November 5, 2009 at 7:24 a.m.
Only healthy plants should be brought indoors. If they were struggling all summer they won't store well in the winter. Since stressed plants bring on disease and insects, they may carry them into the house onto healthy plants. Remember the lighting in your selected areas. In the winter, even a west or south facing glassed area has only the winter light intensity of a shady area in the summer. There are two groups of plants that when brought indoors, overwinter well. One group requires a winter dormancy period, and the other group remains actively growing through the winter months.
"Tender bulbs" is the common term for plants grown from corms, rhizomes, and bulbs that are not winter hardy in the Midwest. They require a dormancy period in a cool place where the temperature is still above freezing. They include: caladiums, calla lilies, cannas, dahlias, elephant ears (colocasia), gladiolas, and tuber roses. After they are dug, cut the foliage back to the ground level and discard. Brush off as much soil from the bulb as possible by hand.
Place them in a warm, dry area for seven to fourteen days to dry. This removes excess moisture from the bulbs and from any remaining soil. Store the bulbs in an open area with good air circulation in an open container. Pack them loosely and separate with shredded newspaper or dry peat moss.
Most tender bulbs prefer a storage temperature between 45 and 50. Temperatures close to 70 degrees are too warm for most bulbs. Check the bulbs monthly and discard any bulbs that have become soft or decayed.
Several plants that we put outside during the summer remain actively growing through the winter months. You can extend the growing season of annuals such as geraniums, coleus, impatients, and fibrous begonias.
Tropicals like hibiscus, ficus, palms, mandevilla, alamanda, bananas, amaryllis, and poinsettias, are examples of plants that often find their way outside during summer.
Consider extending your herb garden by bringing some of them in for the winter. Examples of annual herbs are basil, cilantro, and dill. Examples of tender perennial herbs to bring in are lemon verbena, lemongrass, scented geraniums, pineapple, sage, bay laurel, rosemary, and various tender lavenders.
When you bring the plant in you may want to prune it back to reduce its size. Spray the plant with a mild general-purpose insecticidal soap. Most insecticides include a list of plants that should not be sprayed, so read the label.
Be sure to spray under the lip of the container as well as the bottom of the container where insects can hide. Once indoors plants require less water because of the lack of wind and direct sun. Remember that more plants are lost from over watering than under watering. Water only when the top one-half inch of soil is dry to the touch. Plants require little, if any, fertilizer during the winter months due to lower light intensity levels.
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