How to Overwinter Outdoor Tropicals as Houseplants
It can be a bit sad to think about your beautiful outdoor potted plants dying off when the frost hits. Some of the plants we grow as annuals in northern climates are tender perennials and can survive warmer winters down south.
Essentially what that means is that we can bring many of our favourite outdoor tropical plants indoors in the fall, and either keep them as houseplants, or store their corms, bulbs, or tubers for winter dormancy. So, you don’t have to let the cold weather claim your favourite fuchsia! Bring it indoors and let it live out the Powell River winter right by your side.
How to Bring Tropical Plants Indoors for Winter
Bringing your favourite tropicals indoors for winter does require a little bit of prep work and some time. The change from outdoors to indoors is quite a big one for your plants, so you want to make sure you transition them safely. Outdoor plants can also be popular for pests, so you want to make sure you deal with any infestations before bringing them inside. The transition to indoors should take about 1 week, and then you’ll want to quarantine them for two weeks inside, away from other houseplants.
Here are the steps for bringing your outdoor plants inside for the winter:
- Carefully select which plants you want to bring inside. Choose the healthiest specimens, and move them to a full shade location where they won’t get much sunlight. Staying in the shade will help prepare them for the lower light levels inside.Leave them in the shade for 1-2 days.
- Choose a place in your home where your new houseplants will be able to quarantine for two weeks, away from all of your other houseplants.
- Give any unruly or overly large plants a trim. Remove any brown leaves, spent flowers, and prune back up to ⅓ of total foliage if plants are too big.
- Inspect all your plants for pests: check the undersides of leaves, the stems, and even the bottoms of pots. Bugs, like ants, like to crawl in the drainage holes of pots. Treat for any pests that you find. This is also an excellent time to give the outsides of their pots a good cleanup.
- Identify plants that need repotting. Now is not the ideal time to do it, since they’re already experiencing stress from moving indoors, but if it’s necessary, do it. If you think they can wait a while, let them settle in for a month or so before repotting.
- Start to bring them inside overnight, putting them back out during the day. Reduce their total outdoor time every day. By 6-7 days, you should be able to leave them indoors permanently.
- Once your plants have fully adjusted to living indoors, give them another week or two to quarantine together, keeping a close eye for pests.
- When you’re sure there are no pests on any of your plants, find spots for them as close to south-facing windows as possible.
Plants to Grow As Houseplants Over Winter:
- Angel’s trumpet
- Hot peppers
- Potted boxwood
How to Overwinter Plants that go Dormant
Some plants, like caladium, go dormant over the winter and drop all of their leaves. These kinds of plants like to have a nap somewhere dark and dry over winter. You can either leave plants that go dormant in their pots or dig up the bulbs, corms, or tubers and store them. Mesh bags are excellent for storing bulbs, corms, and tubers.
Leave your bulb, corms, and tuber plants out until a frost gets the leaves. The frost exposure will initiate their transition to dormancy. Once the leaves have started to die back, you can cut the foliage off and store the whole pot indoors, or dig up the corms, shake off the dirt, trim up the roots, and let them dry on newspaper or cardboard for a few days. A fan can help speed up this process. Then store them loosely, and check them every month to make sure they’re not rotting.
Bulbs, Tubers, and Corms to Store:
- Elephant ears
- Tuberous begonias
If you need any supplies or have any questions about bringing outdoor tropical plants inside for the winter, stop by Mother Nature or give us a call! We can help you figure out how to save your favourite tender perennials.