Bringing Tropical Plants Indoors
Many gardeners like to try over-wintering their tropical plants in the house so they can use them outside again the following spring. A tropical plant is one that will not survive our winters here in Ohio, but prefer the mild winters of Florida, Southern California and the tropics. This includes the non-blooming plants we usually think of as “houseplants”, and also the blooming “tropicals” such as hibiscus, Mandeville, gardenia and bougainvillea.
Because our weather stays pleasant till mid-October we have a tendency to leave our tropicals outside until the weatherman calls for a hard frost. In reality, the bringing in process should begin at Labor Day and be finished up by late September. Waiting too long and letting the plants get too cold will shock and weaken them…making their adjustment that much harder.
Around Labor Day apply the first application of a general insecticide to begin killing any insects that have made your plant home. Repeat one to two more times about 10 days apart. At the same time, when your plant needs water, drench thoroughly…. soak the soil till water is running out the bottom. This will flush out soil insects. Let the soil dry and repeat. (It will take a bit longer for the soil to dry out from a soaking like this!) Once you have done this and your sprays are over they may be brought indoors.
Tropicals may be pruned to fit the spot in the house that you wish to over-winter them. Yes, you may have to cut off some bloom, but remember, the plant is having to support all it’s top growth in a situation that is not as warm or as sunny as it was use to. It will adjust much quicker and will ultimately outgrow it’s pruning. Try to give your plants as much sun as possible. Although they will go through a semi-dormant state they will appreciate the light, and if they receive enough you may be rewarded with some bloom. Water as needed and fertilize monthly.
The biggest drawback to over-wintering blooming tropicals is that you cannot set them out again until after our May frost date…. usually May 15th or so. It must be done gradually in the shade at first, with a little more sun everyday until they are use to being out. Because they have had reduced light early in their growing season and cool nights to start off outdoors, their bloom time may be delayed till mid-summer or later. Blooming tropicals enjoy warm nights as well as warm days, so they will be slower that the ones you see in the stores that have spent their winter and early spring in Florida.