Published on December 17th, 2012 | by Shelley Awad0
Keeping Tropicals in Your Winter Greenhouse
Overwintering Tropical Plants in Your Greenhouse
Overwintering refers to the special care needed for plants that do not typically survive during the colder months and need to be brought indoors to stay alive. With tropical plants, the use of a greenhouse is the best and most convenient way to help them thrive during the winter making them look better from year to year. This also saves you from re-buying tropical plants each summer to decorate your outdoor patios and gardens with.
The ideal time to overwinter tropical plants is at the end of September or the beginning of October at the latest, long before the first frost arrives. Choose an area in the greenhouse that has consistent sunlight because tropicals have a tendency to become lopsided by reaching toward the lights. They should be rotated so that sunlight is evenly distributed.
During the first few weeks of overwintering, it is common for plants and trees to drop leaves as they adjust to their new surroundings. Your plant is becoming acclimated to its new surroundings. Avoid crowding to allow for adequate air circulation. This will also help deter pest infestation and disease.
In the greenhouse, water the plants whenever the soil is dry and mist regularly. Keeping the proper amount of moisture is imperative. Tropicals thrive in high humidity environments and the temperature in the greenhouse should be kept consistent. Check the minimum temperature requirements for the individual tropical plants that you have and be sure to maintain this temperature.
In a natural environment the temperature at night would drop to 50 degrees and during the day would hover around 65 degrees. Keep that in mind when adjusting the thermostat in the greenhouse. If you find that the floor tends to be too cool or drafty for your tropical plants, elevate them accordingly. Remember – heat rises, so warmer air is higher in the greenhouse.
Tropical plants should be pruned once or twice during the winter months which may also give you the opportunity to root some new cuttings.
Some tropicals require winter rest and should remain dormant. Elephant ears, caladiums, canna lily and other plants that grow from bulbs or tubers should get touched by frost once before they are brought into the greenhouse. This will alert the plant that the season has changed and it will then trigger the beginning of a dormant period. These plants can be kept in their pots with a slightly moist soil, in a cool, dark area. Check the bulbs monthly and if you notice them drying, just mist them slightly.
Woody stemmed tropicals such as papaya, banana or jasmine trees, should be brought indoors before the first frost and stored at a cool 40 degree temperature. The leaves will turn yellow and drop off but this is normal. Do not prune them until the spring arrives once more and water sparingly.
Creating a tropical oasis indoors or in your greenhouse is a great way to chase the winter blues away!