Will We Be Short on Potting Mixes again This Year?

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Cathy Testa of Container (Garden) Crazy CT (Photo in my greenhouse by JMS Art & Photo)

Potting Mix is probably one of the most important aspects of success for growing healthy plants in patio pots. It must be a quality product. If the bag of soilless mix is damaged, not a good brand, or these days, possibly unavailable, you are in trouble.

Every single product or tool we use to grow plants (pots, trays, fertilizer, seeds, soilless mixes and specialty media, labels, etc.) has increased in prices and there are continued delays in the supply chain. This will affect all of us this year again potentially, however, it won’t stop us (because we love plants, or course! But I see it coming and if you haven’t noticed these issues, you will.)

I usually don’t make my own potting mixes for my container gardens, seedlings, or starter plants, but this year, I am highly considering it. In fact, I just read an article here, where they share a downloadable PDF file of how to make your own potting mixes. BTW, I trust sources from universities or extension services the most. By making your own mix, you are in complete control of each component. I’m guessing it may be cheaper but I am not sure until I compare apples to apples, so to speak. However, there is such an ease with opening a reliable trusted brand of professional potting mixes, if they are available and fresh.

Photo in Cathy T’s Greenhouse – Yes, that’s my hand in the mix!

Traditional pre-made potting mixes contain perlite and/or vermiculite, and peat. Good mixes are light-weight, have good water holding capacity, and mixes vary based on the specific growing needs (seeds, transplanting, bedding plants, plugs, potting up, etc.). Some mixes will have things like beneficial mycorrhizal (or biofungicides to prevent root diseases). Some will contain alternatives to peat, such as coir. Some have organic fertilizer added, and some don’t. Some mixes are pH adjusted and contain starter nutrients. This list goes on and on, and it all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? That is if you can find it and trust it.

Photo from Cathy T’s Greenhouse

After using various bagged potting and soilless container mixes for ten years, I am able to tell when a mix is healthy the minute I opened the bag. I’ve talked about what to look out for when you buy potting mix for your container gardens, patio pots, and planters here on my blog. I still need to update that article I wrote, called “The 5 Must-Do’s for Successful Container Gardening” which I wrote a long time ago and did a brief update to it in 2019. But it still needs lots of work. Potting mixes is a big topic. I just haven’t had the time to really dive into a more extensive version of that article.

Now here we are in 2022. And I’m frustrated with the potting mix scene. I’m not alone. Lots of plant related Facebook groups have questions on potting mixes. People are frustrated because they get issues in or from the mixes (i.e., fungus gnats), and they just want good results, and so do I. They fear using the wrong type or brand, and even I have from time to time. Why? Because lately some results from “some” mixes let me down, and now with supply-chain issues, I wonder how this will impact availability and quality of mixes in 2022.

Pouring Potting Mix into a Bubble Bowl Terrarium – Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

Potting mixes are like a good foundation to building a house. And we all know what happened when one ingredient in concrete for home foundations became a huge issue, where houses had to be lifted and new foundation poured because house foundations were cracking and deteriorating. Well, I kind of feel this way about potting mixes. Potting mixes are the foundation to starting seeds, potting up your indoor houseplants, and building up soil mixes in your outdoor container gardens and patio pots, along with other components as needed. If one thing is wrong with them, it may lead to issues (e.g., poor drainage, insects harboring, or no moisture holding capacity). And there are many sources of potting mix brands out in the market, and it is growing, as defined in this link based on recent market analysis. The affects of COVID have impacted production and demand. It makes me wonder, what will roll out of those long awaited semi-loaded trucks, when they do arrive.

Castor Bean Seed Coming Up in Healthy Mix

For years, I had no issues acquiring the potting soilless mixes I needed, but the past couple years, eh, I’ve encountered some issues. And this year, because of all the things still impacting our supply chains overall, well, there are now potential issues with availability. This is my prediction, but we will see. I did receive a comment that orders were all back ordered a few months ago but the bottom line is lately we just can not predict what will happen next. So, my overall thought is, will potting mixes be in short-supply this year? And how will you or I manage that if so? What adjustments will need to be made? And also, remember, being flexible in the growing scene is key. I struggle with this because I want to be in control, but I’ve learned over the years, you must be flexible and strong! LOL. Because growing plants is a science and an art, and a bit of a guessing game sometimes too.

Cathy Testa
Container Gardening
containercathy at gmail.com
Zone 6b

A Cottage Country Garden in Containers

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A mix of elegant pastel colored blooms and pops of bright vivid flower colors offers the feel of a cottage style country garden in several container garden planters.

Container Gardens by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

When I look at this photo above of several planters I designed and assembled for a customer a couple years ago, I think it feels like a cottage country garden. There is a wonderful mix of pastel bloom colors and splashes of deep reds and bright cheerful yellows to capture attention. I could envision butterflies and bees visiting the blooms all summer long.

Yellow Zinnias, Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ Fountain Grass, Plectranthus, Portulaca, Canna Lily, and Vinca

The Plectranthus (plant with white edges on leaves) is a heat lover and cascades over the rim of the pot (spiller) creating a bit of softness. And the Pennisetum grass in the back adds that bit of wispy texture and a dark contrasting color. There is a Canna Lily off-center which would grow tall and have yellow blooms and the Zinnias with big chunky bright yellow flower heads gave structure to this pot, but there were 7 more pots to complement these plants.

Placed in the customer’s front Landscape Beds

The planters were placed in a south facing landscape bed which receives full sun most of the day starting probably around noon time. The idea was all of the pots would be placed in various locations in the front of the customer’s home, of which are visible from the street and also from inside the home from a large picture window. The goal was blooms and color.

Bright Yellow Zinnias popping against the darker tones of the Canna Lily plant and the Pennisetum grass.

I used yellow blooming Zinnia plants in some pots and pink blooming Zinnias in others. The Zinnias provided the big pops of color I was looking for and the plants grown locally were extremely healthy, plus many people adore Zinnias because they are a traditional charming blooming summer plants. When I picked them up, I knew the customer would love them. On the back side of the planter, tucked in were little red blooming Vinca plants to echo the tones of the darker tones of the foliage of the Canna Lily and the ornamental grass. Always looking to repeat colors and provide contrast is key (dark colors against lighter colors).

Pink Zinnias, Purple Million Bells Calibrachoa, and Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ – By Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

The hot pink blooming Zinnias were irresistible as well. There were lots of closed buds on the plants which is awesome, more flowers to come all summer long. Also, the Zinnia flowers were really big and full plus the foliage looked fantastic. I added some purple Calibrachoa, and I had to add one of my favorite foliage fillers, Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’. Alternanthera plants prefers full sun to part sun and are easy-care plants. I’ve used the cultivar, ‘Plum Dandy’ before, a few times, in various container gardens at my own home and other sites, and I feel it is a nice staple foliage filler with a darker tone. The tone, a deep rich purple-like color, worked well with the pinks in these planters.

Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ with Pink Zinnia Flowers

The purple foliage of Alternanthera is alluring to me. I love how rich and solid it looks. This plant doesn’t produce showy flowers, in fact, I don’t recall ever seeing any blooms form, so it is not used for that aspect, but incorporated into the plants to provide a nice deep contrasting filler color against the green foliage of the Zinnias.

Check it out Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ in my own tall planters I have on my deck used the same year as in these pots for my customer on this prior blog post: Overwintering Plants. You will see it in the pot extremely full and lush by the end of the season. Coincidentally, the Plectranthus is also in the same prior blog post (white edges to leaves). Both of these are superb full sun foliage fillers. They grow fast in the appropriate conditions and require little maintenance.

Red Zinnias with Canna Lily and Yellow Blooming Lantana

A yellow blooming Lantana was added to the planters with red Zinnias and Canna Lily plants. Lantanas are very reliable plants and are drought tolerant. They do well in hanging baskets especially if you are not good with watering. This one, shown above, is called Lantana camara ‘Luscious Bananarama’ – Wow, that’s a flashy tradename! It is able to tolerate dry soils and loves heat. It will attract butterflies as well, along with the other bloomers in these planters.

Loading them into the garden cart

You will notice in the photo above, with the two pots in a cart, the pot on the right has an Elephants Ears (Colocasia) plant as the thriller. For the fillers, there is a Gomphrena pulchella Truffula Pink plant (annual as well) with pink ball like flowers and the taller bloomer, Verbena ‘Media Shower’ annual with lavender flowers. Both of these plants are so pretty. They both have very thin stems and grow tall with the round flower balls at the tips, and while sturdy, they have very delicate and wispy looks to them. The Verbena grows taller than the Gomphrena so it adds a bit of change in heights to the planters – also an important design aspect.

When planted at my home, I noticed little white butterflies visited the blooms mid-summer often on the Gomphrena pulchella plant. To see it in my planter at home, see this post: Aqua Blue Planter. I used them there and just loved them.

I partnered the Gomphrena with a blue Salvias (almost purple) in the customer’s planters. The whole goal was to provide lots of flower colors for the customer that would bloom all summer and all of these annuals in the planters would do so, plus they were all very healthy plants to use at the start, which is very important. The Canna Lily and Elephants Ears plants were to be the big showy tropical thrillers in the centers or off-center. They would grow much larger over the course of the summer.

Loading them Up to Deliver – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa

I remember as I started to load up all the planters into my truck, with the help of my husband, thinking how the plants all together looked so lovely and reminded me, again, of a cottage style country garden. Sometimes we are able to create a desired garden look by using various containers with a mix of whatever goal you desire.

In the customer’s landscape front of home upon delivery – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa
Loading them up in a garden cart (so pretty with the pink blooming Mandevilla in the background!)
Pink blooming Begonias, Pink Hypoestes (pink and green leaves), and Colocasia (Elephants Ears) and Canna Lily.
Alternanthera ‘Plum Dandy’ up close
Canna Lily with burgundy darker foliage – to repeat the color of the Alternanthera

In the end, the pots were all bloomers adding a bit of charm similar to cottage country gardens. It was a pleasure to look back at these photos, especially during the winter. I hope you enjoy them too.

Container Gardening Tips with this Post:

  • Always purchase healthy plants to start (weaker plants are more susceptible to insects and diseases)
  • Use varying heights in your arrangements to guide the eye and try to not over crowd plants
  • Focus on contrasting colors (dark colors next to light colors) to make colors more visible to the eye
  • Use various structures and leaf sizes (wispy straps of ornamental grasses next to chunky leaves of Canna Lily)
  • Incorporate some spiller type plants to soften the edges of your pots (Plectranthus as an example) to draw the eye downwards
  • Get plants with lots of buds to open if possible

Enjoy and thank you for visiting. Please share your comments!

Cathy Testa
860-977-9473
Container Garden Designer
containercathy at gmail.com
Location: Broad Brook, CT
Zone: 6b

See also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com

Trailing Red Small Daisy Flowers that can Take it Rough

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I am always in search of tough (as in tolerant) plants for container gardens and patio pots for full sun locations due to having a few clients with these environmental conditions at their outdoor settings. In fact, I often refer to the location as “full on sun” when I talk to my husband about it, and he jokes about that term to this day. It is a hot location with lots of heat in the midst of summer with limited water sources outdoors. Thus, I like plants to be drought tolerant if possible.

Last year, I happen to notice an annual plant at a local nursery with light green and white succulent like foliage, and thought this may be a candidate for my full sun project because the succulent foliage led me to believe it probably is similar to a succulent plants (able to retain water in its leaves and are drought tolerant) but I wasn’t sure.

However, despite not knowing the plant’s requirements as of yet, I also noticed it blooms small red flowers and I was in search a red and yellow combinations for a theme I was planning on this site that year. I looked at the label, of course, and thought it over and decided to give this annual plant a try.

‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ is the Tradename

A Spiller in Habit

In addition to having the succulent like foliage, the hot red colored blooms are what I was searching for, and having a bit of an unusual variegated foliage coloring, it also would work as a spiller plant (plants which trail or hang down in planters and pots). I grabbed a couple to add to my selections to plant in some large long planters. And, also, it has a lighter tone of a foliage color, making good contrast to darker plants.

‘Mezoo Trailing Red’

It is known as ‘Mezoo Trailing Red’ as the tradename, but upon some research, I discovered it’s botanical name is, Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. Try pronouncing that one! So, I will just refer to it as “trailing red” or “Mezoo” in this post. It is a tender perennial that is winter hardy to planting zones 9-10, but here in Connecticut, it is treated as a annual plant and is not hardy in our CT zones. I’m in Zone 6b.

Easy to Root

However, I discovered yet another benefit about this plant, it is easy to root from a tip cutting by placing it in a jar of water and letting roots form from the stem end tip. I did that after the summer with some cuttings and managed to start a couple smaller plant to keep in the house over the winter.

Great with Darker Contrasts nearby (dark greens), and also looks nice with soft blues!

Blue Green Coloring

There are different types of green and the foliage green on ‘trailing red’ is a bit of a blue green with hues of white to creamy white edges on the leaves. I thought how it seemed to click in color with a few blue Senecio plants I had to plant as well, which I used a little fillers to tuck in next to the Mezoo trailing red plant. However, by the end of the summer, Mezoo took over the area in the center of this tall and long planter. The Senecio got crowded out quickly. I didn’t mind, however, because Mezoo turned out to be just beautiful and full to the max.

Abundant Growth

The amount of growth that occurred in one summer in the planters really shocked me when I returned later in the season to take a look at the plants. The Mezoo was lush, full, and trailing over the edge down to the middle of a 5-6 foot tall square planter. There were no signs of insects and about the only issue I had with it was as some of the leaves dried up here and there (just a bit), the dried up papery residue of the leaves stuck to the outside of the planter under the plant’s hanging foliage and blooms. I washed that up later off the planter, when I took the Mezoo out of the planter, before fall arrived, by using some mild soapy dish type water. I was glad the planter’s outside covering was not damaged.

Drought Tolerant

This is the type of plant that tolerates some dry periods as well, which is a bonus. It is low maintenance and takes somewhat dry to medium moisture. Well-drained soil is preferred by it, and I had placed between two dark green globe shaped shrubs and thus, the plant was somewhat protected, but I don’t think it needed any extra protection. It grew massive and was impressive. It dripped over both sides of the planter, to about half-way down. I was impressed. Take note, it doesn’t like to stay completely dry and fortunately, we had good rainfall to get some moisture into the soil in the planter that year.

Overflowing Abundance

Like a Waterfall

Just look at this photo above. It is very apparent this plant was thriving. It was full, lush, bursting with foliage and flowing thru the two side shrubs like a waterfall. When I saw this abundance of growth, I said an, “Oooohh, so nice!” comment out loud to myself, which is typical of me. I surprise myself sometimes. LOL. I was pleased.

When I got back to my greenhouse, from digging it out at the site, I decided to take a few cuttings (as noted above) and showed it to my plant followers, and immediately a friend and plant enthusiast chimed in to say she has one as well and loves how well it performs in her hanging baskets at home. She also takes tip cuttings to root as a method to save some over the winter months here in Connecticut.

Sometimes its worth a shot to try out a plant you are unfamiliar with and often they will give you clues to their habit and tolerance. This one I would definitely recommend for sunny locations in containers and patio pots. It handled the heat, wind, sun, limited watering, and crowding between two other plants pretty well. It has a lower habit (doesn’t grow upwards), so if you don’t want to block the view behind it, which we didn’t want to block the skyline, it worked very well and I experienced no insect issues on it all summer long. I will say, we did have more moisture than usual that summer and maybe that helped, but overall, it can take it rough.

Mezoo used on a Succulent Pumpkin Centerpiece by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT

Blooms are Small but Long Lasting

It also blooms many daisy red small flowers from about June up to October. The flowers do not fall off so no worries about a mess on the ground area and also no worries about deadheading. I do wish the flowers were larger however.

Later in the autumn season, I ended up tucking some of those cuttings I took on top of my succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces. I guess the bonus list continued onward. It just hit me how they would look pretty on my pumpkins.

Dripping over the edge of a long square planter

Benefits Reviewed

  • Dry to medium moisture (somewhat drought tolerant; don’t allow soil to completely dry out)
  • Likes heat and can take the heat
  • A spiller that cascades over pots (but has a low mat forming habit)
  • Easy to take tip cuttings to root in water
  • Full sun lover
  • Low maintenance, no deadheading required
  • Can take average well-draining soils
  • Makes a decent winter houseplant
  • Pairs well with succulents
  • Not a high feeder
  • And well, lastly, I liked using the cuttings on my pumpkins as noted above!

Thank you for visiting!

Cathy Testa
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b
Container Garden Designer
Posted: 1/18/2022

Side View – Container Gardens by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT in Broad Brook, Connecticut

Flowering Tropical Plants for Decks in Connecticut

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Are you new to Connecticut and have no idea what flowering plants you should grow in containers or patio pots on your deck this summer?

I saw this question asked by a CT newbie on a gardening group on Facebook recently, and thought, hmmm, that is a GREAT question.

So to start to answer the question above, I will share some of my suggestions. Let’s start with tropical plants:

Flowering Tropical Plants

If you are new to Connecticut, you may not be aware of the wonderful tropical style plants which showcase beautiful flowers and are perfect to grow in container gardens and patio pots on your deck this summer. The key thing to know about tropical plants is that you should not put them outdoors until after frost in the spring here in CT (known as the last frost date) because tropical plants can not tolerate frost conditions. Thus, the key timing is to put them out around Memorial Day as a guide. Frost usually occurs around mid-May and it changes slightly year to year but mid-May is a good all around watching point, check the weather forecasts, etc. Once we are past frost, many tropical plants do wonderfully during our summers here in Connecticut in pots, planters, and container gardens.

Blooms all summer

Another cool thing about using tropical plants is many tend to bloom all summer into the fall season, usually into September and October, without fading or wearing out as with other annuals type plants. They usually showcase long lasting flowers. And just as with spring timing, you have to take them in before the frost which occurs in the fall in Connecticut. I blog a lot about storing underground tubers, rhizomes, corms, etc. here on this site which you may search for in the fall on this blog by using the search word “overwintering” for more details on when you should take them in and steps to store them over the winter to reuse each season.

Hot Pink Canna Lily Flowers

Canna Lily Plants

Canna lily plants are not hardy in Connecticut, at least they used to not be hardy, but if grown in the ground, they sometimes come back (due to global warming). That’s another story, as the focus of my blog site and this post is about growing them in pots.

In pots, you may plant them using plants you would pick up from a local nursery (or from me if local to my area – see below). Or you may start them by purchasing the rhizomes and planting them in one gallon size nursery pots indoors with potting mix to give them an early start, in March. They will start to grow from the rhizomes inside the house, and then you may transplant them outdoors after our spring frost in Connecticut by the end of May typically.

Love full sun, grow really tall, not a lot of problems

Canna lily plants love full sun but they are also okay in part sun or even part-shade. Many grow really tall and others species or cultivars are dwarf sized. Anywhere from 4 feet to 8 feet or taller. Their flowers attract hummingbirds and the plants are easy care. Flowers are pink, red, yellows, peach, orange, and some have dark burgundy colored leaves.

Speckled with red on yellow flowers

I usually do not encounter insect problems with Canna lily plants, other than the Japanese beetles that come out one time a year in the summer, they may eat some of the leaves and you may see some holes, but the beetles don’t stay out all summer so I usually just cut the damaged leaves off and tolerate them for a month. This occurs in July or August on one or two plants. Sometimes they only bother one of my plants and leave the rest alone, so I don’t find them to be a nuisance.

How to plant them…

As far as planting them, use a good quality potting mix and add some compost. I typically add slow-release fertilizer to all my container gardens and patio pots as well. See my prior blog post, called the 5-Must Do’s for more information. I typically don’t regularly fertilize my Canna lily plantings on a monthly schedule, with liquid plant food as often recommended, unless I have the watering can with me and I’m fertilizing other plants, than maybe. But, in general, they are very easy to grow. They tend to be low-maintenance plants, other than the part about storing them over the winter, that is a bit of maintenance in the autumn season, but worth it if you wish to reuse them each season. And of course, as with all container gardens and patio pots, you must water them in the summer as needed.

Very Tall Canna (dark foliage) in a large square planter on my deck 2020

Can be top heavy…

One thing to note about Canna lily plants is that they do grow tall and their stems are usually thick enough to stand on their own, so staking is not required at all, but I typically grow them in large pots of 22″ in diameter at a minimum and about as deep. They tend to multiply and produce more shoots so a good clump can form over the summer. As a bigger clump of stems form, it can be top heavy in a pot, and if a small pot is used, they may toppled over from the wind at times. The rhizomes from which they grow are usually about 6 inches deep in the soil, so when you are ready to take them out by digging up the tubers in the autumn season, you will find them there in the soil below. And if you are growing a really tall variety, be aware a very windy location could tilt them, but I don’t encounter that here at my house on the deck. I’m talking if you grew them on a high rise or place where it is unprotected with super strong winds.

These toppled over from wind at times last year (pot was really not stable enough for the tall varieties)

Make More Plants!

Another great benefit to using Canna Lily plants is they tend to grow bigger rhizomes each season. You may dig up the rhizomes in the autumn season, and divide them into pieces and store them from late fall and over the winter in a cool basement, dark place, and where it will not freeze (where it will not drop below 32 degrees F). You get more plants over time with this process.

Thriller in Arrangements

As I’ve noted before, a good balance of plants in container gardens is having a thriller (tall center plant), spiller (drapes over the edges of pots and hangs down), and fillers (self-explanatory). Canna lily plants make excellent thrillers. They give height to your container and planters, and bloom all summer into fall, non stop. As flowers fade, just remove them if you wish, keep the plant cleaned up as desired, and enjoy them all summer on your deck. And best of all is seeing hummingbirds zoom up to the flowers while you sit and enjoy their show.

Pair Them Up With..

Practically anything. As you see in the photo above, I have succulents in the base of the planter with those tall Canna lilies and various annuals. They are great with practically any warm season loving plants that enjoy full to part sun. On this post, about my Aqua Blue Planter on my deck from 2020, you will see a list of the plants I used as fillers and spillers below the tall Canna lilies. Many larger leaved foliage type plants do well with Canna lilies as well, such as Elephant’s Ear (Colocasia), which are also tropical plants. They do flower but usually only one or two blooms. However, for a tropical look, I just love using the big ears of Colocasias with my Canna Lily plants and other topical plants with fantastic foliage. Because many succulents enjoy summer hot weather, they pair well as fillers too.

I will continue blog about other tropical plants great on decks in the summer in Connecticut.

Stay tuned or follow this blog to receive an email when each new post is published here.

Thanks for visiting,

Cathy Testa
Container Garden Designer and Installer
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b

How I start to Plan in the New Year

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Happy (or is it?) New Year 2022!

After waking up from the foggy mind, after our confusing holidays, I start to pull out my calendars from last year, which includes two (if not 3) wall style calendars, notebooks with key dates, reviewing my own blog posts from the past year for key dates, and going thru client binders to get my new 2022 calendars started.

Yes, I have all those various sources to track activity by dates. I want to remember the odd things that happened because it helps me to be prepared, or to try to plan ahead, and to remember, in the gardening world, lots of variables come into play (timing, weather, pandemics, etc.).

Unexpected Snow Fall in April?

For example, do you remember when we had a snow fall in April of 2021? I do. I purposely took a photo of the date scratched into the top of my fire pit cover, and I also noted the date on my 2021 wall calendars. The notations are reminders of things that can happen when you least expect it, or we should be expecting it, cause it probably happened the year before, or it may again…

Cold Rains on Memorial Day?

Like for example, do you remember the cold temperatures and crazy rain we had on Memorial Day weekend last year? It traumatized me because I literally finished planting a site the week before! I was so worried about the plants and how they would be impacted by the freak cold rain we got the whole weekend after I finished my job site. I went silent. My husband even asked me why I was so quiet as we drove out for a weekend at that time, and I told him, “I’m super disappointed in the weather we had over Memorial Day.” Then I stayed silent for the rest of the drive.

Flooding of Summer Fields…

Also, what about the floods we had in farmers’ fields in 2021 during the summer months – which impacted the availability and quality of pumpkins I use when I make succulent pumpkins in October, and of course the rain during the summer that messed up the ripening of our tomatoes?! Need I say more…?

And dare I say it, Ugh, COVID. As my friend posted recently, “We all want to say bye-bye to Covid!”

The darn Covid world. It is everywhere it feels like. We never thought it would last this long or rebound, right? How many challenges must we face? Let’s not get into how it impacted everything, shipping, staff, uncertainty, availability, etc. And the very sad and depressing things, such as many people getting sick, hospitals overwhelmed, it just seems hard to rise up again. My blood pressure has risen. From the stress (or too many sweets over the holidays.)

In the world of gardening, you do face challenges. I told a grower once, “Every single year, it is different.” They agreed. It was very hard to plan and predict in our usual manner.

Global warming impacts us too. We see lots of changes in weather. It is so unpredictable. Thus, my calendaring routine is even more critical. Or is it? Because sometimes, its been difficult to take a deep breath at times, and start again. But alas, it is January, and I must start again.

Today, is January 6th, 2022. It will be sunny (thankfully, because I have to take down some outdoor holiday decor) and it will snow tomorrow, but then be clear on Saturday (unless that changes). I’ve started to come out of my holiday brain fog and started looking at key gardening and planning ahead dates.

Sowing Information

I remember that last year, around this time, people started searching about sowing information for their seeds. So I’m going to re-share the link below where shared some tips from last year around this time:

Last Year’s Post in January 2021 above

I have to admit, I’m still not done reviewing things, but I’ve started, and it reminds me of this: January is about “planning” and probably early ordering (at least for me), February is “ramp up” month, March is “sowing” month, and April is “growing month” which goes into May. And hopefully this year’s end of May will bring better weather when we are ready to put all plants outdoors for our vegetables gardens and tropical plants, etc.

I know this post is a little choppy, but I needed to get it out there to let you know, I’m here and I guess I will take on the unexpected challenges yet again. Because when I’m in my greenhouse on sunny days in the winter, it revives me. I see the plants not giving up, despite being on the temperatures cool side in the winters, and some plants will even bloom. I’ve been witnessing, in fact, my Mangave plant blooming. It shot up a 10 ft tall stalk and the buds finally opened. They are still opening. The very top of the stalk is almost touching the roof. I have to step up on a ladder to get photos or look up as I did this this photo below taken a few days ago.

Mangave buds opening into 2022

In the meantime, I hope this post is not too blah, because besides all the gardening challenges of last year, I still encounter enthusiastic plant lovers and I still am very passionate about plants – and it makes it all worth it. I think I’ll be ready to go at it again. Stay tuned.

Cathy Testa
Container Gardens, Plants, Plant Gifts, Seeds, and More!
860-977-9473 (texts welcome)
containercathy at gmail.com
See also:

www.WorkshopsCT.com
www.ContainerGardensCT.com
http://www.ContainerCrazyCT.com (you are here now).

Frost on Plants

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It finally arrived here in Connecticut. Frost on our plants. Last week, it dropped into the 28 degrees F range in the evenings of Friday and Saturday (Nov 5-6th weekend).

For months, I was putting away frost tender plants from my container gardens, because I wanted a head start and it takes a lot of time to dig up plants from pots to store underground portions (rhizomes, corms, bulbs) for frost tender plants, as well as move containers into my garage or basement for the winter months, or just doing cleaning of empty nursery pots for use next season.

The frost of fall appeared a bit later than last year in 2020 (it was on Halloween weekend in 2020), but this year, in 2021, it decided to arrive about a week later, and we could feel it. As I walked out of my house the other day to check my greenhouse to make sure the heat was working well, I saw frost on my truck.

Frost 2021 Nov 5-6 weekend

I carefully walked on the frost covered grass and carried my flashlight to point here and there, hoping I wouldn’t stumble upon any wild animals, on my way over and down to my greenhouse. It is kind of pretty to go out at an early hour, think it was like 5 am, and see all the glitter on the plants outside from the overnight frost. But it was very cold and I didn’t stay out there too long in my slippers and PJ’s with a very thick bathrobe!

Later, when the sun was finally up, I got a glimpse of a rose bush near my house and I thought, look how pretty that is with the glittering frost on the roses!

While it may look pretty on the outdoor plants, we definitely do not like seeing our tropical plant toppled from frost, which is why I did all my overwintering chores early. It seemed to take forever. My list pretty much consists of Canna Lily plants, elephant ears (Alocasia and Colocasia), red banana plant (Ensete), some Mandevillas, and of course, I move in all my succulent and cacti plants early as well.

This year, I made a note on my calendar to check my stored tubers, rhizomes, corms in about a month. I want to make sure there is no rotting or problems. Last year, I ran into that and I think it was due to not having some air holes in new plastic storage bins I used, so I drilled very small holes into the covers of my storage bins which are kept in my unheated basement, stacked up in a corner, where it stays cold but not below freezing during the winter months.

And as I noted above, I check my greenhouse in the early part of the winter heating phases to make sure all is going well, that the heat is on, and I will sometimes take the flashlight and look at the plants. Did you know, some critters (insects) come out at night. Not common in the winter months cause the greenhouse is kept at a low temp (around 50 degrees F), just warm enough to allow my low temp tolerant plants hang in through the winter months.

In the winter, I pray for sun during the day hours. Not only for myself but for my plants in the greenhouse, so they may stay toasty warm during the winter days (and not utilize any heat). The cost to heat it is getting a bit too much. But so does a good dinner out! LOL. Choices!

My greenhouse also doubles as a creative space for me to make items with plants for the decorating seasons, such as upcoming holidays. It can be cool in there in the midst of winter however, requiring me to wear a thick coat, etc, but on the days when the sun is in full force with no clouds, it is like a sauna at times and I try to capitalize on those days. It will warm up your bones in an instant. On sunny winter days, it feels like the tropics.

On rainy days, the greenhouse can bring me some relief too. I suffer from tinnitus and the rain pouring down hard on the roof top is the most soothing sound to me, as it drowns out the ear ringing. Also, distractions drown out the ringing, so when I am creating or working with plants in there, it also brings me relief because I am distracted and in the “zone.”

We just did the ol’ “fall back on the clocks,” and this is a time of year of transition. It will be darker out at dinner time and dark out when we get up. I will try to not let that bring me down. The thing that keeps me up is knowing the holidays will be near and that I will be making wreaths soon, right after the Thanksgiving weekend.

Wreath by Cathy T

While times are tough, there are shortages of supplies, and also many prices increases for us all around, I still will attempt to make the most beautiful wreaths possible. If you are looking for a hand-made wreath, kissing ball, or boxes of greens, look me up if you are near me. All is arranged as porch-pick up’s and are noted on my site called, www.WorkshopsCT.com.

Well, not much else to report today. I basically wanted to make sure I record the date of our fall frost, because it is important for next year to remember when it comes around. Each year is slightly different.

Enjoy today’s sunny weather!

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
860-977-9473
containercathy@gmail.com

Fall is Fantastic

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We are having a wonderful spout of good weather in Connecticut this year, 2021, during our fall season. The temps have been just lovely, no more rain (like we had all summer practically), and minus the mosquitos here, the fall weather has been fantastic to continue my various plant projects.

I am still taking down some of my tropical plants at home to store and overwinter, while finishing up some container garden installations for the fall season for clients, and also making beautiful custom made succulent topped pumpkin centerpieces for my orders.

I thought I would show some photos of various projects I’ve been doing, jumping from one project to another this month of October 2021 in Connecticut.

Cathy T holding a banana leaf Oct 2021

Well, here I am, holding a very long banana leaf from my red banana plant (Ensete ventricosum ‘Maurelli’). It is not hardy to our zone (6b) so I take it down every fall. It has become a ritual. I never had any issues with storing it as described on this blog via other posts (search Overwintering or Ensete), but this past spring, when I took the “stump” out of the storage bin, it was a little more damp than usual. I figured it was due to no air holes in my bins, so I drilled some very small air holes in the bin covers for this season. Or maybe it was the “new peat” I bought that stayed too damp, I’m not sure, but I have done this process again! Cutting down each leaf, chopping off the top of the plant, then storing the base. (See more photos below). People liked this photo when I shared it because it really shows the size of the planter, the plant’s leaves. I’m 5’6″…so, you can see how long these leaves grew this season in 2021. You may notice the plant is in a big black pot, I usually plant it directly into the big cement planter, but got lazy this year, and it did just as fine, the roots went thru the drain holes into the big planter below. I also fill this planter with Castor Bean plants, other Alocasia and Colocasia plants, and other perennials, etc.

Callicarpa Beautyberry Shrub Oct 2021

This is not a tropical plant above, it is a deciduous shrub, called Callicarpa. Just look at the purple berries this year! The foliage is a lime green (normal color). But this year, the berries have been abundant and really a deep purple color. I wondered if our abundant rainfall contributed to the color being so intense this season? I planted 3 of these side by side by my deck at the ground level years ago and I remember taking a measuring tape out to ensure I was giving it the recommended distance for spacing. People notice this shrub right now – it is beautiful. It makes a nice shrub for massing together as the branches arch and fill the area. I had cut it back in early spring and it performed nicely. I’ve never seen birds eat the berries, even though some sources say they do. I’ve never tried to grow it from seed, perhaps I should try to do so. Mr. Micheal A. Dirr’s manual indicates the seeds require 90 days cold stratification.

Cathy T holding a large Succulent Topped Pumpkin 2021

Yup, that’s me – trying to hold onto this very heavy and large succulent topped pumpkin I made for an order. Isn’t it beautiful – and so are the plants behind me! I could barely hold the pumpkin long enough for my husband to take a photo.

Ensete stump
Ensete stump

Referring back to the top photo of me holding the red banana plant leaf, here is the stump I dug out after chopping off the top. I use a machete. This stump was left in my garage for about a week, mostly because I was busy doing other fall plant project, but also to allow it to dry out somewhat. It is still moist from the water held in it, so a good suggestion is to tip it upside down and let the water drain out of it after removal from the pot or ground. I did have to cut off more of the top to fit it inside my storage bin which is about 3 feet long. The cover barely shut – this stump is a doozie! (That is heavy and big).

Container Garden by Cathy T in the month of October at a client site

If there’s one thing I will tell the plant Gods when I visit them some day, is, “THANK YOU!!” for offering me the wonderful opportunity to plant on a high rise. This is an October photo of just one of the many container gardens I install at this client site, and it is full and lush. I love how the fuzzy big leaves of the Lamb’s Ears plant grew extremely well, no blemishes, and as perfect as ever. It is called Stachys byzantina ‘Big Ears” and I guess you could say, I do have a fondness for big plants which make a big impact. It is a perennial plant for full sun (hardy to Zone 4). The silvery soft leaves are low maintenance and used as groundcovers, or in containers as I did here. I paired it with two flowering plants, one an annual and the other a tropical lover for hot sun. They looked just beautiful but it was time for the take down process this month. The nice thing about using perennials in containers is if you wish to move the pot (not doable in this case due to the location), you may do so to an unheated garage and there is a good chance the perennial will return the following spring. Or you may dig out the perennial from the container garden and plant it in the ground in the fall to continue your plant investment.

Mop Head Hydrangea Bloom at my House

I guess you could say, this month of October 2021 has been a very colorful one. This plant above usually hasn’t produced many blooms for me before, but this year, it took off. I had these big colorful blooms and I cut them from the plant just yesterday. I read you may spray the flower head with hairspray (aerosol hairspray) and set it in a cool dark room to dry. I am trying that out this season with these Hydrangea mop-head blooms in purple, blue, and rosy tones.

At a Client Site

A pumpkin centerpiece I created (referred to as a succulent topped pumpkin) is shown above at a lady’s home. I absolutely love how she decorates her table, putting the Family piece and candle holders with the mums all around. And a nice photo she took, which I decided to share here. Isn’t this another beautiful fall color photo? And yes, that is a real pumpkin, one of a nutty brown color. Sourcing my pumpkins was a little trickier this year. Many local farmers had issues growing them because of our summer abundant rainfall. Some fields were flooded and ruined some of the crop. I had to hunt and peck to find good ones for my succulent topped pumpkin creations this season.

More of my creations above. I love making these in October. I have made some Halloween themed too.

Me in-front of a Wall of Mandevilla

That is me again, here I am standing infront of a wall of Mandevilla plants I installed in the spring. By October, they were full and gorgeous all the way to the top of the 7 foot wall situated above planters. I have to say, I was distraught early this spring because right after I finished planting these, there was an extremely freak cold rain day where temps dropped so low and it poured, cold rain. I was so worried it would ruin my work at the client’s site, but the Mandevillas did well, and the rain all summer encouraged their growth. The foliage was shiny, perfect and lush. Each year is different, and I was so thankful these performed well. They have white trumpet shaped blooms that last all the way into the fall. These plants are vine-like growing easily up when trellised. They will keep on climbing, reaching for the skies, which they did here on this high-rise garden. I have planted the red, pink, white types. All add a tropical feel to any container gardens outdoors in summer.

Plant Gifts by Cathy T

Well, I guess that is it for now. I’ll finish off today’s blog post to remind everyone I offer custom plant gifts, especially popular in the autumn and at the holiday season. Look me up on Facebook or Instagram under Container Crazy CT. I do all in containers, planters, patio pots, dish gardens, etc. You name it. This month I’m offering adorable succulents, bagged up and ready for pick up. If interested, DM me on Facebook or text me!

Thank you and enjoy the rest of this week’s perfect and fantastic fall weather.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Zone 6b
Broad Brook, CT
cell: 860-977-9473
email: containercathy@gmail.com

Today’s weather: 72 degrees F day, Lows at 48 degrees F at night (still safe for tropicals outdoors, I suspect the frost will arrive later next week!)

Tomorrow – partly sunny and Saturday and Sunday look nice during day. 37 degrees predicted for Sunday night.

Back to work I go outside today. Trying to make the most of this perfect fall weather, did I mention, it is fantastic?!

Succulent Topped Pumpkin Time

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Autumn Time

Hop on over to my site, called www.WorkshopsCT.com to learn about my custom made succulent topped pumpkins. They make wonderful autumn centerpieces, and now that there is a bit of fall in the air, these are my next fun endeavor. I love making them for orders. They are wonderful displayed inside your home for the fall and Halloween season, and last for months!

Winterizing Time

I’m also still taking down my tropical plants, probably working on them this weekend during the nice pleasant sunny cool fall weather. We have not had our October frost here yet, so there is still time but alas, my work must continue or I will be backlogged with plants! I have some Brugmansias which are blooming beautifully right now with huge yellow trumpet shaped flowers which smell wonderful in the evenings, as well as my Canna Lily plants, and I still have many elephant ears plants (Alocasia and Colocasia) outside in my larger container gardens. All will be taken down, pulled out of the soil, cut back and stored via the parts under the soil (corms, tubers, rhizomes, etc.) for storage during our winter months. I will show more photos soon but just enter search terms in the search box on this blog to locate directions and information and feel free to ask questions. I also have already collected my seeds from various seed pods by this time and stored them in cool dry places for use next spring to regrow some of my favorites. Pods should not get soggy and wet and be collected before that phase, or they will mold or rot on the plants outdoors at this time of year. I also put away most of my agaves, mangaves (one is shooting a flower stalk – it is 4 feet tall right now! So exciting!) And put my succulents in the greenhouse along with some of my larger house plants. The greenhouse is not being heated of course yet, and the natural air goes thru daily along with an auto fan as the temp rises on sunny days. Anyhow, the fun and plant work continues.

Winter Time

Boy, times are tough for small businesses. Every time I turn around prices are going up. This impact us greatly and we just can not afford to be “low priced” on our unique creations and please bear in mind, plants are perishables similar to vegetables from the grocery stores. Of course, you may make plants last for years, if not centuries, with the appropriate care, so it is a wonderful investment to have the beauty and company of plants surrounding us, but all the delivery costs, shipment fees and delays, materials and you name it, it has raised prices on materials for our industry, from the plants to the decorations we use for them. So thank you for supporting my small business – especially those who repeatedly visit me.

It brings me much joy, honestly, especially in the winter months to continue my work and custom orders. I guess my point is – I’m still planning to make my custom made holiday items as well as my succulent pumpkin centerpieces, but prices have gone up for me as a very small business owner. Custom is not cookie cutter, so if you enjoy unique, handmade, well cared for plant creations – I’m your girl! And also, the weather factors, this year our areas got hit hard with rain and floods – this impacted the availability of pumpkins locally. But this will not stop me from creating because it is my passion. Passions can not be stopped! 🙂

Thank you for visiting.

Cathy Testa
Container Crazy CT
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Zone 6b
USA
Posted: 10/7/2021
Today’s weather: 54 degrees F, Foggy, H: 73, L:50
Weeknight temps for next week are in the mid 55’s range.
Friday and Sat – Party Sunny – yes! Glad we will have nice weekend weather.
Next week, looking good too in the mid-60’s to low 70’s, but maybe some rain showers

Canna Lily Overwintering Rhizomes 2021

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Yesterday, it began. My first disassembly of a canna lily in a pot to store the underground rhizomes for the winter.

This process may be done anytime between now (September) up to our October frost. Frost may occur anywhere from early to late October in my area of Connecticut (Zone 6).

Because I want to get a head start on my work of overwintering various tropical plants, I did this one yesterday.

It was in a black nursery pot which was inserted into a metal decorative pot. I usually, as a rule, don’t do this – I usually plant the plants into larger patio pots, but alas, I was just too busy and you can see how the rhizomes and root ball area grew so large, it started to burst open the black nursery pot!

I used large pruners to cut the foliage off first, then worked to remove the black pot out of the silver pot – it was tricky!

Since the pot cracked open, I used regular kitchen scissors to cut the pot so I could get the root ball out. Then the real work began, trying to take this big rootbound mass apart.

First, I cut it in half. The rhizomes are usually about 6-8″ from the top and I do my best to not cut any of the rhizomes, but if you do, do not panic. It usually won’t totally harm the rhizomes. However, you do want to avoid too many cuts because cuts are areas where rot or insects can set in later. I also cut off the bottom half of the soil by slicing it off but am very careful not to cut into the rhizomes. Sometimes you may see where the rhizomes are once you start removing the soil areas here and there around it.

After cut off the bottom half of the soil off, cutting below where I think the rhizomes are located, I keep trying to remove soil by hand, with a soft brush, with tools, being careful to not nick the rhizomes.

I usually use a hori-hori garden knife, but I decided to just grab a large kitchen knife to do the work, first slicing it in half. After that, I used my hands and a small butter knife to chip away at the soil mass. I was careful not to cut into the rhizomes. Then after, I took the hose and blasted it with water to remove as much soil as possible. You need a strong spray so this hose end worked perfectly, minus the mosquitos attacking me near the hose at that moment!

Because the roots were so tightly bound up, the hose was really helping to wash away the soil. I really wanted to separate this mass because over time, if they stay in a big clump like this, they just don’t grow as well or produce as many flowers.

After the soil is washed away, it allows for more ease to try to pull apart the rhizomes by grabbing the stalk and tugging. In some cases, they will pull away cleaning without breakage. (Note: The larger clump I am still going to try to break apart after it dries more in the sun.)

I will let these sit on a table for a day or a few hours, and then store them in plastic storage bins in my unheated basement with peat (see type below). I will show the bins later but they are standard plastic storage bins with covers. I drill small holes in the covers to allow air circulation (important). Also, I think shorter horizontal bins work better than deep bins. You don’t want to bury them deep, just enough to cover the rhizomes with peat to help them stay cozy, hold light moisture, and stay dry. All a balancing act.

This is what the canna lily looked like before. It is one of the tallest varieties I have and I want to save some of these rhizomes in good shape. Of course, can I remember the name of it right now? No! LOL. Am I getting old? It will come to me. It is actually not that healthy looking in this photo. It got stressed from being root bound. Next year, it will look much much better. You can store the whole root if you want and I’ve done that before, but it was time for this canna lily to receive more attention so it will grow better from individual rhizomes next season, plus I’ll get more plants that way!

So the one I took down is the far left one. See the one on the right in the blue pot. That one was repotted in spring into that larger pot from a nursery pot. It will probably be easier to pull apart when I work on that one next.

Basic Steps:

  1. Cut off the stalks of foliage. Use clean, sterilized tools.
  2. Take the root ball out of the pot. Cut off the soil mass “below the rhizomes.”
  3. Take off as much as soil as possible around the rhizomes and roots. Use tools like your hands, soft brush, butter knife (I did), to scrape away soil but be careful not to nick the rhizomes or cut them. A garden hose with a strong blast really works well.
  4. Break apart the rhizomes carefully by grabbing hold of the stalks and pulling. Sometimes they pull away easily. If they don’t, keep trying to remove soil, let it sit out and try again when drier.
  5. Let sit out to dry and cure. (A few hours or a day or two).
  6. Store them in bins with peat (or people have told me they use newspaper but I prefer sphagnum peat moss that is sold in big square bales. It is reusable year after year so I keep the peat in the bins after taking the rhizomes out in spring time.)
  7. Make sure the location you store them is a cool dark place with no chances of freezing. (35 to 40 degrees F is the recommendation). My unheated basement works well by the door inside.
  8. Next spring, plant the rhizomes in a standard nursery pot (1 gallon size) and use good professional potting mix to get them started again. Plant the rhizome about 6-8″ deep in the pot. March is a good time to get them started. I do this in my greenhouse but you can do it by a window in the home where it is warm, etc. Before my greenhouse, I placed them on the floor in the pots by a kitchen slider window.
  9. Grow them in part to full sun when it is after our spring frost time. Usually the same time you may safely plant your tomato seedlings outdoors. Remember, put in shade first for a few days to acclimate.
  10. The photo below is of a bale of the peat moss. It is not the stringy peat you see in hanging baskets – it is the brown peat that you may break apart in a wheelbarrow if you buy a big bale. I reuse it for years if there are no issues in the bins. It is long lasting.
Premier Soil Amendments #0092
Copy of Peat in a Bale from web – available at various stores (Agway, Lowes, etc.)

Before or After Frost Timing

From my years of doing this routine, you may do this either before or after October’s frost. If you wait till frost, the foliage will be blackened from the frost. The frost and colder temps probably helps to put them in a dormant state this way, but I always have done it before frost with no issues in September. If you wait till frost, it is just colder outside and sometimes wetter – and messier.

See my prior posts on this topic (search Overwintering or Canna lily in the search box). Some are linked below as well.

Thank you and enjoy your weekend!

Cathy Testa
Container Gardener and Designer
Broad Brook/East Windsor, CT
Today’s date: Sat, 9/11/2021
Today’s forecast: 75 degrees F mid day, sunny with some fluffy clouds – yes!
860-977-9473
“Containercathy@gmail.com”

Xanthosoma Surprise

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I had ordered more of the upright giant like elephant’s ear (taro) tubers to grow this spring but some of them gave me problems. There were some soft spots on them but I planted some anyhow and waited to see the outcome.

It took a long time for them to sprout and they grew slowly. Later, however, I noticed two tubers I planted in starter nursery style pots were forming clumps and the leaves looked different than what was to be expected for the tubers I ordered. It turned out two of the tubers were not the type of elephant’s ears I had ordered. They turned out to be a surprise. The company sent me the wrong tubers.

Xanthosoma (zan-tho-SO-muh)

Thus, it looks like I have a new name to memorize! Maybe I will call it Xant for short when I point it out to friends. Upon researching the plant and looking it over, I am pretty sure it is an Xanthosoma. The leaves are shaped with an indentation in the middle (like a shield). It is definitely not the Alocasia (an upright type) I was expecting yet it turned out to be a nice surprise to add to my collection of elephant’s ear plants.

I looked over the veins on the leaves as they were forming and a vein runs along the outside edge of the foliage, a distinct difference compared to my large giant upright elephant’s ears which do not have this particular vein pattern. I’m happy that a mistake was made by the company where I purchased the tubers from because now I have two of these gorgeous plants started. They also form a nice mass or clump of stalks with many leaves.

Xanthosoma in the center on the steps

The location where I put two potted plants of these received part sun all summer since putting them outdoors after our spring frost. I love the way it added to the tropical vibe between the tall canna lily plants. I usually pot ALL my plants into large patio pots with fresh soil but I just inserted the Xanthosoma in a decorative pot (blue one) rather than repot it, and I made the mistake of using an outer decorative blue pot with no drain holes, so every time we had a downpour of rain (often this year in 2021), I would have to take the inner nursery pot used to start the tubers out and pour the rain water out of the outer pot which didn’t drain.

Close up of Leaves – Believe it is an Xanthosoma elephant’s ear plant
Rain drops on the leaves

This is considered a tuberous perennial hardy in zones 9-11. It grows about 2-3 feet tall and I will store it the way I do most of my other elephant’s ear plants, by either digging out the tubers and storing in my basement in boxes, or taking the whole plant into my greenhouse for the winter. I probably will put one plant in the greenhouse to see how it tolerates lower temps and store the other via the tuber method.

During the summer, I started to fertilize it weekly and the soil was kept on the moist side all summer because of our routine rainfalls this season, which is what this plant prefers (moist soils). Hopefully, I will be successful at re-growing this variety next season. Eventually the foliage color improved and got darker, etc.

Zingiberaceae (zin-ji-bah-RAY-see-aye)

Oh gosh, another long name to memorize! This also is a new plant I tried this season, but not a mistake, a purchase from a local nursery. I saw it and immediately had to have it. It is a ginger plant (variegated with the yellow and green leaves) and I knew it would fit in with my tropical plant vibe.

I know I have the plant tag somewhere in my office. I will have to locate it. I’ve read that gingers are cold-hard in zone 7b, but we are in zone 6, so I have to figure out how to over winter it. Isn’t it gorgeous?!

Variegated Ginger Plant

Of all the new plants on my deck, this one is my favorite and a must keep. I don’t have room for it in the house and I am not sure yet if it will tolerate my low-temp greenhouse for the winter. I am considering dividing and and storing half by digging up the rhizomes and perhaps keeping half of the plant in tact, repot and put it in the greenhouse.

When I first got this plant, I planted it in a big blue planter but it wasn’t happy. The leaves would roll up and seemed to be coiling up from the sun’s heat. So I moved it and it still wasn’t happy mid deck where sun would hit it mid-day. Then I moved it further to the end where there is plenty of shade, and it thrived. It appears to do best in part shade. It also did not like drying out so I kept the soil moist. I always put time released or slow release fertilizer into my potted plants, but I also started to give it a balanced liquid fertilizer every couple weeks or so when I was pouring fertilizer on my other deck blooming plants. It definitely enjoyed that and took off. It is healthy and huge and I just love it. It did not flower however this season.

A Ginger Plant – Early Morning Photo
It’s Happy Place, where there was shade most of day except very early am’s.

Learning how to overwinter plants is often a trial and error process. Over the years, I have been very successful with overwintering various tropical plants. These two above will be new ones for me.

Another Agave

I also decided to repot an agave (another one) yesterday. It was in a green tall glazed pot and the pot was so extremely heavy, I knew the soil was staying way too wet. I wondered why, it had a drain hole and so I took the whole plant out and saw the soil was a very dark rich black color, so I think I may have put it compost. Again, rushing is not a good thing. I probably was rushing, grabbed some compost and planted it in that despite knowing agaves need well draining soil. That soil just retained way too much moisture, so I repotted it into a lower pot yesterday, adding perlite to professional potting mix, and put it in the greenhouse. This is a photo I took of it. You can tell the lower leaves are off color – a bit yellow – showing signs of just too much moisture. It should recover now.

Another Agave Repotted

I usually don’t get bothered by mosquitoes on my deck or in the yard, but this year, they are on killer attack. It has been difficult to work outside without getting dive bombed by them. They have bit me on the ear lobes, on my face and fingers, and legs. Why do I mention that, I’m not sure, but it makes me wonder how on earth landscapers do it all in this wet weather. For me, my motivations is the love of plants and how it makes me feel every time I look at them. Looking at my two new plants offered me curiosity and relaxation and I certainly want to do my best to keep them so I may regrow them next season.

What is next?

I will probably ask my husband to help me this weekend to move some of my bigger pots into the greenhouse so I don’t hurt myself! And we use the hand-truck and it is not too difficult. As mentioned prior, I’m doing some work early. I’ve already disassembled my tomato planters and I threw out some herbs too. I had to literally talk myself into taking out the herbs because some still looked okay but I had to repeat to myself, take them out – you will be too busy later. I also took down a long shelf style planter with several Mangaves and Agaves and moved them into the greenhouse and put the long two tiered planter in my home. My home doesn’t get enough sunlight for all of the plants, so the planter will be used for something else, we will see!

Next to do will be to disassemble some of my canna lily plants. I really need to take apart the rhizomes and un-crowd the pots. When you leave them in a clump year after year (if you store them that way), eventually they get too pot bound and won’t produce flowers. I also collect seeds this time of year from my Canna lily plants.

I’m also collecting Datura seeds for a new one I planted this season, it has purple upright flowers. Since collecting the seeds for this plant is new to me, we will see if I’m successful. The key is to wait till the seeds are fully ripened, and also to do some research. Each type of plant is different. I read you can put paper bags over the Datura seed pods and let them crack open and the seeds will fall into the bag. I didn’t use this method (yet), but it is a good idea – IF IT DOESN’T RAIN, which it did again last night. This means more mosquitoes! Ack.

One thing I just love about tropical plants is how fast they grow. They really make a show in one season. Years ago when my friends would visit, they would rush to my deck to look at all my plants and see what I had out. However, now I notice they just know I will have lots of plants and don’t seem as “surprised” as they used to, plus many have learned some tricks from me and have tropical plants of their own now. I guess they just expect Cathy T’s deck is always over loaded with plants – and I actually cut back this year. Giggle!

Well, I’m kind of rambling. Sorry about that. Hope this post is helpful or enjoyable – which ever is best for you!

Cathy Testa
Container Gardener
Connecticut
860-977-9473
Lots of photos on my Instagram under Container Crazy CT
Date of this post: 9/10/2021
Today’s Weather: Mostly Sunny 68-70 degrees F
This weekend – sunny all weekend –YIPEE!!!