Bringing in "tropical" house plants

dtgardengirl's picture

I often use typical houseplants in mixed containers outdoors.  Most do quite well outdoors due to my shady conditions and the plant requirements.  Well, this year, I really stepped up the mix and would like to overwinter many.

My problem is I have little to no indoor natural light in the winter.  Last year there were few enough to use the under the counter lights in the kitchen.  This year, I'd have no counter left.  I don't have a place to set up a "grow light" nursery indoors.  I know I'll have to edit, for example large ivy will likely overwinter outdoors.  But, I have "Fluffy Ruffles" ferns, I'd love to bring in, though it might not like the lower winter humidity.

Also, I have three huge and beautiful Rex begonias.  The three small ones I brought in last year did not survive the indoor winter, though their companion peace lily or button fern did.  Does anyone have a tip on these?  One "Rex" is actually setting blooms as we speak.  I'll take out the ghost ferns, the black mondo grass, the heuchera and some small hosta, like "Stilleto" and plant them in the garden soon, or not, as these seem to fare well outdoors in containers, and return every year.  The indoor light issue is my dilemma.  (I also un-plant the indoor selections, rinse the leaves and roots well for insects and replant in clean containers and soil to remove pests.)  Should I just give up, or is there a solution where I have about one south facing window, with no space as yet, but the four under the counter fluoresent lights and edit that much?

I'm at a loss, but fear serious editing will be the only way I have to go.  No other window exposure is viable.  I have no west facing windows.  Only one east facing, and one north facing, that I can get to, but they are not in spots I'd remember to care for on a regular basis.  Most are plants you'd find in a "European Garden" from the florist.  I'm thinking that perennials will take a greater role next year, but I do like the interest these plants provide.  Maybe, I should write them off as annuals, however, I do especially like some.

I have no outbuilding or garage space to mention, plus no windows in there.  Any creative ideas, folks?  I need your most creative suggestions to make this work and it won't be long before I must act.  Thank you in advance for your ideas and suggestions.  All are appreciated!  Thank you in advance!

kmrsy's picture

(post #8532, reply #1 of 5)

DT, I do somewhat the same thing.  I have what I call my tenders garden and for it I overwinter Cordyline, Acalypha, purple fountain grass (PFG), Plumbago, Ledebouria, African Daisies, and several other plants including some ferns.  The PFG overwinters in the garage, but I usually take cuttings from the others and overwinter them under lights in the house. 

Use your imagination, think vertically.  My lightstand is 5 ft wide and a couple feet deep against a wall in the family room.  I made it from a wire rack that was meant to go over a washer & dryer.  It has 5 shelves, each with 4 ft flourescent lights.  If you still say you don't have the space it's not the end of the world, but you may want to switch gears and overwinter bulbs instead.  They can usually sleep the winter away in the garage and don't need light.

_^..^_ Kitty, neIN, Z5
_^..^_ Kitty, neIN, Z5
dtgardengirl's picture

(post #8532, reply #2 of 5)

Thank you for your reply.  You are in my zone and I just tried Cordyline for the first time this year.  In the past I've used the PFG, but didn't know it could be overwintered.  For the latter, do you supposed I could cut it back, bring it in the dark garage and just keep it damp as needed?  Also, do you think the Cordyline could be treated as a houseplant overwinter? 

I like your idea of space saving overwintering by thinking vertical.  I may be able to find some space for this.  But, I really want to enjoy some things as indoor plants.  I guess I'll have to be imaginative and selective on what I do.  I tend to have a care issue with indoor plants - if it is out of sight, I forget to water!  With the few in the Kitchen I don't have the light or the watering issue, unless dear hubby decides to turn off the lights during the day.

Oh, do you have tips for the fancy rex begonias?  I brought them in last year and watched their slow decline.  Can I let them die back and do the garage thing as mentioned above, or do you have other recommendations?  Or, do I need to provide better care as an indoor houseplant over the winter.  They were planted with peace lilys in a single container then and the peace lilys did fine, but they did not.  As you know, we are getting cooler nights and the lows are close to "bring in the house plant" time.  I hate to tear up the containers so soon, but don't want to wait too late!

I'm going to attempt to post a Rex photo....note that most companions in the container are perennials that will go into the garden, like Ghost fern, Black mondo grass, and the heuchera.  Thanks in advance for any further great advice you have to offer!

Rex_Mix_2006.jpg226.43 KB
kmrsy's picture

(post #8532, reply #3 of 5)

I grew Rex begonias a couple of years ago.  I like to plant them directly in the ground with hostas as they offer bright color accents.  Then lift and divide b4 potting to bring inside.  I believe the min temp for Rex is about 45-50°F; you should bring them in then.  For help with overwintering your begonias check with the folks at:

PFG (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') can take temps down to 30°F.  I dig, cut back, and pot them in Sept, but leave pots outside until they have to go into the garage.  I have one window in the garage and it faces south.  PFG doesn't go dormant, but slows down considerably during winter; it continues to send up a few new shoots which my cats like to nibble on.

My Cordyline baueri comes in the house.  It doesn't like a too dry environment.  I took it to my office this past winter instead of keeping it at home.  Office is MUCH drier and the Cordyline lost a lot of leaves.

RE> indoor plants - if it is out of sight, I forget to water!   I understand completely.  That is why my plant stand works for me.  This is a 5 foot section of wall in a room I am in every day.  None of this wandering around the house to see which plants in which rooms need attention.  The step stool is always right there so I can reach the top rows.  I also start my seeds there.


_^..^_ Kitty, neIN, Z5
_^..^_ Kitty, neIN, Z5
dtgardengirl's picture

(post #8532, reply #5 of 5)

Thank you for the additional specific information.  I'm going to check the site you recommend for begonias right away.

Unfortunately, I do not have a single space to set up an indoor grow system.  I guess I have too much junk!  But, maybe I can figure out a couple of small solutions in the main room where I spend time the kitchen/den area.  I don't have a basement and the two car garage has no room to speak of.  Thank you folks.  I'm off to check the site!

funboy's picture

(post #8532, reply #4 of 5)

Can you set up some indoor fluorescent in a basement or garage. The fluorescent are pretty cheap at home depot and many plants will survive ( not really grow but survive) the winter. I have tried to keep various begonias over the winter, and have always failed, due to some type of rot. Coleus and oxalis winter well, and rebound in the spring!