Like many gardeners, I have a number of plants that thrive outside during warm-weather months but, to survive year-round, must spend cold-weather months inside. When Connecticut temperatures begin to fall into the low 50’s –high 40’s – usually during September – I scramble to find indoor spaces for pots of tender vegetation.
For some, the move is a breeze. After checking for unwanted pests (caterpillars, white flies, aphids, mealy bugs, etc.) and eradicating these by hand picking or a couple of thorough sprays of insecticidal soap, the trek inside commences.
A peppermint scented geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) and lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) return to their respective corners of a bright, morning-sun-exposure room. They share these quarters with any potted rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) plants still healthy enough to suggest they will continue to thrive inside.
The windowsills of this room and a nearby kitchen window fill with small pots of coleus grown from cuttings from the larger plants that enlivened outdoor perennial beds with their colorful foliage.
A star jasmine (Jasminum nitidum), resurrected from a fellow gardener no longer enamored with its growth patterns, shares the gentle scent of its small white flowers for many autumn months. Even when not blooming, the shiny dark green jasmine leaves are a warming sight against the gray backdrop of Connecticut winters.
My two tropical hibiscus (hibiscus rosa-sinensis – unknown variety) get a serious pruning – as much as a foot off of each branch – before coming inside. This can be more painful for me than the plants since I often end up cutting off multiple flower buds. But I’ve learned that the plants will produce flowers earlier the next season if I stop their blooming pattern before I move them back inside.
Last year marked my first try at overwintering plants near a bright window in an unheated garage. Two gerbera (Festival Dark Eye Neon Rose) plants continued to send up blooms into late autumn. With just bi-weekly watering, both plants remained semi-dormant through the coldest months then sent up bright green new growth in early March. Both plants brightened my covered, south-facing front porch with blooms from late April until I again moved them back to their garage home this autumn.
This year, the gerbera have company. A summer acquisition, a 3 ft. fig tree (Ficus carica ‘Chicago Hardy’), overwinters in the same window.
My husband often comments how autumn’s inside migration of greenery shrinks our living areas, but he humors this routine knowing it’s one of the best ways to keep his gardener happy through long winter months. But overwintering does so much more than keep this gardener happy. With minimal effort, overwintered plants help soothe the plant expenditure budget and provide more bang for the buck when, as more mature plants, they move back outside to enliven warm-weather open-air living spaces.
I’m curious … what, if any, plants do you overwinter?