I think you all know this by now, but I am cheap (well, I prefer the term frugal). I used to buy tons of annuals in the spring to fill my summer pots, only to watch them die in the fall. It seemed like such a waste of money, so I decided to start growing annuals from seed to fill my summer pots instead.
But the problem with starting annuals from seed is that they take so long to get large enough to fill my summer pots in the spring. You don’t get the immediate satisfaction that comes with buying the plants that are already mature from the nursery. (Our growing season is short here in Minnesota, I need instant gratification in my summer pots!)
Then one year I had an epiphany… Many of the plants sold by nurseries as annuals are actually tender perennials. Some of these plants would survive outside if protected from harsh winter climates, and many of them could easily be overwintered indoors.
Related Post: Gardening doesn’t have to be expensive
So I started using tropical plants and tender perennials in all of my summer pots, and then overwintering them indoors. This way I always have mature plants to put out in the spring (instant gratification!) without spending a dime on my summer pots.
Depending on the type of plant, I either overwinter them as a houseplant, force them to go dormant, or I dig up the tuber or bulb and store it in a box in the basement.
Overwintering tender plants as houseplants
I always neglect my houseplants in the summer, so moving them outside is better for them and for me. Plants that are overwintered indoors are sensitive to sunburn, so I slowly acclimate them to their full sun location over several weeks in the spring. Come fall, I debug the plants and clean the pots before bringing them back inside.
Overwintering tender bulbs and tubers
Tropical bulbs make a dramatic statement in summer planters, and it’s easy to overwinter the bulbs or tubers. After frost kills the foliage, I dig the bulbs or tubers out of the dirt and cut off all the foliage. Then I allow them to cure (dry out) for several days in the garage or basement. Finally I wrap them loosely in newspaper and stack them in cardboard boxes (you could pack them in peat moss or sawdust instead). I store the boxes on a shelf in the basement until I’m ready to plant them in the spring.
Overwintering dormant plants
There are several types of tropical plants that will go dormant and can easily be overwintered indoors right in their pots. To trigger a plant to go dormant, I move the plant to a cool, dark room and water sparingly through the winter (dormant plants will lose all of their leaves). Then in early spring, I slowly wake them up by moving them into a sunny room and water a little more often. Once I start to see new growth, I move them to a sunny window until it’s warm enough to put them outside.
Related Post: My $4 vegetable garden: How to grow food for less
It’s a bit of work to overwinter plants, but it’s worth it. I get to enjoy my favorite plants every summer, and it’s much cheaper than buying new plants in the spring. So why not save yourself some money by overwintering your plants indoors before frost hits your area this fall.
Do you overwinter any plants? Tell us how you do it in the comments section below.