overwintering figs

Overwintering plants that go dormant

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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 figs and brugmansias. Overwintering plants that go dormant, such as these, 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 the bears do.

This is actually 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 cold cellar room in my basement that is the perfect size for my fig tree and a few other plants. This means that my brugmansias (a.k.a. angel trumpets) will join it this winter. Last year, my neighbour gave me a brugmansia and I let the poor thing freeze. This year he gave me a couple more and I want to keep them alive.

Overwintering brugmansias

Brugmansias go into a dormant phase over the winter, just like fig trees do.

A dark garage or shed, or uninsulated basement will also do the trick. What I usually do with my fig tree is wait until a few frosts cause the leaves to start dropping. Then I bring him (my fig tree, which was given to me by fig expert Steven Biggs, is named Wilbur) into the garage where the rest of the leaves will drop. Then Wilbur goes into the cold cellar for the winter.

In the spring, I’ll make sure all danger of frost has passed before bringing Wilbur back outside. This past winter I didn’t think he’d made it. Poor Wilbur was a couple of sad-looking twigs, but I was patient and eventually I started to see the promise of new buds. Now he’s about ready to go to sleep again with his new brugmansia friends.

Want to know how to save a few other plants that you have outside? Check out Amy’s article on overwintering plants indoors.

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