing window which does not receive much sunlight at all. Another good place for this plant, if there is sun light in the room, is a bathroom because this plant likes a bit of humidity.
This Alocasia has been is pushing out new growth and is very happy. This one will be treated as a houseplant this winter rather than storing it like I do with my giant Alocasias (which are tropical plants and can not withstand winter temperatures). Sorry repeating myself.
I followed the same steps above: inspect, look it over, remove any damaged leaves. I did not wash this pot because it is terracotta and porous so the soap could go into the pot and although probably not too harmful, I just used a rag to wipe away any debris.
But this Alocasia ‘Tiny Dancers’ did have some signs of insects. When you inspect your plants before moving them indoors, look closely.
I did see, in the cups of one leaf, that there were little spiders in there. I am not sure if they were spider mites, but I decided to “lightly” spray the plant with Neem Horticulture Oil in a spray bottle as a precaution.
Tip: Please read the label or ask a nursery staff about insecticides, fungicides, or other products before you treat your plants. You could damage a plants’ leaves if you use the wrong product.
Check any treatments you use on plants by reading the label first. Make sure it is appropriate for the plant type! If you spray a plant with the wrong product, you will damage the plant, not help it.
Another plant I moved in to the house is considered a houseplant, the ZZ Plant. It has been thriving under a patio umbrella and had no insect issues, and is also pushing out new growth. When you see the growth, this is a good sign your plant is happy. Moving them in when happy is a good idea.
Tip: And I can not emphasize this enough, the best time to move plants inside as fall approaches is when or if they are healthy. If they have no issues, get them in before they do. Colder temps often times invites problems.
I carefully cleaned each ZZ Plant leaf with a wet paper towel to wipe away any debris or dust, washed the outside of the pot, and this one was placed in a north facing window that receives very little light. Since this plant is able to tolerate lower light, I think it will be fine in my north facing window this winter. This plant is marketed as being easy and care free, so the north window is its home for the rest of the year. Water this plant less as it does not like overly moist soils.
To recap, plants may stay outdoors for the most part, but some I start to work on early, partially because I have the time this week to work on my own plants before overwintering my clients’ plants from their container gardens. Also, sometimes working in mild and comfortable temperatures is better on me.
Also, I believe plants perform better indoors over the winter when you move them in before they get stresses from drops in temps in the evening. This is especially true for “non-hardy” succulents, such as Echeverias. I will be showing those as I work on them in future blog posts as well.
Tropical plants, like my Canna Lilies, Elephant Ears (Colocasias and Alocasias), and Banana plant (Ensete) may remain outdoors all the way up to frost (early October) or just after frost (IF you plan to store the under the soil bulbs, rhizomes, corms, or tubers only). If you want to keep the plant indoors as a house plant, move them in before frost.
Succulents plants, just to recap, may remain outdoors all winter if they are winter hardy. However, if they are not, they must be moved in before frost in October, and I recommend (sorry repeating myself) to move them in before they get cold, damp, wet, and chilly (BEFORE it gets consistently 50 degrees or below at night). Again, you may wait till we get the temp drop, but I prefer to do it a bit at a time before that phase.
Houseplants, well, I would move those in now too. While plants are healthy, strong, and not stressed out. It is a difficult thing to do because we want to enjoy every last minute of outdoor goodness (and so do the plants), but if they are doing well, might as well capitalize on that because they will be more likely to do well indoors if healthy now.
I already took down my tomato plants, by the way, and herbs are dwindling down so I am trying to use as much as I can before they are goners, and made pesto with my basil. I am considering sowing more herb seeds this fall in the greenhouse however. Maybe have a fresh batch available in a month or so. Sorry, that is a side bar comment. LOL.
Here’s a recap list:
Tropicals – Can wait til frost or after frost if storing tubers (specifically Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, and Banana Plants). Mandevillas you should move in before frost if keeping the plant in tact or storing the plant.
Non-Hardy Succulents – Can wait till the evening temps hit 50′ degrees F, but I recommend moving them in earlier, for reasons noted above.
Hardy Succulents – Can leave outdoors all winter. If in a pot, move to a protected location before winter. If in the ground, no worries, leave and let it be.
Houseplants – Move them in now while healthy. Each houseplant is different on lower temp tolerance, but treat them like the non-hardy succulents above.
Herbs and Tomatoes – Already took down my tomato plants because they are not producing fruit now and it is too cool at night, and herbs are starting to dwindle so collect what you can now. But that is up to you based on your own gardening veggie habits.
Agaves and Cacti – Can take drop in temps and tolerate it but can not take frost. Take them in before October frost or treat as I do with non-hardy succulents. The Agaves and Cacti I will leave out for a while longer probably, or take them in “if healthy” and cherished. Again, if they are “healthy” with no issues, I like to move them in before any chance of issues.
Hopes this helps if you are considering on working on your outdoor plants too. And please share my site with friends who may find this information useful. Feel free to ask for any clarifications, and also, note that these are all my opinions based on my years as a container gardener.
P.S. Unfortunately, I am not offering my typical Autumn Succulent Pumpkin Workshops due to Covid this year. However, I will be taking custom orders around the end of September. Reach out if local and interested. Thank you for visiting my blog.
When I saw a planter box with a trellis advertised as homemade by a nearby carpenter, I ordered one up for delivery right away. The carpenter goes by the name of Harold’s Woodworking. They are on Facebook under that name and their logo is an owl. If you are local to my area (Broad Brook, CT) and decide to contact them, please tell them Cathy T sent ya’s. Ask for Jen. She was very helpful throughout the process of building it and delivering right to my driveway.
Because my husband said it is best to let pressure treated wood dry out before staining, I planted it first, and stained it later.
Staining it turned out to be tricky, of course, with plants in there, but I managed to get the job done by using light weight plastic over the plants while I stained. At times, I also used a large piece of poster board to protect plants. It was a messy job but I got it done!
Here it is with the plants identified. And this photo was taken about 3 weeks ago so the Canna Lily plants (#1) are much taller at this time, and the moon flower vine (#8) is growing much more and clinging onto the trellis now.
Moon Flower (#8)
The moon flower is one I grew from seed. It will produce fragrant, huge white blooms. The flowers open from dusk to dawn in late summer to early fall. The vine can grow up to 8 to 12 feet tall. Planting it near my bedroom entrance door will give me a show later this season. By the way, moon flowers have hard coated seeds so you must soak or nick them with a nail file or other tool before sowing them. I direct sowed 3 seeds in this planter along the back wall. This plant also requires a long growing season so hopefully I did not sow them too late as I can’t wait to see blooms at the end of our summer season.
Gomphrena pulchella (#5)
The #5 plant with round pom-pom like flowers is one I am very happy I picked up from a local nursery. It has very sturdy stems and stays upright. I have not seen any damage or flower drop from these. As noted, they do not require deadheading. I cut a few to put in a vase and they hold up very nicely in vases too. So far, I have only seen small white butterflies visiting these blooms as well as tiny flying insects visiting the blooms to get their nectar. It is giving it a wonderful display of color at just the right height.
#6 Salvia ‘Rockin Fuchsia’
I purposely selected this annual because of their fluted flowers to attract hummingbirds and because of their purple color. They have not disappointed in either. The hummingbirds swing by to visit them from time to time and the plant is as sturdy as the other annual in the planter. It is hard to see them in the first photo, but they are tucked to the right and left of #5. I love how the dark purple flowers look with the lighter pink colors of the Gomphrena annual next to it.
#3 Upright Jumbo Alocasia
I planted two of these on the left and right sides of the planter. Because this bulb was a bit smaller than my others, they are on the small side but I am sure by the end of summer, these will be dramatic. I’m in love with the upright type of elephant ears now. The foliage is almost rubbery and shiny. They just seem to stay beautiful all summer long. A new leaf pushes out every few weeks or so and it is like they are performing a dance for me to witness over time. They will be half the height of the Canna Lily plants in a few weeks and add a dramatic shape to the arrangement.
Comanche Moon Art
The hanging art, referred to as Comanche Moon, by its creator was an item I purchased many years ago. I had it hanging in my greenhouse and now I realize I wasn’t capitalizing on it’s beauty in the greenhouse. The sun glimmers thru it at times on the lattice part of this planter, and it makes it glow. It is so pretty against the blue aqua color as well because of its orange colors. I selected orange because it reminded me of the mountains of Sedona, Arizona from when we visited there. The artist had many colors to choose from and it was a difficult choice at that time. His website is noted above in the photo. Upon contacting him recently, he said he no longer makes these but check out his other wonderful art pieces. Really stunning and of high quality.
And, I have Portulaca annual tucked in the far left and right corners in the front as well as some tiny petunias in the center. I wanted color and I achieved it! Because I’m a huge fan of foliage over flowers, I thought this year, you know, I really need some color in my containers. This prompted the whole scene of the aqua blue stain to the colorful purple, pinks, soft lavenders in this planter. And ironically, the ruby darker foliage color of the Canna Lily plants picks up the dark tones of the Comanche moon hanging art in the center.
Prior Planting Set-up
As far as the setup prior to planting, we put some blocks of wood below the planter so it would be elevated a bit to allow for drainage and air circulation below and to help protect the wood of our deck floor.
Additionally, I inserted two large fabric grow bags (40 gallon sizes) in the planter to serve as a liner and put foam below the grow bags. Quality potting mix and some compost was added along with slow release fertilizer.
The planter is on the east end of my deck so as the sun rises, it hits the Comanche Moon just right in the mornings. I can see the planter also from the far west end of my deck. I am enjoying is so much. It gave me the color I was looking for.
I will post more photos later in the season to show the progress of the plants. At least that is my game plan.
Have a great day,
firstname.lastname@example.org “I plant all in patio pots, container gardens, and planters of all sizes!”
I have to find ways to entertain myself during these challenging times and ‘playing with’ my plants is one big time distraction.
Last week, I made a mask with succulents.
I thought I’d share the photos today. I know I’m not the first to think of this idea. After all, succulents may be applied to many scenarios.
I started off with using the traditional white cotton dusk mask. I placed a half styrofoam white ball under it as I assembled it to keep it stable, because the mask is pliable.
From there it was easy peasy, but took some time.
First, I glued live moss to the white mask using green moss I have in stock and a glue gun.
Then I attached some of my baby succulents and added dried flower pods as filler. To be honest, I didn’t want to waste too many of my succulents so I wanted filler around it to take up some of the space on the mask.
Then it hit me – I had some round red fuzzy craft balls in stock. I realized they resemble the COVID-19 images of the virus outside of a host cell. I’m sure you have seen this image many times, floating on TV screens as backgrounds during broadcasts. In fact, I was getting annoyed by one image a local news station used for weeks because it just reminded me of the darn C-19 nasty virus lurking everywhere!
The little red craft balls used on my succulent mask have little shiny spikes on them. Thus, these red balls were my representation of the C19 virus images, as shown below of an image obtained from the CDC Image Library on the web.
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Photo Credit: CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAMS
Here are some photos of my final creation:
You may wonder, will the succulents survive on this mask? They may. Their fine roots will reach into the moss to grow. Maybe at that point, I will take it all apart and pot them into small pots.
By the way, the succulent plants used were a mix of small echeverias, baby hens and chicks (sempervivums), and some Jade leaves.
My number 1 rule has always been to make sure your patio pots and container gardens for plants have sufficient drainage. There is no doubt plants perform much, much better when they have sufficient drainage holes in the base of their pots. Oxygen is necessary for plant roots to develop and perform better, and without drain holes, they lack it.
But, what about all those good and unique pot finds with no drain holes which you want to plant your succulents in? Vintage tea cups or a cool rock? Or when you are growing plants in hanging glass globes or in glass terrarium bowls? How do you deal with the fact these types of pots have no drain holes. If you cannot drill them, which is tricky with glass in particular, then the answer is to water very carefully.
Because succulents are able to withstand periods of drought, many people use them in pots without drain holes, but they do need watering at some point. In fact, succulents tend to like a good drenching, and then you should allow the soil in the pot to completely dry before you water again. The key is watering carefully when you have no drain holes.
Here is a list of tips I created to help you do this correctly, and again, carefully.
Tip No. 1 – Use Sphagnum Moss
Add some moss in glass hanging votives or glass globes over the soil mix. Fibered sphagnum moss absorbs up to twenty times its weight in water. The moisture will distribute naturally throughout the moss reaching the plants’ roots. The moss will dry over the course of the next few days on its own. By the way, sphagnum moss is not peat moss. And, Spanish moss is also different. Spanish moss is more for decorative uses and will remain soggy longer than sphagnum moss. I prefer the sphagnum moss because it dries between the moisture routines allowing the aeration also needed for the succulents delicate roots.
Tip No. 2 – Tip the pot
After putting water in the soil mix (or moss), tip the pot to drain out any excess water, especially if you over did it. It may be okay to let the water sit there for a bit to be soaked up awhile, maybe an hour or so, but then be sure to drain out any excess water from the globe, pot, or whatever has no drain hole.
Tip No. 3 – Unplug the weep hole
Some pots, such as this hanging basket, has a reservoir area in the base. If the pot got overfilled with rain water during a heavy rain fall, pull the plug out, and allow the accumulated water to drain completely out. After, let the soil dry out and then re-insert the plug.
Tip No. 4 – Add horticulture charcoal
Charcoal is very useful in terrarium glass bowls in particular. It improves drainage and absorbs harmful impurities. Add a thin layer in the foundation of the bowl along with soil and gravel in the base. It may be used in pots without drain holes too if desired. It will help the soil environment. Just be sure to follow the guidelines on the bag for the amount to use, and wear gloves since it is a messy dusty like component which will blacken your hands. Layer it appropriately as well for terrariums.
Tip No. 5 – Less is more
Do not over water especially if your pot is in a dimly lit room inside your home or in the shade outdoors. This is a formula for inviting fungus gnats. The moisture will not dry out as quickly in shady spots, and thus, it invites critters. Critters like moisture. Be aware less is more in these situations, but again, your succulents shouldn’t be in non-lit areas in the first place. Most succulents prefer sun. If possible, if the soil is too wet from this situation, put it outdoors on nice days to give it natural air. Just be sure it is warm enough outside and not in too much sun IF the plants have been inside all winter. Select a partial sunny place and bring it back in later before evening.
Tip No. 6 – Use a porous pot
Terra-cotta and non-glazed clay pots allow air movement through the pot itself, so using a clay pots helps the non-drain holes situation versus using a glazed ceramic pot for example. Also, fabric or fiber pots with the natural ability to allow moisture to seep thru the pot base, are helpful to use. Such as coco fiber liners used in hanging baskets.
Tip No. 7 – Add perlite
Your potting mix may already have perlite, but adding more to the soil mix for pots with no drain holes will enhance the air spaces in the soil. Horticulture perlite is expanded volcanic glass. It increases aeration and drainage which will help the roots develop. This tip is good for plants which enjoy lots of drainage, such as succulents. Perlite is available by the bag in garden type stores.
Tip No. 8 – Create a drainage layer
Add gravel, stone chips, sterilized sea shells, or river pea gravel to the base of the pot before adding the soil and or moss. This is only recommended for pots without drain holes. Otherwise, if the pot does have drain holes, it can be counterproductive, creating blockage to drain holes or moving up the soil moisture above the gravel line. More on that in another blog post. It is a bit of a thing to explain to folks, which I have in my workshops on container gardening in the past.
Tip No. 9 – Allow drying time
Most plant roots need a balance of moisture and air. Be sure to allow your soil to dry between watering, especially important when you have no drain holes and are using succulent plants. Succulent plants should not be sitting in soggy soils for prolonged periods of time. And if the weather is right, put your container outdoors for some fresh air to give some air to the soil or moss, just be careful to not put it in harsh sun right away if they’ve been indoors all winter. And do not put out non-hardy soft succulents outdoors if it is still cold out – usually the right time to transition them outdoors is around Memorial Day, but if there is a suddenly warm day and sunshine, it doesn’t hurt to put them out for a few hours if the soil is really too wet.
Tip No. 10 – Direct the water
Direct the water carefully to the soil mix (not to the top of the plants). Do not mist succulents. Point the tip of your watering-can spout to the soil, moss, or around the plant. I’ve been using a hair style water bottle lately for succulents in tight pots. The bottle is squeezable and squirts out a stream of water perfectly from a very narrow tip. If your succulents are a hardy type, and outdoors, it is okay if they get wet especially in the sun, but for soft non-hardy succulents, it is best to avoid getting the foliage wet. Also, bear in mind, newly planted succulents may have not expanded their fine roots into the soil much so the amount of water may depend on if you just planted a plug or baby succ, versus one that may be fuller and more mature.
And finally, I think this goes without saying, use a quality potting mix or container mix for your plants in the pots. No native soil, no dirt please. In a future blog post, I will talk about my favorite potting mixes and how to find them. I have my favorite brands, and I actually listened to a webinar yesterday on new wood substrate type components for peat-based potting mixes. Again, more on that later. There is always more to learn.
Succulents continue to be wildly popular with plant enthusiasts and collectors. If you don’t have lots of room on your patio, a hanging basket filled with various succulent plants is a way to capitalize on your space. Succulents don’t require frequent soakings and may stay dry for weeks, making them very low maintenance plants, which is perfect in summer, when we are busy or going on vacation. Many people are surprised to learn that most succulents do produce flowers, at least once during the growing season. Hummingbirds love the flowers on the long arching stalks of Echeverias for example, just one of the many type of succulents out there to enjoy. It is a thrill to witness a hummingbird visit the delicate urn shaped blooms. In summary, succulents have lots to offer and are very long lasting plants, which means you may enjoy them outdoors in the warm season on your patio in a hanging basket, and then later, move them indoors for the winter season to enjoy on your windowsill or any indoor room with decent sunlight.
The Soil Mix
Succulents require good soil drainage to perform their best, and hanging baskets with coco-fiber or sphagnum moss liners are perfect to provide that drainage. The water will seep thru the natural liners and allow the soil to dry between watering or after a strong rainfall. And, as long as you plant them in a gritty potting mix, which is best for succulents, the plants will thrive. Gritty soil refers to adding more components to make the potting mix sufficiently porous (i.e., providing air space) with materials such as white horticulture perlite, which is added to improve drainage and aeration.
Fresh Mix is Best
The garden industry provides many perfect potting soil or container soil mixes by the bag to use to plant your succulents in containers, hanging baskets, and patio pots. Potting mixes or container mixes are suitable, and cacti mixes or mixes specific for succulents, are even better. The key aspect to keep in mind when selecting your potting media is to purchase it fresh from a reliable source. Never ever use dirt (native soil) from the ground for your succulents in hanging baskets. Dirt is far too compact and will not provide the appropriate air spaces in the soil for the plants’ delicate fine roots, and it may harbor diseases, plus it will be too heavy to support a hanging basket on a hook. Look for brands such as ProMix, Fafard, or Hoffman. There are many mixes on the market to choose from and most of them have the component to achieve success.
Deep Pots Not Required
Hanging baskets are also well suited in regards to depth. Most succulents do not require super deep pots, and hanging baskets with an 8” diameter and about as deep are fine to use for many types of succulents. Even a minimum of 6″ deep is fine for many succulents. If they outgrow the hanging basket by the end of the summer season, they are easily transitioned to interior pots for keeping them indoors for winter, or propagated to make more succulents from a mother plant. They don’t mind being crowded in a basket for the short term of a summer season. Hanging baskets are a perfect choice and have so many benefits for succulents.
Making Baby Succulents
As the succulent plants in your hanging baskets continue to grow and get bigger, you may create babies from your plants via propagation steps. One propagation method that is becoming practiced quite a bit by beginners is making baby succulents by propagating leaves removed from the succulent mother plant. There are many ways to perform propagation to achieve success but once you learn how, you will become a succulent baby making machine in no time. The endless benefits of succulents are to be enjoyed. Some succulent naturally produce off set side babies as well to keep the plant growing and to expand your succulent family collections.
Each Has Different Needs
Not all succulents are the created equal, however. Each has different needs. Did you know some succulents actually prefer less sun than others? And some succulents may burn in extreme sun situations, especially when moved out from the indoors to the outdoors for the first time. But, in general, they are very tolerant of being housed together in one hanging basket for the summer. Plants like Jades will play well with Echeveria or Sempervivums, for example. Many succulents are spillers or trailers, perfect to soften and hang from the edges of hanging baskets; think donkey or burro tail (two types of Sedums). And for plants with upright appeal, add a Kalanchoe paddle plant or Aloe in the center. The list of succulents is endless and in general, many share similar needs, such as limited watering, full sun to part sun, and minimal fertilizing needs. Succulents do well in full or partial sun outdoors, and when grown indoors, you should do your best to place them by the brightest windows in your home. If you see your succulents stretch, this may be a sign of not enough light, or they could be pushing out a bloom, which hardy succulents often do from their centers. In regards to temperature, it depends on the type of succulent! Hardy succulents tolerate the outdoors in winter but some should be protected. Soft succulents are not able to stay outdoors in winter. This is why the hanging baskets are handy, just bring them inside and set them on top of a pot for winter! Voila!
Watering is probably one of the most difficult tasks to master when it comes to training plant beginners. Because most succulents conserve water in their leaves, they are tolerant of watering neglect but they will not survive if they are completely ignored forever. They have very delicate roots and if not watered at all, those roots will dry up and die. Watering is based on the climate, location, season, and the type of patio or interior pot. There are different methods of watering, but when they are in a hanging basket, especially one with a natural liner, you can’t really over water them either due to the drainage which will occur in hangers with natural liners. In addition, succulents appreciate a bit of air space below their pots, and hangers provide this function. Misting succulents is not recommended. They should be watered only when the soil is completely dry. You may drench the soil in the hanging basket and allow the excess water to drip out to drain. It is not good to let water sit on succulents leaves, especially in the hot sun, due to a water mark appearing on the center of the plant at times. Shaking the basket after watering helps, it will cause the water droplets to roll off the leaves and its center rosette. The misting routine, often used, is really not best for some succulents.
I have found succulents have done very well in hanging baskets ever since I started offering it as a workshop topic a couple years ago. Due to the succulents various sizes, styles, shapes, and tolerance, people have been successful with keeping the plants going in their hangers after the workshops. In fact, many have shown photos of how well the plants grew and they were able to maintain them in their homes during the winter.
Spring is upon us and by early June, it will be time to enjoy your succulent plants outdoors. It is important to transition them carefully in late May, gradually, before putting them in full sun or partial sun. They also require warm temperatures and you should avoid putting them out too early.
Refreshing succulent hanging baskets is easy to do as well. Much of this I will be showing to my attendees via Facebook Live videos soon. For Connecticut, they are safe to go out around the same time you would plant your tomato seedlings/starter plants, around Memorial Day. Now may be a good time to take a look at your succulents and consider refreshing them for the outdoor season.
My goal was to offer a workshop in May 2020 again on Succulent Hanging Baskets but this was cancelled due to COVID-19. Stay tuned for updates on what is next, which only time will tell (see my Services List below). I have plenty of pretty colorful hangers in stock now however. Guess that means, time for me to get planting. All of the above is explained in detail at my workshops, but alas, I think the workshop scene is on hold for my offerings in the coming months. I will be, however, refreshing my succulent hanging baskets in stock and offering them for sale. Lately, I’ve been offering porch pick-ups for folks in my area during this difficult time (for seeds and houseplants or succulents). It brings me great pleasure to know it has been helpful to cheer up their environment with plants and other things, like seeds for sale or houseplants. I guess succulent baskets may be added to my services list. I will see how the rest of this month goes!
Yesterday, when I was in my happy place sowing seeds in a nice warm sunny greenhouse, I saw some little tiny ants on my Agave plant.
They were traveling from a leaf, up along a spine on the tip of a leaf, onward to a column on my shelving for my seedlings, and traveling up under the seedling heating mat.
I thought, “Oh gosh. Here we go. I have to stop my happy sowing to address this issue.”
For the most part, ants don’t really harm much; meaning they don’t eat plants, thankfully. I suspect they were in search of moisture in the soil.
Sometimes ants will be on plants due to aphids. They like the aphid’s secreted honeydew, but that was not the case here. No aphids in sight, thankfully, and I have never seen aphids on agave plants anyways.
I treasure this agave in particular, because I’ve owned it for years and just re-potted it last summer, thus, I had to deal with it right away. It could not be avoided.
Last Summer’s Repotting
You see, last summer, I had finally moved it out of an urn it grew in for at least 8 years, separated the side baby plants (off-sets), and then re-potted it into a big blue plastic pot.
In the Urn before Re-potting Last Summer
My husband, Steve, assisted me at breaking the urn (a sacrifice I had to make). I thought banging the urn with a hammer would do the trick but he had to get a chisel and hammer to do break the urn pot.
After we managed to get it out, separate the side babies, and all of that – I managed to get it into a new blue plastic pot without stabbing myself anywhere (including my arm pits).
It sat outside all summer and was moved into the greenhouse before fall time.
This has always been my typical routine, actually for many years, I just moved it into my bedroom because the slider doors are right there – and this plant is big and heavy!
But last year, I thought, time for you to join the others for winter in the greenhouse.
Now fast forward to yesterday, early April.
To see the ants trailing on it was disappointing because of all the work we did last summer.
But, I thought, I want to see if these ants have an ant farm in the soil. They did not, by the way, from what I could see when I took it apart.
Photo in the greenhouse last fall
Moving it outside when discovering the ants
Because it was a decent day, finally now in spring, I moved it out. Lugging it was not easy.
At first I thought, let me flush it with water. I’ve read also the pot may be inserted into a bucket of water with soapy solution to kill the ants, but you can imagine with the size of this beast, I did not do that.
I figured that flushing it with water from the garden hose may help, but I still saw ants a bit later rushing around confused, as I let it sit it out for a couple hours.
I thought, gosh, I will have to take this darn thing out and re-pot it if I want to avoid having these ants in the greenhouse. I forced myself to do this process.
I also had to clean my seedling heating mat, move all my seedlings aside for the moment, inspect the shelves, and clean that as well, then move the seedlings back.
Upside down root ball of the Agave
Now here is the good news. I discovered the agave grew roots all the way to the base of that blue pot from the time I had re-potted it last summer (end of summer) to now.
Wow, the roots are healthy and really down to the bottom, as shown in the photo above of the upside down root ball.
The bad news was I had to break some of those roots to get the darn agave out. What a bummer after all that re-potting work accomplished before.
More bad news – and this is really bad, because of how many times I have said to be sure you make sufficient drainage holes in your pots. I discovered my blue pot did not have sufficient drain holes.
I had only drilled 2 big drain holes in the center and some around the perimeter but those are way too small of a hole size, thus, the water collected at the base of this pot, and there was a lot of moisture held down there in the pot. I think this is why the ants found it.
I think because I was tired from a busy season on that day of doing the summer work on the plant and pots, I probably got lazy and didn’t drill enough holes. I remember I had to get that plant re-potted and forced myself to get the job done before summer was over.
New temporary pot for now
Here it is in a new pot – a galvanized bucket with sufficient drain holes in the base, that I had on hand.
The white powdery stuff you see on there is diatomaceous earth. I dusted the top of the soil with it and some fell on the bottom of the leaves.
I am not going to water this plant for a while so there is no issue right now with the dust getting wet. It should kill any remaining ants still trying to locate their trail of buddies.
Before putting it in the pot – I hosed the plant off really well and allowed it to air dry
It is the first time I’ve used this dust product this way, and I heard through a friend this worked for her when she had issues with ants in her pots.
As far as I know, the dust will not harm the plant. It is not poisonous but caution must be used when handling.
I wore my bandanna scarf over my mouth and had my sunglasses covering my eye glasses, and wore gloves both for the dust and to avoid the spines pricking my hands.
I’ve also read this product is helpful for fungus gnats; which is why I had it on hand. I was in the midst of researching it and grabbed a bag of the dust power of it a few weeks ago, the type made for horticulture use, so I was lucky I had it on hand in my garage.
Last year – before re-potting – Love this!
By the way, last year, when walking by my agave, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
A tree frog! It had been hanging out on it. A good memory, for sure.
I posted lots of photos of my agave on SmugMug recently.
Agave – Other Facts:
I believe this one is Kissho Kan. Actually, I’m 99% it is – I had bought a tray of them one year, many years ago, to sell at a plant and art show. I kept one for myself, of course.
Division is best from spring to summer, which I did, of the offsets, as shown on the urn photos above. The underground stems or stolons are where the off-sets are produced.
Agaves tolerate a minimum temp of 41-50 degrees F, which is why they do just fine in my low-temp greenhouse over the winter.
Most agave species die after flowering. They are monocarpic. If I ever see it push out a flower stalk, I’ll be posting many photos of that. And probably hold a ceremony. LOL.
The common name of agave is century plant. They are slow-growing plants hardy in zones 9-11 but for our zone 6, they must be overwintered inside the home or greehouse before fall arrives.
They prefer full sun and well-drained soils. I added some perlite to the new soil mix after the ant incident to increase the porosity of the soil.
They really don’t need much fertilizer, which I did not provide much to this plant over the course of 8 years, and look at it – it is a monster. But I do follow the other 5 Must Do’s, except as noted, goofed on the last re-potting of the drain holes.
The soil in the pot should be allowed to dry out between waterings. And in the winter, keep it dry, which I did but I happened to be hose happy due to spring arriving and started to give it water recently – thus the soil was moist for the ants.
They do well as houseplants, which I can attest to, since it was in my bedroom over most winters over the years, which the slider door faces south so it received enough light.
Over all, they are easy care plants, minus when you have to re-pot them or they get ants – which I hope doesn’t happen to your’s or happen again here.
P.S. If you are in search of seeds during this COVID-19 time, I have seeds in stock for sale. Details are on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. They are mailed upon ordering. Mostly tomato, hot peppers, parsley, basil, lettuce, and some misc other types.