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Cooler Temperatures Mean It's Time to Bring in the Babies!

If you've got a favorite plant or combination pot that has been the star of your summer garden, you might want to consider bringing it indoors for the winter months.  There are a number of tropical and cool season plants that do very well in a sunny spot in your home.  Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Mandevilla are a few of the tropicals that can be successfully overwintered by just following a few simple steps:

#1. Treat for Unwanted Insects

 Critters like to hitch-hike into a nice warm place for the winter.  We recommend applying a granular insecticide to the potting soil a few weeks before bringing them indoors to take care of   any unwanted eggs or insect larvae that  might be lurking in your potting systemic granule soils.  We also recommend that you spray with an insecticidal soap or your favorite insect control product to take care of any adults that are feeding on leaves or stems.

#2. Bring on the Light!

Plants that are moved indoors from sunny outside locations will take some time to acclimate to their new surroundings.   Try to place them in the window that will receive the most winter light.  You will almost certainly notice leaf loss on the plant as they adjust to lower light conditions.  Some of mine tend to get the "deer antler" look by the end of winter, but will fill back out again when they go back outside in the spring.  You can slow the loss of leaves by using supplemental plant lights on a timertree rose to increase the amount of light the plants receive. To keep them looking like they did outdoors you will need to give them at least 8-10 hours of light per day during the winter.

#3. WATER LESS!!! Give them a Rest...

Plants will not grow as quickly in the winter and need less water and hardly any fertilizer.  In fact, we recommend putting the fertilizer bottle away for the winter months and not applying again until spring.  Let the soil dry out completely between waterings to avoid waterlog.  Plant roots can start to rot quickly when they receive too much moisture.  Make sure the saucers are emptied between waterings, plants don't like to stand in a bathtub.

#4. Pruning Tips

Less is more, when it comes to bringing in your planters.  If you can't get it in the front door, then most certainly it will have to be pruned, but don't take off more than 1/4 of the top foliage.  Once we reach the end of winter into March and April, and you start seeing new growth on the plant tips, you will want to cut it 1/2 to 3/4 of the way back.  It seems a little harsh, and it might remind you of a hat-rack,  but you will be rewarded with all sorts of new growth that will be ready for another season of beauty in your garden.

#5. Running Out of Room????

Sometimes, for an avid gardener, the decision on which plants to bring in for the winter is like trying to decide which one of you children to leave out in the cold.  If you have favorite geranium plants that you would like to save, try this easy and amazing technique to save plants for next season.  In the fall, before a frost, you will actually go out to  geraniumyour planters and dig the geraniums out of the pots. Shake them gently to remove some of the soil from the roots.  You will then take a paper grocery bag (not plastic) and insert the geranium plant upside down in the bag, making sure the root system is totally enclosed.  Staple or clip the bag shut and supsend in a dark room.

 The people that have the most success usually put them in a basement room that is kept cool at about 55-60 degrees.  The next spring in March or April (depending on your area) you will go down into the basement and bring the geraniums back out.  Re-pot the plants in new potting soil and cut them back at least 1/2 way.  Again, you will have a very stubby plant, but in a few weeks it will start to leaf out and you will have gorgeous geraniums again for the new season.  I wouldn't have believed this would work the first time I heard about it, but believe me, it works great!