Moving Container Plants In

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For those of you who (or is it whom?) may be new visitors to my blog site, I thought I’d let you know that my recent posts are related to storing, overwintering, and moving container gardens and patio potted plants at my home from the outdoors to the indoors in preparation for autumn and winter.

I live in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor in Connecticut (Zone 6a/b). We usually get a light frost in early October and most of my plants in pots are not winter hardy in this area. Therefore, they must be overwintered before frost in order to save them to reuse next season. I have been sharing my methods of keeping these non-hardy, tender plants alive for years inside the home or in a greenhouse.

From the web: Covering most of the state is Zone 6, split into colder 6a and warmer 6b with average temperature minimums from -10 to -5 degrees and -5 to 0 degrees, respectively. Connecticut’s new zone, 7b with temperature minimums between 0 and 5 degrees, runs along the shoreline from New Haven westward to the New York state line.

I’m starting a bit earlier to move my plants in than is required (we have not hit any frosts yet here, which would kill my tender plants) but because I want to get a head-start on my container work, I am moving in some plants now during the mid-month of September.

For many years, most of my container plants were moved into my home for the fall and winter seasons, yet, I don’t have a big house. Eventually, I built a greenhouse and I keep it at a low temp in the winters (around 50-55 degrees F), and only some plants are able to tolerate lower temperatures and survive. It is very expensive to heat a greenhouse, so my most treasured prized babies (or I should say mamma plants) get moved in there for the winter season.

This past weekend, I moved the following plants in:

Agave ‘Kissho Kan’

The story behind this mamma, of about 20-22″ in diameter, is I acquired a few trays of them to sell at an event, of which I was part of putting together with a group of other women with their own small businesses, many years ago. I ended up keeping one of the plants and have owned this “mamma” for about 8 years. I’ve lost count. I’ve collected off sets from it before, and I keep the biggest two in my greenhouse in the winters.

Agave in the bedroom

For years, I put this agave in my bedroom by the glass window slider, which is at the southeast end of the house. It gets some light during the day but not full sun all day. It did fine there every winter, but I had to be mindful of those sharp spines at the ends of the leaves when I walked by it in the middle of the night. My brain would know to not bump into it even when I was half asleep.

Agaves can take lower temps and they will do well in a cool or warm room, as long as they get sufficient light during the winter months. I do not let my agaves be subject to frost outdoors, as most are not frost tolerant. It would ruin the plant, in my opinion.

In the case of my bedroom location, where it was put during winters for many years, it got just enough light to hang in there. Most agaves are hardy in zones 9-11, and we are zone 6. I’ve yet to meet one that would survive our winters outdoors, but if I find it, I will let you know. I believe there are some more winter hardy types out there, but I haven’t found or experienced those yet.

Anyhow, after years of taking care of this particular agave plant inside during the winters, I was finally able to utilize my greenhouse instead.

Moved into the greenhouse

For the past 3 or so years, it has been moved to my low-temp greenhouse during the winters. There it will receive plenty of light (when the sun is shining in the winter months as sometimes days are cloudy) which is better for the plant (the more light the better) but it is cooler than it was in my bedroom, of course. I keep the greenhouse temp to about 50-55 degrees F. As noted above, they are able to tolerate low winter temps if kept in a sunny location.

This mamma plant gave me plenty of off-sets over the years which will pop up around the mother rosette over time. I have never had a bad pest on any of my agave plants, except last year, I found an ant trail going to the soil of this plant when it was in the greenhouse in early spring, so I re-potted it before moving it outdoors. I wasn’t happy about having to do that because it was fully rooted in a new pot already from the prior season. Here is my blog posts on the ant incident and how I re-potted it prior and took off many off-set plants:

https://containercrazyct.com/2020/04/08/ants-on-my-agave/

Yesterday, I used the hand-truck (a handy garden tool for container gardeners) to move it to my greenhouse. Actually, my husband helped me. I told him, “Be careful to not damage the spines,” as I walked beside him. He has probably heard me say that every time we have moved that plant! LOL. After 30 years of marriage (side bar: our wedding anniversary is tomorrow), he just doesn’t respond back. He knows how an*l I can be about my plants, but he seems to cherish them almost as much as I do too.

I hosed it all off with a harsh spray of water and looked it over and watched to see if any ants would come out of the bottom of the pot. No signs of that – so I let it sit outside for the evening and will move it in, maybe later today. It could stay outside all the way up to “before” frost but I’m moving it in early.

You may be thinking, oh she has a greenhouse, but remember, I was able to keep this plant inside for years during the winter months – just be sure you give it as much light as possible, and remember to reduce watering greatly.

I barely water this agave in the winter months. You should keep the soil in the pot very dry during the winter months. In fact, I probably give it about a coffee cup size of water maybe once or twice the whole entire winter, if that. And it does just fine. After all chances of frost in the spring time, back outside she goes. One day, I would love to see this agave flower, but that takes years before it occurs.

Ficus elastica (Rubber Tree)

The story behind these tall beauties shown below is I acquired a tray (sounds familiar?) of them when I was offering a container garden workshop focused on houseplants one season.

These rubber tree plants are hardy in zones 8/9-11 but in my zone, are not and must be overwintered indoors. If I had a huge house, I would put these in a nice spot by a window as a houseplant candidate, but there is no room for that in my home. They have grown rather tall.

This plant surprised me. First, if you put it into a bigger pot, it just gets bigger. They grew several feet each year. The one on the left is 5 ft tall from the soil line to the top of the plant and the one on the right is 4 feet tall. I need to learn how to propagate these. I know there is a method to do so via “air layering.” I will have to give this a try in the spring time.

This rubber tree plant has darker foliage, I believe it was called ‘Ruby’ for its cultivar name, but now I don’t remember, and I don’t feel like digging out my log book this morning, but will do so later for my readers. Running out of time is why, so free flow typing this morning!

The large oval deep burgundy leaves on it are just gorgeous and when it pushes out new growth, there is bright red tip from the tip of the stems, which is just lovely. I had no idea, to be honest, what a wonderful container plant these make in the summer time. They like part shade to part sun but I’ve seen them do well in full sun situations also.

Because the red pots would be top heavy with a tall plant like these, I did put a generous amount of gravel in the base. It has sufficient drain holes, but the gravel makes it a heavy pot to move, thus, my hubby helped me with the hand-truck again. I am getting to that age, I need that help! Thank you hubby!

Anyhow, it is just gorgeous. I hosed it all down with a very strong spray of water, and I inspected all the leaves, before moving these two pots in. I found a little round cluster of white tiny insect eggs on one leaf. I pulled that leaf off with a tug. (Note: Ficus trees release a white sap when you do this, pull a leaf off or nick the plant, so I just let it (the sap) run out and it is fine. It will make your hands sticky if you touch it and some people may be allergic to the white sap.)

Then, as a precaution, I decided to spray it with NEEM horticulture oil. Ficus trees can be prone to scale insects, so I thought, I will do this. The NEEM oil, by the way, makes the leaves all nice and shiny. I sprayed it till it runs off a bit and let it air dry before dragging these into the greenhouse. But as a whole, there were no signs of plant damage from insects or critters. The foliage on this plant is big and bold, and I love that, and now the plants are big and bold as well. I can only imagine what they will look like next season outdoors again.

Mangave

I was superbly thrilled when I spotted two Mangave plants at a nursery because I wanted a show-stopper plant for my client’s site. And this is a new hybrid on the scene. It was expensive, but I grabbed the only two available.

Unfortunately, one of them, after being planted at the client site was suffering. I remembered the soil in the nursery pot being extremely wet when I potted into their container gardens, and even smelled rot, and thought, the nursery was possibly over-watering them. However, I thought, well, it is hot and sunny here, it should be fine. Turned out it was not.

When the plant showed issues later, I pulled it out and found round types of worms in the soil. They were probably eating the roots. I took it back home and put it into my tender care area, and it took a long time, but I revived it. It actually got moved into different areas, as I tested out its responses to more sun, less sun, and of course it was re-potted into fresh soil.

This plant is very sensitive to breakage when moved. The tips break or snap very easily if bumped into, so it was tricky moving it but we did so. This plant is new to me, and it will be the first year I test it out in the greenhouse during the winter. It has a rubbery feel to its leaves. It is a cross between agave and Manfreda. The cool spotted patterns on the leaves are from the Manfreda side of the plant. It is interesting and a new find, so I’m liking the whole process of testing it out in containers and will see how it does this winter.

I will treat it in the same manner I treated my treasured mamma agave noted above, such as no watering in winter, etc. I have an article about the person who hybridized this new interesting plant, but I would have to dig that out to add more here, maybe later, as I know I can’t be blogging all morning. I have work to do today. Plus, my computer crashed on me while typing earlier, so now I’m even more far behind.

Carissa shrub

The story about this plant, which is also one I was unfamiliar with, is one I found while in Maine two seasons ago when helping my older sister move into her new home. She had work work to do during the day, so one day, I ventured off in search of nurseries in her area of Maine. I remember, I drove a lot. I found a cool nursery and saw this shrub. I thought it was so pretty so I grabbed one.

It has super deep shiny green foliage and it produces white starred flowers from time to time. It has had no problems in the same pot, and I move it into the greenhouse for the winter months before frost. The only little downside is during the winter, it will drop leaves and it makes a mess, but each spring, I put it out on the outdoor deck and it turns beautiful again, deepening in a rich green color. People will ask me what it is as they admire the beautiful green richness to it and plus it is not common in our area. It is not hardy in CT but it is a keeper.

I also inspected this plant before hosing it down with water to wash away any dust or whatever, I also sprayed it with NEEM horticulture oil as a precaution, and top dressed the soil in the pot with fresh potting mix. The roots are starting to come out of the drain holes so it is ready for re-potting which I will do at a some point. During the winters, I water it lightly from time to time, mostly because it has outgrown its pot and isn’t holding on to moisture well.

So far, I’ve been focused on moving in agaves, succulents, cacti, non-hardy shrubs, and I still have more to do, of course. My Canna Lily, Elephant Ears, Banana Plants, will not be worked on until probably later this month. They may stay outdoors here until frost or after getting hit by frost, if you are planning to store the tubers, bulbs, rhizomes, only (the underground bulb like structures). If you want to keep the whole plant in tact, they should be moved before they get hit by frost. Keep your eye on the temperatures.

As I look at my weather app, I see temps from 48 to 39 (Sunday), so we are still safe, but it is always a good practice to watch the weather people on tv on the news. They will give us a heads-up when the temps will drop lower.

I also will be showing how I move in my Mandevilla plants. I am reluctant to do them yet cause they are so full and lovely, filled with flowers right now, but I also have to budget my time and do it before it becomes a rush.

I hope this information is useful. If you have questions, please feel free to comment or email me. And I apologize of any typo’s or grammatical errors, but I have to go, I don’t have time to edit. Time to get back outside working on my plants and saving them as best as possible.

Thank you,

Cathy Testa
Owner of Container Crazy CT
Designer of Container Gardens
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com
http://www.WORKSHOPSCT.com
http://www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com

I am not offering my workshops on Succulent Topped Pumpkins this year due to Covid, but I will have new succulent stock by end of September for Custom Orders and some succulents for sale. Stay Tuned! Thank you. Cathy T.

Overwintering Red Banana Plants – Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelii’

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Hello Visitors,

Every year, several tropical plants from my container gardens and patio pots are overwintered. In this post, you will see how I helped a client, Laurie, who attended my May container garden workshops, dismantle her pots in September. She did an amazing job with watering and care all summer. Her plants grew very large and were extremely healthy, and now she knows how to store the root bases to attempt regrowing them next season. By the way, she wanted to dismantle her pots early because she was ready for the fall season and putting out mums on her deck. This process can be done much later however (end of October or early November) depending on how you wish to overwinter the plant.

A Client's Container Garden with Red Banana plant as a thriller

A Client’s Container Garden with Red Banana plant as a thriller

As you can see, her red banana plant in this pot grew quite large. It started as a small plant in May. This is a plant for planting zones 9-10 so it is not hardy in Connecticut but it is a great specimen to grow in pots – it grows large fast and the root base can be stored over the winter.

Take note the other plant on its left side is an Asclepias (Butterfly Weed) and during the summer it bloomed orange red flowers next to the rich red coloring of the big banana plant. The height of the butterfly weed worked well next to this very big red banana plant.

By this time in September, the Asclepias formed seed pods. The blooms on this plant are a major source of food for Monarchs.

Cathy T uses a bow saw to say "Timber!"

Cathy T uses a bow saw to say “Timber!”

You will see how I used a bow saw to cut off the top of the plant. It’s pretty straight forward, make a clean cut, do it about 15″ from the base, and let it fall. The hard part is making the cut because the plant is so beautiful. A bow saw works terrific for this – it slices thru just like you would a giant stalk of celery which is how this plant grows, pushing through new shoots/stalks of leaves from its center. Don’t cut it down too low – this can damage that growing center. Some people will make the cut even higher, more on that in the Oct 17th demo (see info below).

Top Removed

Top Removed

Even though I am smiling for the photo, my client was not. She cringed. I asked if she was okay and she said it is so hard to see it taken down. I don’t blame her. She did a great job of watering and watching her plants.

Red banana root base

Red banana root base

Can you guess what this is? It is the root base of the red banana plant. It was a bit of a job to get it out of the soil but after we did, we put it upside down to allow excess water to drain from it. The water collects in the center, and this root base is quite fleshy too. You want to air dry it a bit (few hours or 1/2 a day) to get a lot of this moisture drained out – but you do not want it bone dry either. Then it gets stored in peat in a box. More on that to be shown later.

ContainerGardenTakeDown_0038

Laying down a tarp or old blanket is a good idea when you do your work of dismantling your container gardens because there will be a lot of foliage to take away to your compost bin.

Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet)

Next was the Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) which is another beautiful, fast growing, showy tropical plant with 6-10″ gorgeous trumpet shaped flowers, also hardy to zones 9-11. It must be dealt with “before frost” in the fall. However, as noted above, the red banana plant may be left out until frost hits it if you store it as shown above.

Brugmansia with Coleus

Brugmansia with Coleus

This picture doesn’t do it justice. For a first time container gardener, my client did an amazing job with this plant too. She and her husband enjoyed the highly scented pink trumpet shaped flowers in the evening. You have a few choices with this plant in regards to overwintering it in Connecticut. You may take it inside (if you have space) and treat it as a houseplant. Or you may store it in your unheated basement that remains cold but not below freezing. It will drop leaves and look unsightly, but rest assured, when you take it back out next season, it will boom again. You may also cut back this plant hard too if you wish to reduce it in size for space considerations. However, if you leave it tall, you have the added bonus of it being much taller next season. We decided to cut Laurie’s back a bit.

Brugmansia trimmed back with loppers

Brugmansia trimmed back with loppers

Brugmansia (Angel’s Trumpet) is a plant which can grow to the size of a small tree in the right conditions in the ground. It will bloom all the way into November if you wish to keep it going. It will grow a bit smaller in containers, or a big bigger in really big pots. It’s a keeper on my plant list.

Canna on deck

Canna on deck

Next was the beautiful pot of two Canna plants on her mini deck. Her husband graciously carried the pot to a better working location for us after we cut back all the stalks. Again, Laurie whimpered as we did so. The next photo shows what the pot looked like after all was cut off.

Canna with tops off

Canna with tops off

Her blooms were rising so high which is something Laurie commented about as we worked. She was impressed, and did see hummingbirds visiting the blooms this summer. And again, the plants were stunning. It was sad to see them go but the plus side is after storing the rhizomes, they will be ready to be regrown next season.

Rhizomes removed from Canna pot

Rhizomes removed from Canna pot

Here’s a test for you? How many rhizomes do you see above?

I count 17 at least – this means she now has 17 new plants from one potting!

Private Sessions

It took some time to dismantle three large container gardens but we enjoyed every minute. This service of showing you how the process is done and working with you is available up until our frost date, so if you wish to hire me for a private take down session, send me an email soon at containercathy@gmail.com or fill out the contact form below (private sessions are $25 and held at your home).

Castor Bean at End of My Driveway

Castor Bean at End of My Driveway

To close today’s post on overwintering plants from container gardens and patio pots, I’m sharing a photo of my castor bean plant at the end of my driveway (noted in yesterday’s post). It is Giant Zanzibariensis and provides quite a show – it grew to a monster size. The seeds are collected as a way to regrow it next season. More on that later.

And lastly, I wanted to share a photo of my Crocosmia since I referenced it yesterday and planted it into the ground this week from my blue pot. The best thing about this plant is how the hummingbirds visited it often. They loved the red blooms and would chirp away. It was replanted in a very large container which is almost the size of a smaller garden bed for next year’s enjoyment – so this year on the deck, next year in the garden – recycling the good way.

Crocosmia

Crocosmia

Overwintering Demo

On October 17th, Saturday at 10:30 am, the overwintering process will be demonstrated. If interested in attending, see the links on this blog under the “Nature with Art Programs.”

Workshops and Classes

Every season, Container Crazy CT offers workshops and classes. Some are plant related, some are arts related. This spring, we had a wonderful windchime making class. This May was repeated Container Garden Workshops. And every winter is the annual Holiday Kissing Ball and Evergreen Creations workshop where you may learn how to make them with fresh evergreens! Don’t miss out – we are always adding programs.

Red banana plant in my backyard

Red banana plant in my backyard

Cathy Testa
http://www.containercrazyct.com
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

About this blog:

Container Crazy CT is about sharing the passion of growing plants in container gardens and about combining nature with art. Cathy Testa offers classes and workshops and regularly shares information about growing plants in pots. She is located in the Broad Brook section of East Windsor, CT. To learn more, click the tabs on the top of this blog site. Cathy Testa also speaks at garden clubs, women’s groups, farmers markets, and special events. See Garden Talks above if interested in having her speak to your group.