1011 N. Woodlawn
You have five basic choices when it comes to carrying tropical plants through the winter:
∑ Over-wintering them indoors as a houseplant
∑ Storing them as dormant plants, tubers, or bulbs
∑ Collecting seed to start again in the spring
∑ Leaving them outside, but protected
∑ Taking cuttings to root over the winter
Move your plants back outdoors in the spring very gradually. Too much sun too soon will burn the new growth and may kill the plant completely. Itís like going to the beach on the first day of summer without sunscreen.
Hibiscus, bougainvillea, mandevilla, banana, palm, citrus, fig, duranta, brugmansia, cordyline, phormium, abutilon, ginger, lantana, jasmine, and gardenia fall into this category.
Storing them as dormant plants, tubers or bulbs
Bring woody tropicals inside for storage just before frost. Donít cut back or prune woody plants in the fall. Dig them up, plant them in containers with potting soil (a soil-less mix), and store plants in a cool place at about 40 degrees. All the leaves will yellow and drop off. New leaves will grow when you return the plant to warmth and light. Prune the plant to shape at this time. Keep dormant plants on the dry side. Check soil moisture once a month and water lightly if they appear dry. Gradually introduce plants back into the light, and they will be ready for the garden.
Hibiscus, bougainvillea, mandevilla, banana, palm, citrus, fig, duranta, brugmansia, cordyline, phormium, abutilon, jasmine, ginger, and lantana fall into this category.
Gardenias ó a special challenge
When the flowers are finished, you can move your gardenia to a sunnier spot and not worry about warm temperatures. Direct sunlight, high humidity, and acidic soil (5.0 pH) are also important. Avoid repotting until it is utterly rootbound. Use an acid fertilizer, such as Miracid, but donít overdo it.
Gardenias can bloom at almost any time of the year. Flower buds form according to the following regimen: Prune back old growth (usually in the spring); promote new growth with lots of light and warm temperatures during the day (summer); allow temps to drop to 60 degrees at night (fall or early winter). It is up to you to decide when you want to introduce this regimen. Obviously, it is harder to achieve the lower nighttime temperatures during the summer.
Store the stems in a box, with the roots up and the stems down. This forces moisture downward into the stems. Close the top of the box. Store in a cool, dry place at about 50 to 60 degrees. You may want to check for mold every few weeks. Discard any shriveled, dried out stems.
In spring, pot them up. Tuck the plant into potting mix deep enough so that two leaf nodes are below the soil line ó thatís where new roots emerge. You should see new growth in 1-2 weeks. The trick is to water cautiously ó only when the soil dries out to about an inch down. In 4-6 weeks, plants are ready to be moved to the ground, if desired.