This will be a quick post. I am trying to document how I overwinter various plants from the outdoors to the indoors in my area of Connecticut as I work on them. This week we are having gorgeous weather, thus I am getting a head start on my plants at home because I will be busy the rest of the month working on clients’ plants.
These plants are considered succulent perennials hardy in zones 9-11, some maybe hardy in zones 7-6, but in my case, I treat them as non-hardy plants and move them into a lower temperature greenhouse for the winter. The greenhouse is not heated right now because it is still warm enough outside, but by mid-October, we could get frosts and my agaves should not be subjected to any frosts.
During the summer, my agave plants are in full sun locations on my outdoor deck in individual pots. Some are super heavy and require a hand-truck to move them to my greenhouse, while others I can manage to lift and carry in my arms in the pot, although it requires a bit of muscle power to do so.
I usually allow the soil to dry in the pot as much as possible but we had so much rain and moisture this year, some of them are still holding damp to moist soils. However, it is best to move them indoors when the soil is dry if possible.
Over the winter, I suggest you do not water them at all and allow them to stay on the dry side. If the soil stays wet and you move them indoors, they may get root rot (especially if you are moving them into a house with air conditioning still on and in a non sunny situation).
Let the soil dry out as much as possible before you decide to move in your agave plant. As noted above, wet soggy soils only invites problems (i.e., root rot, insects that like moisture, and fungus sometimes)
Inspect the plant for insects. Use the methods below to blow away any insects, debris, etc.
Lift to inspect roots if possible (optional)
Wash the outside of the pot with mild soapy dish water if possible
Usually my agaves do not have any insect issues on the succulent foliage. You may find a spider in there (a good one), a cricket hiding between the foliage, maybe even a tree frog sitting on the plant! They seem to like one of my bigger agaves. I find one or two tree frogs every year hanging on them earlier in the season. Before moving them inside, check them over for any potential insects or debris (like fallen tree leaves or twigs, etc.). Ways you can handle the inspection are by:
Using a leaf blower to blow anything off of it. Using a hose with a harsh spray to blast the leaves with water to dislodge any debris. Use a little brush to brush away items caught between the leaves.
Lift from pot to look at roots – optional and if possible
This agave is in a plastic pot inserted within a glazed pottery pot. I decided to lift the plant out and inspect under. Yes, the soil is still moist, but otherwise, the roots look fine. When I lifted it up, a tiny cricket insect jumped out – so it is helpful to check and get all those little hiding bugs a chance to get out before they move into your home or greenhouse.
You can see here the plant is pushing out a side shoot (pup) which will eventually form another baby agave. Overall, the roots look fine, but the soil is staying so wet, I decided not to reinsert the plastic pot into the glazed pottery pot when I moved it into the greenhouse. This will allow the air to help dry out the situation. Also, right now, the greenhouse is nice and sunny and warm. It will help to dry out the soil.
Overall this agave showed no major concerns. It is now safe in my sunny greenhouse to await the cooler days of fall and then eventually winter where it will be protected until next year. I have written about overwintering agave plants before. To locate the posts, type the word ‘Agave’ in the search box on this site.
Thank you for visiting. Let me know if you have any questions.
This morning, I noticed a question pop up on one of my plant posts asking when I move my tropical plants indoors? And when do I start to store my Canna Lily rhizomes?
I have written a few times about my overwintering plants processes on this blog website.
To search for the posts, use the “red box” on the right side of the blog site, under the banner picture on top, to enter search words such as:
Overwintering Overwintering Plants Canna Lily Ensete Red Banana Plant Bringing Plants Indoors 3 Signs it is Time to Move your Plants in Elephant Ears Colocasia Alocasia
Typing any of those key words should lead you to some of my past blog articles about my process.
Basically, tomorrow is the first day of September, and we still have plenty of time to enjoy our gorgeous plants outdoors on our patios, decks, and special places. I usually start to consider doing some of my outdoor work to move plants indoors around September 15th (for houseplants primarily).
If you have a busy schedule like mine in fall, or you wish to get a head start on your outdoor patios, you could potentially start moving in plants by mid-September. Some of these tips are outlined in the articles on my blog, as noted above. However, many plants may wait until early October. It depends on the type, the temps, and the condition of the plants. I basically have these types: succulents, agaves, canna lily, elephant ears, mandevilla, herbs, cacti, jades, houseplants, red banana plants, castor beans, and…, did I miss any?
I think, in my area of Connecticut (Zone 6), I usually begin around September 15th. I may start to harvest seeds which are ready (ripe) on some of my tropical plants, such as my Canna Lily plants. Look for dry papery pods on the plants and find the round hard seeds within them. Store them appropriately in cool dark places. I use old prescription pill bottles to store my harvested seeds.
I may start to inspect some of my outdoor houseplants (ZZ Plant, Jades, Mother In Law tongue plants, etc.) and spray them for insects (if needed) and/or wash the outside of the patio pots with dish soap water before I move them inside my house, one by one, over time. I usually like to move plants inside the home when the soil has had a chance to dry out too. I do not like moving them in when the soil is soaking wet – that only invites insects and other problems due to the lack of air circulation in the home compared to outdoors, and perhaps you have cool temps in your home due to air conditioning running. The soil may remain too wet indoors if the soil is soaked when you move them into a home.
Your herbs may be booming still, or perhaps they look ratty tatty and it is time to harvest the last of them. It is really dependent upon the conditions at your home and the exposure they get. My herbs are little on the sad side, but I’m gathering them up as much as I can when I cook each dinner every evening. They will stay a while longer on my deck. I could let them just go to blah, and throw the whole root ball out with plants later. No rush on the herbs right now. Again, all of my plants are in patio pots and large container gardens. They are not in the earth (gardens of the ground), so this process is plants in pots.
And my hot peppers are booming at this time (8/31/2021), so I take those in and freeze some or use them up in salsa’s, tomato sauces, etc. Yesterday, my husband accidentally chopped up one of my ripened to orange colored Jalapeños in his work salad. Good thing he can take hot spicy food! Our tomatoes are fading now and I probably will start cleaning up those big pots to get a head-start on my outdoor deck work.
I usually like to start moving my succulents into my greenhouse before any cold snaps and extremely wet conditions. This could start anywhere from 9/25 on. Last year, we actually had a firm hard frost on Halloween weekend, but we also got some quick cold frosty like temps over night before Halloween, on certain nights towards the end of October, before Halloween. I do not like my succulents to be soaking wet and cold before moving them in. Again, for the reasons noted above. Same with my agaves. The thing is with global warming and all our weather changes, it seems to be slightly different every year. I think frosts came earlier the year before.
Many large and showy tropical plants (like my Ensete, canna lily, and elephant ears) may be touched by frost on the foliage “if you are storing the underground tubers, rhizomes, corms” or whatever you want to call the underground storage organ from these plants.” But some of the work is just easier if done before frosts because the soil is not cold yet, and damp. I usually leave my showy tropical plants out in my big patio pots till early October. However, this year, I plan to be out of town the last week of September, which really makes me have to think ahead. Anyhow, they are fine to stay out if you want to do so. Or fine to start earlier towards end of September or early October to get a head start. If you don’t need a head start, just watch the weather for frosts in October. Also, if you are moving the whole plant intact, not cutting it down, leaving it in the pot – you must move it in before frost for any tropical plants like the canna lily, elephant ears, mandevillas, and banana plants, etc.
Another thing I might do early is start taking some cuttings of various succulent plants to propagate. It can take a long time to get those started, so I may take some healthy cuttings now. I inspect them for any insects first, make sure it is a healthy plant to propagate from, and follow my usual process for that at this time of year as well. I do not use damaged or unhealthy plants for any cuttings I may take. It just invites problems.
And lastly, I still have not cleaned all my spring and summer empty stock piled nursery pots! ACK! I started it a month or so ago and have some cleaned and piled nicely organized in my greenhouse – but the darn humidity really got to me this year. I just lost my motivation to tackle the rest of big pile of pots I need to clean and store for reuse every season. I still have to work on that. I try to do that now because it is more work for me in the spring when I start all over again.
So anyhow, one last big tip – always note on your wall calendar when your area of CT received light frosts and the hard frost of autumn so that the following season, you may recall when you did what. Watch the weather and think ahead so you are not caught rushing. And refer to this blog site for prior tips. I’ve posted for many years my processes and have shown videos too. You may find some of my prior videos of when I took down some of my big tropical plants on my Facebook page under Container Crazy CT.
Thank you for visiting my plant blog again!
Cathy Testa 860-977-9473 Located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT Dated: 8/30/2021 Weather today: Cloudy, 66 degrees F at 7:32 am, into the 80’s today. Observation: Hummingbirds are visiting my feeders a great deal this week, and some bees too. Wed-Thursday: Lots of rain (A-GAIN!!) Rest of month: 75 days, 57 nights (per my weather app) In Bloom: My canna lilies, my mandevillas – they look amazing and still showy! Looking large and lush: My Alocasias and My Ensete – huge leaves right now. Pods on my Datura, Canna Lily for some, and Castor Bean plants (starting not ripe yet)
I picked up my bags of potting mix soil early this year. It felt even a bit crazy, to be driving to go get them, when there were very cold temps outdoors that day, yet, it was a very sunny winter day and I was enjoying that part of it. But I did pause to think, “Am I getting these too early?”
Last year, I used more bags of potting mix than I expected, and I am constantly potting up plants, moving succulent babies into small pots, repotting larger plants, then comes seed starting soon where both my potting mix and seedling mix is used in trays. I also use some in my container installs later in the season, and it is kind of endless. I even repot houseplants for people from time to time. So, I need potting mix, and lots of it.
One thing I have noticed a lot lately, on various Facebook group pages related to gardening, plants, and interior houseplants, is the constant frustrations by people, some are newbies, some are not, on how they get fungus gnats in their houseplant pots inside their home. Everyone suggests a remedy they have tried from putting cinnamon on the soil to using hydrogen peroxide, misquote bits, and other home remedies. Whatever their remedy is, there is a growing (no pun intended) frustration with issues such as fungus gnats in the pots of plants and it has to be difficult for people to accept, especially when it gets out of control. They want to succeed and keep their plants healthy, but they encounter something like this and it drives them nuts.
No growing mixes are immune to fungus gnat infestation, but fungus gnat numbers can vary among growing mixes. Adults are strongly attracted to microbial activity in soil/media. For fungus gnat management, avoid immature composts (<1yr old), including composted pine bark mix. Mixes with any compost are usually more attractive to fungus gnats than pure sphagnum peat. Good sanitation is vital.
Fungus Gnat Biology and Control J.P. Sanderson
I thought this statement above from the Cornell fact sheet by J.P. Sanderson was key, especially when he wrote, “no growing mixes are immune to fungus gnat infestation” and also the part about mixes with compost are usually more attractive to fungus gnats. In other words, to me anyhow, the more sterile and clean the mix, the less likely you will get the dreaded FGs (fungus gnats) in the potting mix when the conditions are right for them to start up in the pot (such as moisture and temperature).
Many times, on these gardening Facebook pages, people will say, “I use those yellow sticky tapes” to get rid of them, but in my opinion, those do not get rid of them – they MONITOR them. As noted above, these are useful to keep track of the amount of a FG infestation you may have and they also should be placed relatively close to the plant’s surface area. If you have a yellow sticky cards filled with them and you see FGs flying all around your kitchen, you definitely have a major problem. Usually the best place to start is thinking about the potting soil mix you used in the first place, and also your habits on how often and much you water your plants in pots inside the home.
“However, the primary reason why fungus gnats are abundant in homes is related to changes in moisture levels associated with the growing media of houseplants. Fungus gnat adults are highly attracted to moist growing media. Furthermore, as the growing medium ages or degrades it tends to retain more moisture, which will also attract fungus gnat adults. In addition, decreased day length and cooler temperatures slow plant growth and water usage. If watering practices are not altered….
But one reason I pulled this quote from the article above (in the black box) is because I feel I see more of the FG problem in the winter as well. As they are pointing out, three things occur: the FGs like moisture and they note growing medium (potting mixes) sometimes hold onto too much moisture (meaning if in a pot for years and it doesn’t drain well for whatever reason), and lastly, plants tend to slow down growth in the winter months inside the home, so less moisture is being used up by the plants now in the winter months (so it stays too damp and maybe even too cold).
Another article noted that people notice FGs more so in the winter because they are inside with their plants, versus the plants perhaps being located outside during the summer, or you are outside more in the summers than winter. Houseplants in particular grow slowly and roots may not take up as much moisture such as a big tropical plant would in the summer outdoors. You get the idea. But they are pointing out, you may just notice them more in the winter months than summer.
Whatever the reason, these FGs are a real PIA to people. And they ain’t pretty either when you get into sowing seeds in a few months for your warm season vegetables, such as tomatoes, in your seedling trays. So, it is critical you pick the correct seedling mix in the first place. And have the right temperature, environment, clean pots, and good potting or seedling mix, in this case when you start your seeds. Perhaps correct is not the right wording, you want quality seedling mix.
Usually my number one rule, when you go to buy potting mix or seedling mix, is to be sure you are purchasing fresh mix that is in good standing condition in the bag. If the bag is a mess, at whatever location you are getting them from, I’d stay away. I’ve talked about this in the following post:
When I see people upset that they can’t get rid of the FGs in their planted house plants in pots (from these posts I’ve been reading), and they feel they’ve done everything right, such as let the soil dry out on the top (since the FGs prefer moisture), they bought reputable potting mix from a reputable place, they keep their pots and areas clean, their pots have drain holes, they been careful with watering, and they are truly trying to be the best plant parent they can be, I feel their pain. Why, oh why, can’t we count on potting mixes in the retail market place to be problem-free?!
I remember once telling a guy at a garden show years ago that when I get my greenhouse I’m going to keep it super clean, and he laughed and said, bio-diversity is just as important. True I’ve learned, and no matter how clean, you just can’t sometimes prevent nature from stepping in. That is true.
And I agree with the above article too, if the soil is too damp, AND cold, and in winter, I think there is more of an issue with FGs (fungus gnats) appearing. The best thing you can do is ACT on it immediately when you see the little buggers flying around your potted plant.
However, I do everything I can to start with good, quality potting mixes. And I see that question asked often on Facebook gardening like group pages, well, what is the BEST mix?
Oh boy, that one gets all kinds of responses. I know which I like and which I don’t. I don’t get any paid advertising on my (this) blog at all, so if I listed them, it would not be for the purposes of gaining that but I also sometimes don’t want to list them because they can seem like the best, and whack, you get FGs anyhow!
One year, I offered a Seed Starting Workshop and we decided to test various seedling mixes. Each attendee had 32 cell trays and we split up the rows by using a different seedling mix per row. We used some of my professional potting mix and other potting mixes on the market, and two different types of “seedling mixes”. One type of seedling mix, for some reason, completely failed. The seedlings in those rows were so tiny and did not grow much. All the other rows were just fine. All was sown at the same time and in the same growing conditions, and I was watering the seedlings after the class for a few weeks for the attendees. I was so excited that I even thought of testing out the various potting and seedling mixes in this experiment without knowing the results would show us a really good example of how you might think a mix is great (and I did think the brand and place I got from was reputable) but it failed. Why? Hmmm. One thing was that mix did have more heavy components (bark) even though it was listed as “seedling mix.” As per the note in the first listed article above where they said mixes with more compost are more attractive to FGs, so the mix was heavier and probably a bit more compost like. Where all the other mixes were primarily sphagnum peat moss and perlite.
I never went back to the retail store to say, hey, we used this mix – and it really didn’t work well compared to the others. But what would the store owner say? He’s probably think I was a nut job. Not knowing, I’m Cathy T. LOL.
For years, I’ve been saying, I’m going to write a full blog post about potting mixes and which are the best (in my opinion based on use). And make it very technical, but I still really haven’t done that. I always just repeat what I’ve always said, use a fresh bag of quality potting mix (or seedling mix if sowing seeds) and follow these watering instructions (provided with my kits or in my workshops, etc.) and all should be fine.
I think probably the most important thing is the potting or seedling mix needs to be fresh, sterile, and well-draining. Mixes with additional components are sometimes too heavy for container gardening, seed starting trays, and patio pots. It also greatly depends on what you are growing (seeds versus a perennial plant). Heavier potting mixes are needed for certain types of plants. But I’m generally referring to seedlings right now and smaller plants, or those in smaller pots, such as houseplants being a good example.
As you can see, it is a hard topic to narrow down.
Because I am vigilant at cleaning my greenhouse and keeping watch of my plants, and my pots, and picking up debris, using good potting or seedling mix to start with, I rarely have a potting mix issues or major fungus gnats. However, recently I had one big succulent plant in a single 6-7″ pot, and I saw them, saw those FGs flying around that particular plant, and I immediately put a yellow sticky pest trap card near the surface of the succulent plant on a little stake inserted into the pot, and yup, I knew right away that plant had an issue when I checked that card one or two days later. There were quite a few FG attached to it in places. I tried treating it, the soil, with various methods. Then I checked again, the problem was not going away. What did I do? I repotted the whole plant into new fresh potting mix and even a new fresh pot, and I’ll keep watching. I did it because I love that big succulent, and it was worth it to redo the potting of it, at least it was worth it to me. Plus I didn’t want it to spread to other plants.
Because this topic is big and is difficult to write about, I’m going to stop writing right here and continue more on this later. It is time for my second cup of coffee!
BTW, my seedling kits come with my professional well-draining fresh potting mix (the one I trust) and planting instructions, growing charts, when to sow timing, seedling trays and seeds! If you are local to my areas, check out my offerings on www.WORKSHOPSCT.com. I am offering free delivery to areas near me!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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,
email@example.com “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.