How to overwinter plants?

Can I Keep It Through the Winter?

We all have some plant in the garden that we would like to save through the winter. Certain plants are easily maintained, others are more difficult. Let’s look at a few ways to keep those favorite plants alive.

Plants growing in containers: These plants are relatively easy to keep. If you are growing perennial flowers or small woody plants in containers, bring the entire container indoors. Place them in a basement or garage for the winter. The overwintering site should have some light and should stay above freezing all winter. Perennials and woody plants will be dormant during this time, so they won’t need large quantities of light and will need very little water (just enough to keep the root ball slightly moist).

Annual plants: There are some annual plants (grandma’s geranium, purple fountain grass, that herb you just can’t be without) that just seem worth keeping. This can be done couple of different ways.

The entire plant can be dug prior to frost and placed in a container. Once in a container, the plant can be treated like a houseplant, given good light and regular waterings. Annuals react to this treatment in various ways. Some plants may continue to grow and look good, others may maintain a living root system while the top of the plant looks less than desirable. Once spring arrives and the last frost has passed, these plants can be put back into the garden for a quick start.

Many annuals can be kept over winter as stem cuttings. This works well for plants with thicker stems, like geraniums. Take several stem cuttings about 3-4 inches long and stick them in a pot of soil. Keep the soil moist and place the cuttings in bright, but indirect light until they have a chance to form roots. Once they form roots, they can be placed in direct sunlight for good growth. Always take more cuttings than you think you will need, since some of the cuttings may not survive.

Plants that aren’t always fully hardy in our area: There are a few plants in our garden that are not fully hardy in our area. They may survive a milder winter and then die out in a harsher winter. Despite this, we still try to grow them. These plants include butterfly bush (Buddleia species), some species of hydrangea, many roses and some of the mums. After we have had a frost or two, consider a heavy mulching of these plants. The mulch should be several inches thick (up to 10 inches) and should drain well so that the plants do not drown. Surround the base of the plant with a small fence to hold the mulch in place and apply several inches of a light mulch like straw, oak leaves or evergreen boughs. There is no guarantee that this will work every year, but it may extend the life of some of these borderline plants.

Overwintering Plants: What Is Overwintering

Image by krblokhin

It can be quite costly to buy all new plants each spring. There’s also no guarantee that your local garden center will carry your favorite plant next year. Some plants that we grow as annuals in northern regions are perennial in southern areas. By overwintering these plants, we can keep them growing year after year and save a little money.

What is Overwintering?

Overwintering plants simply means protecting plants from the cold in a sheltered place, like your home, basement, garage, etc.

Some plants can be taken in your house where they continue to grow as houseplants. Some plants need to go through a dormancy period and will need to be overwintered in a cool, dark space such as a garage or basement. Others may require storing of their bulbs inside through the winter.

Knowing the plant’s needs is the key to keeping plants over winter successfully.

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How to Overwinter a Plant

Many plants can simply be taken into the house and grown as houseplants when temperatures outside become too cold for them. These include:

  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Geranium
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Boston fern
  • Coleus
  • Caladiums
  • Hibiscus
  • Begonias
  • Impatiens

Lack of sunlight and/or humidity inside a home can sometimes be a problem, though. Keep plants away from heat ducts that can be too drying for them. You may have to set up artificial light for some plants to simulate sunlight. Additionally, you may have to take steps to provide humidity for the plants.

Plants with bulbs, tubers or corms that need a dormancy period can be overwintered just as dried roots. Examples include:

  • Cannas
  • Dahlias
  • Certain lilies
  • Elephant ears
  • Four o’clocks

Cut back the foliage; dig up the bulb, corm or tubers; remove all dirt from them and allow to dry out. Store these in a cool, dry and dark area throughout the winter, then replant them outside in spring.

Tender perennials can be overwintered in a cool, dark basement or garage where temperatures stay above 40 degrees F. (4 C.) but are not too warm to cause the plant to come out of dormancy. Some tender perennials can be left outdoors through the winter with just an extra heap of thick mulch covering them.

Like everything in gardening, overwintering plants can be a lesson of trial by error. You may have great success with some plants and others may die, but it’s an opportunity to learn as you go.

Be sure when bringing any plants indoors for winter that you treat them for pests beforehand. Growing plants you plan to overwinter indoors in containers all year long can make the transition easier for you and the plant.

Storing Plants for Winter

Gardening can be a very relaxing hobby, and a few potted perennials can keep your landscape looking good, but our harsh winters can wreak havoc on your hard work. S perennials can’t withstand bitterly cold temperatures – especially when kept in pots, which don’t insulate your plant’s roots as well as the ground. That’s where My Storage comes in.

For most people, finding a place to put potted perennials can be a chore. Garage space is valuable, and we don’t all have a place inside the house to let larger plants wait out the winter months. Our 8×12.5 foot units are not only large enough to house your potted plants, but is also a convenient place to store all of the garden tools and equipment that would take up valuable space in a garage or closet.

Renting a My Storage unit is a very economical way to help your delicate plants outlast not only this winter, but several to come. Perennial plants have the ability to live for years, under the right care and conditions. For only $65 a month, you can afford to give your plants the room they need to grow.

Many gardeners, from beginners to the more experienced, have questions concerning how to over winter plants. Garden expert Danielle Ernest from Proven Winners brand plants addresses these issues in this exclusive LoveToKnow Garden interview.

How to Over Winter Plants

Winter is the time when most plants rest and recover from a busy year of making your yard gorgeous. Here are some helpful tips from Danielle Ernest to help you help your plants.

Interview with Danielle Ernest

What Is Over Wintering

LoveToKnow: What does it mean to over winter plants?

Danielle Ernest: The definition of over-wintering means to care for a plant (annual or tropical) that typically doesn’t make it through the winters in your zone by bringing that plant into your home – living area, basement, garage – to keep it alive from year to year. Because if left outside, it would not be able to survive due to the level of coldness in your growing area.

LTK: What plants are best suited for over wintering?

DE: Plants that are typically over-wintered are plants we treat as annuals but are actually tender perennials such as geraniums, impatiens, sweet potato vine, etc. The other category of plants that are over-wintered are tropicals such as bananas, philodendron or any plant that would be typically sold as an indoor plant for your region of the country.

Danielle Ernest

For instance, when I lived in Michigan many gardeners would use spider plants and Boston ferns to decorate their outdoor living spaces. Those plants are considered tropical in Michigan and would not survive the below zero winter temperatures. They would need to be over-wintered indoors.

Really, these plants don’t need special treatment. It is up to gardeners if they prefer to over-winter plants indoors or if they prefer to buy those annuals and tropicals from year to year. Personally, I prefer to buy annuals from year to year. I don’t have a lot of room to over-winter plants in my house and I have animals that tend to eat any plant that I bring into my home. So really, it is up to the individual. I believe it is often a personal challenge that experienced gardeners set for themselves. Everyone likes to push the limits – I always did this with my garden in Michigan when it came to sun/shade and zone requirements.

How to Do It

LTK: What are some basic steps for protecting plants through the winter?

DE: For perennials and shrubs that you are keeping outdoors in the ground during the winter, you really do not need any protection. This is the time that plants take to go into dormancy and refuel on energy for the next spring – similar to what animals do when going into hibernation. Shrubs and perennials in containers may need some special treatment to last the winter.

The tip I give to beginning gardeners is to know your zone. All you need to do is put your zip code into the search box on the Proven Winners site. For instance, I am in zone 7B where I now live in Washington state. That means when I go to the garden center, I need to look for plants that will survive in 7B or lower (6, 5, 4, etc). These would work in my garden. Once you become more familiar with your garden, there will be spots where plants that normally wouldn’t survive, say a zone 8 plant, can survive because there is a micro-climate being created, maybe from the heat of your home.

Bringing Plants Indoors

LTK: How are plants prepared for bringing them indoors and what kind of care will they need indoors for the winter?

DE: Typically, most homes do not have enough full sun window space to bring plants indoors successfully. This, however, is not a reflection of the gardener that you are. Plants need to receive proper lighting, water and fertilizer to grow throughout months where we typically do not get long days due to the time of the year (fall and winter). The low humidity is a contributing factor to why some are unsuccessful as well. Many gardeners that over-winter plants have assisted lighting with grow lights, small greenhouses and sunrooms to be successful.

First off, it is important to get your plants indoors before your first frost. If the leaves are damaged by frost, it is going to be hard to get them to recover and may not be worth the effort.

When bringing plants indoors from outside, you will want to inspect the plant for insects or disease. If there are signs of insects or disease, you will want to use a spray of your choice to get rid of them before bringing the plant indoors. You should also remove any diseased leaves or stems. It is almost better to be more cautious then not on this topic. I would consider spraying for insects even if you don’t see them at that time because once they are indoors – they are indoors.

Bring container plants inside.

Since the plant will experience stress during the transition, it is best to select plants that look extremely healthy for better success. If the plant is in a container, the transition is extremely easy, but if they are planted in-ground the plant must be dug up and planted in a container. This is when I say, “Forget it, I’ll just buy it next year,” but to each their own. When digging up this plant, make sure to get a good portion of its roots and plant it in a container with fresh potting soil that has fertilizer incorporated in the mix.

After planting, make sure to give the plant a good drink of water. This means water until you see water coming out of the drainage holes. I would consider letting the plant get used to its new container home for a couple days outdoors in a lower lighted area before moving it inside. For plants that have been in containers all summer, water thoroughly and give it the recommended fertilizer rate.

Once the plant is brought indoors, it is important to place it in a location that gets as much sun as it was receiving outdoors originally. Plants may be placed in a greenhouse, sunroom, bright window or under grow lights if needed.

I would not recommend digging up the plant, placing it in a different light level and shearing it all at the same time. The amount of shock a plant goes through may influence whether it lives or dies. After the plant has been in the home for a couple weeks, I would then decide to cut-it back. If the foliage continuous to look healthy, then proceed with cutting back the stems ½ inch. Make sure to clean your cutting instrument between plants with lightly soapy water or rubbing alcohol to prevent the spread of disease.

To help with low-humidity, use a shallow dish and fill with clean gravel and water. The evaporation of the water will provide your plant with humidity. Also, a spray bottle can be used to mist the leaves a couple of times a week instead of the above recommendation.

While your plants are indoors, fertilizing them is not necessary unless you notice that the plant is growing quite a bit. If that is the case, lightly fertilize them only once a month or so. Watering will only be necessary when the top of the soil is dry to the touch. Then water until a small amount of water comes out of the drainage holes – you do not want to over water the plant. If you have a hard time determining when the plant needs to be watered, I always recommend using a tray and filling it with water so that the plant can drink the water as needed by sucking it up through it roots. This method is most useful for me.

Typically, plants that are over-wintered indoors tend to stretch to the necessary light source. In the spring, when the plants are transitioned back outdoors a light shearing can take place again.

Other Tips

LTK: What else should gardeners know about over wintering plants?

DE: It is important to not let worries about over-wintering affect you as a gardener. Over-wintering plants is difficult – even nurseries and greenhouses lose plants during the winter months, but that is all part of gardening. If you fail, try, try again.

Even those with degrees in horticulture can have black thumbs, but that doesn’t stop us from trying. Believe me, I am one of them. Gardening is all about the learning process and you can really learn a lot from others around you. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.

LoveToKnow would like to thank Danielle Ernest and Proven Winners for taking the time for this interview on how to over winter plants.

8 Indoor Crops for Winter Gardening

Gardening is often treated as a seasonal sport, but it’s possible to play in winter, too – you just have to learn a slightly different set of rules. The first, and most important, step is to understand which crops are best adapted to indoor growing. Then it’s a matter of creating the right conditions for each.

If you have a sunny south-facing window, some of the crops below are fairly effortless to grow indoors in winter. If you have them growing in a pot outdoors already, simply reposition them inside and continue providing water and fertilizer (here’s a selection of natural and organic fertilizers suitable for indoor plants). Others will need supplemental lighting in order to thrive, as winter days are too short for many species to photosynthesize sufficiently. Find indoor grow lights and accessories online and at garden centers and hydroponic stores. Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs are the most widely available and cost-effective type.

Basil, oregano, sage, lavender, mint, thyme, rosemary, dill, and other herbs are among the easiest edibles to grow indoors. Of these, mint is the most shade tolerant, though it still needs a few hours of direct light each day to thrive. Basil and dill have the highest heat requirements, so you’ll want to make sure they’re located in a room that stays above 60 degrees at night.

Lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are also easy to grow indoors, though you’ll have more luck harvesting them as baby greens, rather than trying to grow them to maturity. Sow a new batch of seeds every few weeks to maintain a ready supply. Greens do not need supplemental light if located in a sunny, south-facing window. Otherwise, provide 10 to 12 hours of artificial light daily.

Cherry Tomatoes
Fruiting plants are trickier to grow indoors in winter because most need ample sunlight and heat to mature. Cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest of the fruiting crops to grow indoors, though they will definitely require artificial light – about 16 hours each day. They also need nighttime temperature to be kept above 65 degrees to thrive. A warm sunroom where daytime temperatures reach 75 to 80 degrees is ideal.

Chili Peppers
Chilies (cayenne, jalapeno, habanero, etc) are another category of fruiting edible that is relatively easy to grow indoors. The smallest varieties, like cayenne, are the easiest to ripen. Growing requirements are the same as cherry tomatoes.

Some types of dwarf citrus (which can be kept in a large pot) are suitable for indoor growing, or at least overwintering indoors. The beauty of citrus is that many varieties ripen during winter. For best results, keep citrus in pots outdoors from spring through fall, moving them inside whenever nighttime temperatures begin to dip below 50 degrees. Oranges and grapefruits are tough to ripen indoors, though lemons and limes fair quite well. These subtropical shrubs need 8 hours of direct sunlight in winter, or 16 hours under grow lights.

Baby Ginger
This tropical spice needs heat and humidity to thrive, so it isn’t the best candidate for a room that is kept at 68 degrees with the dry air of central heating. But it is feasible in a large terrarium, which can be made with any standard fish aquarium that is at least 24 inches tall (to accommodate for the height of the plants). Ginger requires good drainage, so don’t just add soil to the bottom of the aquarium; plant it in six-inch deep pots instead. You can start new plants by cutting up store-bought ginger (make sure it’s organic, as conventional ginger is often treated with growth inhibitors) into two-inch chunks with at least one knobby tip on each. Provide at least 8 hours of direct sun or 16 hours under grow lights.

Sprouts are by far the easiest way to grow a little fresh food in the depths of winter. Sprouting kits are your best bet – these are basically a mason jar with a perforated lid. Soak the seeds (mung beans, alfalfa, sunflower, etc) for a day or two and then leave them to germinate in the jar, rinsing twice per day. No direct sunlight is required; ordinary room lighting or a bit of diffuse light in a window is all you need.

Microgreens are essentially sprouts that have been allowed to develop their first leaves. Or you could say they are baby greens that are harvested early. Unlike sprouts, microgreens require soil – a seedling tray filled with potting soil is perfect. Soak the seeds overnight to get them started germinating and then cover them with a thin layer of soil in the tray, or just press them into the surface of the soil. Keep moist. Harvest once the first leaves emerge by cutting them with scissors just above the soil. Greens of all types are ideal for harvesting as microgreens, as are peas (that’s how you get pea shoots), and root crops, like turnips, beets, and radishes.

How to Keep Your Plants Alive in Fall and Winter

The fall and winter months mean chilly weather, cozy blankets, mugs of hot cocoa, and warm fires. While people may enjoy the crisp, cold air, the lower temperatures and shorter days make it difficult for plants to thrive. So how do you help your indoor plants stay alive this fall and winter? Follow these tips!

1. Keep your plants warm–but not too warm

Many plant are extremely sensitive to cold air. The #1 step to helping your indoor plants survive the cool months is to make sure they are protected from the cold air. You can partly solve this by sealing up your windows and insulating your doors of your home. Also, if you keep plants next to outside doors or leaky windowsills during the warmer months, make sure you move them to other rooms where they won’t get shocked by the cold air.

You also want to make sure you keep plants away from sources of heat, like fireplaces, radiators, and even heating vents. Blasts of hot air can be just as bad for your plant as blasts of cold air. Keep your plants at a steady temperature between 65-75 degrees F during the day, and above 50 degrees F at night for the best plant living conditions.

2. Reduce your watering

Even though they are inside, the majority of houseplants go dormant in the fall and winter months. When they are dormant, they don’t need as much water (or fertilizer). Follow standard watering advice, and only water if the soil is dry an inch or two below the surface. You want to make sure your plants don’t stay sitting in water because that can lead to root rot, fungus, mold, and a host of other issues. If you see yellow leaves or moldy soil, then you’ll know you need to reduce your watering frequency.

3. Increase your home’s humidity

Low humidity in the cold months isn’t just a problem for people–it’s a problem for plants, too. Plants enjoy humidity levels around 50%, so keep your humidifier running if you have one. If you don’t, try clustering your plants together in the most humid rooms of your home (typically the bathrooms or kitchen), or placing them on top of a large tray or baking sheet filled with water. (You just have to make sure the pots don’t touch the water, so place some stones in the water and put the plants on top.)

4. Clean your plants

Sun is in short supply in the winter. To make sure they can take full advantage of the little light they have, make sure your indoor plants’ leaves stay clean and dust-free. Every couple weeks, put your plants in the bathtub and use a handheld sprayer to give the leaves a gentle shower, or use a damp towel to wipe dust and grime off the leaves. Keeping the leaves clean mean they can be more efficient at photosynthesis.

5. Give them plenty of light

Plants need light more than anything else in the fall and winter. You will need to be extra careful to rotate your pots to make sure each plant is getting the sunlight they need. If the available natural sunlight isn’t enough, use a full-spectrum lightbulb in a standard desk lamp and shine it on your plants for at least 12-14 hours a day. Learn more about setting up a grow lamp, or purchase an LED grow light in our store.

Wasp gathering pollen during the summer in bloom, without the warm weather and pollen filled flowers the wasps die off (Picture: Andia/UIG/ Getty)

Coming to the end of the summer brings a kind of sweaty melancholy to the population, as we all realise how quickly the year is passing us by.

The one thing we’re not sad about leaving behind is swatting wasps away from our pints, as the wasps either die or hibernate.

But wasps are pollinators and very useful to the animal eco-system so don’t be too sad they’re gone.

There’s no specific date when all wasps die off but it generally coincides with a cold snap or when the weather turns cold naturally with the seasons.

It’s the cold in combination with a dwindling food supply that will cause the deaths.

Both male and female worker wasps will die but the queen wasp is the exception.

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Queen wasps are the only ones who hibernate, which means they are the only ones who have a chance to survive the winter.

But most hibernating queens will die.

Some will die when because they are found by predators such as spiders. Also, if the winter is warm, some queens struggle to hibernate and death from starvation could happen.

Similar to a bee colony, the queen wasp is also the only one in the nest who can lay fertilised eggs.

There are three ‘types’ of wasp in each nest – the worker, the drone and the queen.

Workers are infertile female worker wasps, drones are fertile male wasps which have no sting and the queens which are the fertile females.

The average nest will produce around 12,000 worker wasps and between 1,000 and 2,000 queens a season.

How a wasp becomes a queen and how a female is selected/fights to become a queen wasp has been the topic of debate with researchers.

There is no absolute definite answer but in most species of wasp, queen wasps are bigger, though this is because they are given much more food during the larval stage.

And this has a large impact. The queen has a lifespan of around 12 months compared to an average wasp lifespan of around 20 days.

This means that wasps actually die throughout the year, though between 100 and 150 eggs a day laid by the queen wasp replenish the population.

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(Picture: Andia/UIG/Getty)

Wasp nests will now (September is the point where this starts happening on average) slow down activity and become inactive as the wasps die off without the population being replenished.

The new queen or queens will hibernate as the old queen from the year before lives her last days as the winter draws in.

As the weather warms in the spring, the hibernating wasps finally wake after their hibernation.

The queens that survived the winter will start building new nests.

When the nest is structurally sound and tucked away the queen will start to lay eggs in the nest’s cells.

Soon, the eggs will hatch and there will be a whole other wave of wasps for you to swat off next summer.

The reason that wasps are only really seen in mid and late summer is, it is thought, that the numbers of wasps increase and most of the early worker wasps spend the early part of the year eating aphids and other small insects.

It is only when those sources of food are gone that they look for picnics or further afield.

MORE: When should you prune your roses?

MORE: Makeup artist uses real wasps and snails to create lip art

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The Wasp Life Cycle – When Do Wasps Die Off?

As temperatures begin to rise and we head towards the spring and summer months we will start to see an increase in the number of wasps flying around our gardens and homes which leads to many questions from our clients:

  • When do wasps die off?
  • Do wasps nest in the same place?
  • Where do wasps build their nests?

We’ve put together the following information to give you an insight into the life cycle of a wasp and tips you can implement to prevent them nesting around your home.

When Do Wasps Die Off?

In order to understand when a wasp will die off it is important to consider their lifecycle; wasps, like most insects, go through 4 stages of development:

Once they have achieved adult status, male wasps, or drones as they are often referred to as, tend to die off in the winter – a lack of food and the cold weather conditions mean they struggle to survive.

The Queen wasps hibernate throughout the winter although this doesn’t make them immune to predators who eat them e.g. spiders. There is also the danger that a particularly warm winter will encourage the Queens to come out of hibernation early although a lack of food may cause starvation and they will die off.

Any that survive the winter period immediately start looking for a nest…

Do Wasps Nest In The Same Place?

The ‘Queen’ wasps hibernate over the winter to emerge in spring and, depending on the species, choose a suitable site to start the new nest. Old wasp nests from previous years are not used again although it has been known for the Queen to start her new nest adjacent to or ‘within’ an old nest.

Image source:

In addition, it is possible for several Queens who survived the winter – normally all from the same previous nest – to start construction of their new nests in close proximity to each other.

The queens start off by collecting wood which they then chew up with their saliva to make a kind of paper mache or wood pulp to begin forming a nest.

Tip: We believe that prevention is better than a cure, so by identifying where wasps could build their nests is the best way to start with your prevention. There are a few things that you can do in and around your home to prevent wasps nesting.

Where Do Wasps Build Their Nests?

  • Somewhere they can find shelter from rain and dampness
  • They prefer dark, dry and secluded places
  • Anywhere away from disruption

Some of the following are areas to consider:

1. Check your loft for small holes and gaps as this is the most common way wasps gain entry to loft spaces – seal these holes and use insect mesh to cover air bricks and soffits.

2. Adding light to small places where you may have had nests previously is an effective way to discourage future nest building as wasps do not like light.

3. Inspect areas frequently. Wasps constantly build their nests throughout the spring and summer so make sure you check your must vulnerable areas often.

Tip: If you see nests being formed and they are smaller than a tennis ball in size, then you can vacuum them away but if you are unsure call Hullternative for expert advice.

What To Do If You See Wasps Around Your Property

The sight of wasps flying around your property may lead to the belief that a nest is nearby, however this isn’t always the case as they will naturally come into your garden or home to look for food, water, nest building material etc. You can cut down the instances of ‘free flying wasps’ by following a few simple step:

Image source:

1. Do not place sweet smelling plants near doors and windows. These plants produce an abundance of nectar and sap which wasps are attracted to.

2. Do not plant fruit trees too close to your house; again, these trees attract wasps.

3. Bins and exposed rubbish should be kept away from your house, make sure bin lids fit and that any damage or holes are sealed.

4. Check wooden garden furniture for ‘white tramlines’ which may indicate that a queen wasp is using it to strip wood for nest building material. Treat wooden furniture with either a shop bought wood treatment product or eucalyptus/menthol/citronella mix in teak oil.

Tip: You can pick up a disposable wasp bag which can help reduce the amount of wasps in your garden. Contact us for information and to purchase.

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