In the fall, sometimes it’s nice to bring some annuals indoors to keep as houseplants. However, my space for new indoor plants is limited, and I have to say my indoor green thumb isn’t quite as, um, proficient as my outdoor one. That’s why I like plants like figs and brugmansias. Overwintering plants that go dormant over the winter months, is a cinch. These no-fuss tropical plants won’t survive our harsh, Canadian winters, so they like to hunker down and hibernate, just like animals do.
This is called plant dormancy in the gardening world. To make plants go dormant, you need a cold, dark room where the plants will not freeze. I happen to have a weird little cold cellar room in my basement that is the perfect size for my fig tree (it’s a Verte that I got from fig expert Steven Biggs as a wee little twig) and a few other plants. A dark garage or shed, or uninsulated basement will also do the trick.
Overwintering plants that go dormant
When overwintering plants that go dormant, it’s important to keep an eye on the weather. For example, after harvesting the last of the figs in early fall, keep an eye on the weather. Wait until the fig tree leaves start turning yellow and dropping. If temperatures are really going to start to dip, bring the pot into an unheated garage where the rest of the leaves will drop. At this point you can give the pot one last light watering. The pot can then be brought indoors into a cold cellar for the winter. Check on the soil occasionally to make sure it’s not too dry. It may need the odd spritz of water before spring.
Bringing dormant plants out of hibernation
In the spring, I’ll make sure all danger of frost has passed before bringing my fig tree back outside. Sometimes I’ll put it in the garage for a few days so it can readjust to the light gradually, rather than being placed in the full-on sunlight. Wilbur always comes out of the basement looking like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Most years I don’t think he’s made it. But with a little patience, eventually I start to see the promise of new leaf buds, and later on, wee little figs.
More tips on overwintering plants
- Overwintering Escargot Begonia indoors
- Take a cutting of plants to grow in water indoors
- How to care for a dormant Venus fly trap
- How to protect your hydrangea for the winter