Friday, March 8, 2013

Overwintering Tropicals

Mammoth Elephant Ears getting showered
Zone 6 gardeners understand my plight!

We want to grow beautiful tropicals and struggle with keeping them alive over the winter months.

I don't do well with houseplants and I don't have much interest in them, but after year, in September, I begin to bring in all my heat-loving tropical plants.

Where many people dig out the elephant ears and replant in the spring, I decided to see if I could just overwinter the foolish things and get bigger, more robust ears the following season.
Brugmansia in need of bigger pots

I also have Brugmansias which are not faring as well as I had hoped, but I will be repotting these thinking that maybe they're pot bound and this is contributing to their struggle.

Elephant ears and brugmansias are heavy, heavy feeders and require a ton of light and a ton of water. During the summer months, I feed them with Plant Tone fertilizer (a cup a month on the elephant ears and 1/2 cup a month on the brugmansias) and I water every day if it doesn't rain.  In the winter, I stop feeding them and water them deeply once a week.

Because I have hardwood floors throughout the entire house, and am deathly afraid of water damage, I keep these in my bathrooms and haul them into the walk-in shower when it's time to water.  I use false-bottoms in all my large pots so these aren't as heavy as they may appear.  I also have east-facing and west-facing windows in the bathroom so I know they are getting plenty of light.

I don't know if the elephant ears will come back to all their glory, but I felt it was worthy a try to overwinter them.  If nothing else, I've learned something and can go back to the old way of digging up the bulb and storing it for the winter.


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