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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 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 the bears 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. This means there is room for brugmansias (a.k.a. angel trumpets) to join my fig, as well. A dark garage or shed, or uninsulated basement will also do the trick. I’d like to start growing jasmine, too—apparently it will also overwinter in the dark.
Overwintering plants that go dormant
In the fall, after I’ve harvested my figs, what I usually do is wait until the leaves of my fig tree start turning yellow and dropping. I also keep an eye on the weather forecast. If temperatures are really going to start to dip, I’ll bring the pot into the garage where the rest of the leaves will drop. I’ll also give the plant one last light watering. Then Wilbur, has he’s been named, goes into the cold cellar for the winter. I’ll check on the soil occasionally to make sure it’s not too dry, but generally I’ll maybe give him a spritz once and that’s it until 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.
Do you bring any plants indoors for the winter?