Overwintering Plants

To overwinter or not to overwinter, THAT is the question. While plant enthusiasts are blessed with many things here in southwest Michigan, we can never take for granted that the plants we have so carefully chosen are sometimes just not suited to remain outdoors for our winter season.

Three big factors to consider before you bring in those pots:

Light: Can you accommodate the light requirements for each particular plant?
Space: Do you have the room to bring your plants indoors?
Cost: Is this a plant that it would be better to replace in the spring?

Light is something that we fall desperately short on in Michigan during the winter months. Depending on the needs of your plant you may get lucky, as I have thus far, by just making use of your southern exposures. Grow lights are also an option for those with limited access to south facing windows.

Remember that a plant will need an adjustment period to the new location, so once you choose a spot in your home be sure to leave it there for a few weeks to acclimate. By paying close attention to leaf color, soil condition, and new growth over time, you should be able to determine if the plant’s needs are being met.

Where you place your plants in the home can also make or break their chances at survival. While just about any place will do, some things to consider with indoor plants are: pets, children, heat vents, drafts, ease of access for watering, and distance from a light source. Each individual plant will be different in its’ tolerances but as above, be sure to give ample time for the plant to acclimate to it’s new surroundings.

Pets and children can be hazardous to plants both from their effect on the plant or conversely the plants effect on them. Be aware of plants that can be toxic if consumed and place them accordingly.

Indoor heating creates a semi-arid environment that can cause both the plant and the soil to lose moisture. Consider keeping a spray bottle with water handy for misting leaves of moisture loving plants. Drafts created by opening exterior doors can shock plants with arctic blasts. While watering should be cut back at this dormant time, plants that are inaccessible to be watered will lose out in the battle for household moisture.

For some plants the “cost” of overwintering simply does not outweigh the cost of replacement. The cost of overwintering could include just your time, but more often than not there are accommodations that you make to bring outdoor items in, even if only for a short time.

With grow lights you use additional electricity and under the best of circumstances you will have probably found it necessary to relocate nick-knacks/furniture/etc. to give the plant a safe place for it’s stay indoors. However, whether you choose to replace a plant or not is often more a sentimental decision than one of dollars and cents.

Last year I splurged on a 12″ sunset-orange color potted hibiscus and while it was not an expensive purchase, I chose not to have to look for a new one in the spring since I really enjoy the color of this particular plant’s flowers. My reward for this decision has been continuing blossoms!

Whether or not you choose to overwinter a plant is just as personal a choice as which plants to purchase in the first place. By taking into consideration the items outlined above, you will be well on your way to successfully maintaining your plants till spring.

By Guest Gardener, Brenda Laukert. Brenda is a former houseplant manager with Frank’s Nursery & Crafts and has been developing her “green thumb” over the past 6 years. In her outdoor space includes roses, herbs, various perennials, and a hydrangea. Indoors she cares for Easter cactus, tropical hibiscus, Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily), African violets, ivy, and jade. Brenda resides in Kalamazoo. 2013

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