Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The trouble with overwintering

...is that sometimes the plants can't handle it!

I decided to overwinter my three 'La Crema' sages from Hort Courture because I really liked their variegated foliage in shades of deep green and light lime. They thrived in the heat and drought and complemented the rest of my salvias quite well. I'd like to divide these next spring and use them to cover the bare ankles of my 'David' phloxes in the front border, but will they make it through the winter??

I fully expected many dropped leaves and some stress as they went from the very bright sun of the garden to the much-less-sunny front window, so I gave them a good two weeks in their pots sitting on the patio to help with the adjustment. So much for that idea. They've been shedding leaves left and right, plus new growth is shriveling on one of them.

In my care to not overwater them I think I may have let them dry out too much (possibly contributing to all those shriveled, dropped leaves), but now I find myself in the typical conundrum of "am I killing them with too much or too little? Should I water or let them dry out?!"

All is not lost, of course, There is minimal new growth on all three plants, and I still have recourse to more drastic measures such as taking cuttings and rooting them in water. And if all else fails, hey, they were free so it's not the end of the world. But this is why overwintering is so challenging! Especially after getting spoiled last year by the world's best, easiest, most gardener-friendly coleus.

How do you get your tender perennials/annuals through the winter?

Disclaimer: Yes, I received these plants as a free trial. And a trial they are right now!


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Plants have to be very tough to overwinter in my house. I sweep a lot, as overwatering just doesn't happen. I've also found that larger plants fare better than smaller ones. Give them a few weeks, they might surprise you with a miraculous recovery.

Darla said...

I struggle with overwintering plants myself.

Gail said...

Rose, In zone 7 I can leave them out all winter~We have dieback, but generally the culinary sage survives. I have a very large bay tree that I bring inside on days when the temperatures go below 28...since our winters are mild the most it stays inside is a week at a time. gail

Rose said...

I'd like to learn the secrets of overwintering myself. Every year I bring a few plants in, and usually just before spring they die on me. I think it's only natural your sages shed some leaves from the shock of changing environments; after they get used to indoors, you might be surprised to see them come back.

garden girl said...

In my experience Rose, plants brought in to overwinter often suffer from shock due to the sudden change in climate conditions.

I think a common cause of indoor plant death is fussing over them too much, especially overwatering, leading to root rot. Anytime you have a death, check to see if the top separates easily from the roots. If it does, you know you killed it with kindness (overwatered it.) Think of it as a learning experience. :) Overwatering also leads to fungus gnats. Their larvae eat roots and weaken plants.

For me, survival is the goal, not beauty. I whack 'em back hard then blast 'em with the hose before they come in because 1. They're going to look crappy anyway, 2. It minimizes the chances of bringing in hitchhikers, increasing their chances to survive and also to not infect other overwintering and indoor plants.

For most overwintering plants, let the soil dry out between watering. Judge by the weight of the pot instead of how dry it looks or feels in the top inch or so of soil. Make sure they're draining well. Sometimes the drain holes get clogged with roots. The top of the soil may look and feel dry, yet the pot might be overly heavy. That's a good sign the drain hole(s) is plugged.

Give 'em a strong shower every so often like they'd get if they were outdoors, don't fertilize, and don't worry if they don't look great. A lot of the time once they get conditioned to the indoor environment, they'll perk up and look really nice. If they're all in one place, a small table fan in the room (not blowing directly on them, just stirring up the room,)or a ceiling fan is good - (think breeze - a nice current of circulating air helps prevent bugs and diseases.)

Semi-dormant in the winter is a pretty good state for encouraging survival 'till they go back outdoors next season.

I rarely have a loss other than fuchsias which I tend to kill regularly indoors. Outdoors, it's impossible to overwater. It loves moist soil. Indoors, I tend to kill them with water. The one time one survived, it was because I accidentally let it get drier than usual.

garden girl said...
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