Coming in From the Cold

Their winter home

Their winter home

With nighttime temperatures in coastal Rhode Island dipping into the 40s, all but a very few houseplants need to come inside now for the winter. Tropical plants do not grow in 60 degrees or lower and temps in the 40s can damage them. So it’s time to drop whatever you’re doing and deal, or one morning you’ll wake up and it’ll be too late.

But why does it always seem that the houseplants you brought outside for the summer have mysteriously multiplied? Now you have to find good growing places for all of them, where they can happily spend the winter –  hopefully without getting spider mites – or scale – or white flies – or whatever.

We moved recently, and I just plunked many of my houseplants on the deck while I was attending to the chaos inside. Then we had a windstorm that shredded the leaves of my hibiscus.

The tattered hibiscus

The tattered hibiscus

I brought it in this week, and it is sitting as far away from my other plants as possible, in what is probably a pathetically inadequate quarantine. I cut it back quite severely, but I’ll probably cut even more in the coming weeks.

I also brought in my rosemary, a ficus, an ivy, and various other plants. They have the same exposure as they did in our old house, so I am hoping they’ll be happy here. I checked the foliage and soil for any critters that might be lurking there, and pruned damaged leaves and stems.

Experts say we should “gradually” reintroduce our plants to being inside, because sudden changes can be traumatic for them. (Is this the opposite of “hardening off,” sort of like “softening off”?) Anyway, that’s fine if you can easily lift the pot, but my hibiscus is so heavy that it’s all I can do to drag it in and out once per season. It has survived three winters with this heartless treatment, so I’m not going to worry about it.

The only plant that will stay outside a bit longer is my dendrobium orchid. These plants demand a cool period during which the temperature can drop down into the upper 30s. If they do not get this “chill time,” they won’t bloom. I just have to remember to bring it in before the frost!

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About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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3 Responses to Coming in From the Cold

  1. marydelle says:

    Ah, when I lived up north, I recall this time of year. My rosemary never did well inside. Yours seems to. I actually enjoyed this time of year, as I recall, as my house would fill with all my beloved friends who had been away for the summer.

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  2. dirtynailz says:

    I’ve been lucky with my rosemary. It even bloomed for me this summer! I also like to keep pots of basil, parsley and thyme in the house so I have fresh herbs to cook with.

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  3. HerbDoc says:

    Thanks for the reminder! I’ve been putting this off, but it looks like the temps are really going to dip tonight and Saturday night. I’ve always had luck keeping my huge rosemary,fig, hibiscus and bay in the basement in my laundry room. It’s cooler there and more humid which seems to protect them. I have a light garden there too for other plants which I circulate around the upstairs. Guess I’d better get to work!

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