Last of the Chill

Leave a comment

This should be it. The last of some quick short drops in temps in Connecticut during the evening. When I got up this morning around 5 am, it was 42 degrees. Now at 7 am, it is 48 degrees. Call me picky but tropical plants really don’t like below 50 degrees F.

So, what did I do? I took some Mandevilla plants into my house last night. As an “extra” precaution. The drop in temp didn’t last long (a couple hours) but I was being extra cautious because I’m planting these Mandevillas at a site tomorrow. The last thing I want is problems right before planting day.

I had some issues with Mandevilla last year and this has led me to being frustrated with them. Sure, “IF” they are healthy to start with AND the temperatures are well suited for them to grow well, all is good. Little to no problems. But “IF” they are having issues even before picking them up, it leads to problems (e.g., leaf drop, leaf yellowing, blooms with brown spots, or tips of the vines blackened). I’ve seen it all. And as you probably know, they are not cheap. They are a pricier plant, so we don’t want issues with them.

This frustration led me to do some researching and I am reading some thrip insect issues are occurring in Florida on many plants and Mandevilla was listed as being one of them. Thrips are a big PIA in the planting growing industry. Is this why the Mandevillas are showing up with problems? Not sure, but that problem is bigger than little old me can handle. It is a issue to the insect experts in the industry. So far, I don’t see thrips on my plants and that is good. You don’t want those pests in your growing environments.

So, I am very careful about which Mandevilla plants I buy when it comes to Mandevilla now. I inspect them carefully and if I see signs of issues, I stay away from those. I literally hand pick them. If I see an issue, I immediately say nope.

Mandevillas tend to show up at our local nurseries early in the season, but they are heat loving plants. The nurseries will usually keep them indoors in their greenhouses until it is warm enough outside. Or they should be in my opinion. Otherwise, they get exposed and can develop issues.

When I pick up Mandevillas before outdoor safe planting time, which I prefer actually not to do (pick up too early but sometimes you have to or they may run out), I keep them in the greenhouse if it is below 50 F degrees outdoors still and put them outside during the days when warm and sunny. Most of the time, I put them on my driveway where it heats up well and there is some protection by the garage wall during the day.

We have had beautiful weather the past two weeks (minus the late spring frost we got on 5/17-5/18). On those nights when it was either a frost or a quick low temp hit which does not frost but low temp (lower than 50 degress F) – I’ve had to carry them back inside. It is a PIA. Because the pots are heavy and they have long tall 5-6 foot poles in them. But it gives me a bit of a workout. LOL.

But is that worth it? Are planting vining Mandevilla plants worth all the trouble? Absolutely yes, when they thrive. Which my plantings have for several years. I feel like issues surfaced more with them the past couple of years and that is frustrating for little ol’ me. I’ve written about Mandevillas before, and how wonderful they are and what a beautiful show they put on. It is on my other website, here is the link:

Stunning photos of Mandevillas planted by Cathy Testa of Container Crazy CT.

I’m hoping this morning’s quick chill was the last of it. My house had the company of some nice blooming Mandevilla last night which I will once again carry back outside today. Today will be a stunning day. Full of sunshine so that is good. Oh! Yesterday it wasn’t just the drop (a quick one) but it was windy too. I could feel that whip of cold air at times even when the sun was out.

As I’ve said repeatedly, Memorial Day is the safe time to start planting warm loving tropicals and warm-loving vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, etc.). And it is also safe for Basil. Basil does not like the cold. When I walked to my greenhouse this morning, I was still in my PJ’s and slippers (too lazy to put on my flipflops), and the ground was very cold and wet. That to me is a reminder, the ground is still very chilly. Containers are a big of a different story and warmer. But you get the idea. The ground is cold until it warms up well which should be happening now that we are past this cold crap, LOL.

We are scoring an amazing weekend of weather for Memorial Day – AMEN! Will be perfect to do my site plantings and get started on my home plantings. It has been so very tempting to cheat – remember in April? We had an 89 degree F day! WTF. That is nuts, right? What happened is everyone got antsy. One garden center told me people were asking for tomato plants in April – that is way too early for them to be planted but I think everyone got super anxious and I don’t blame them. I did too.

I only tempted fate by putting out my agaves and cacti. On the late frost we got, I covered them with sheets that night. Cacti, remember, can take a dip in cold – that happens in the dessert where they are from. But tender annuals, tomatoes, etc. – that would impact them, and it may not show up right away. What happens is they may look fine but they won’t grow if they were exposed to too cold of temps They will just sit there – stubborn as heck.

Well, rant over! It is go-time this weekend. I need a real good night of sleep tonight and then working tomorrow. I see it will be like a summer day! 70 degrees expected tomorrow. That is nice. No rain, no cold, just warm sunshine with the birds and tree frogs chirping. Finally.

Oh, and why did I carry these into the house? Cause my greenhouse is full and plus it was a shorter walk, LOL. My cat curled up under them and slept there last night. Guess she likes the Mande vibe.

Enjoy your weekend!

Cathy Testa
Plant Crazy Enthusiast (this blog) (misc plant services) (container services)

Cozy for the Nite
Inspecting the Blooms
Nice blooms on this one.

Frost Arrived in Connecticut Overnight in 2023 on…

Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I took in:

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

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

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


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

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

Possible Pockets of Frost in CT and Mass 2023

Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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