Indoor tropical foliage plants

Cut back floliage when bringing in butterfly plants for the winterAs a habitant of frigid USDA garden zone 5a (a small warm pocket just south of Minneapolis) it pays to overwinter tropical plants to enhance our butterfly garden. The same could be said for most gardeners located below USDA hardiness zone 8.

This year, I brought in 20 butterfly plants to overwinter and I’ll start next season with over 50 plants by taking cuttings over the winter.

My goal for overwintering plants is to achieve average growth with superior health. These plants will give our butterfly garden a huge head start when they are replanted next spring. You don’t need a lot of expensive bells and whistles to get your plants through the winter, but consider these basic ideas for overwintering success.

The tips below are all the things I wish someone would have told me before I made my first attempt:

hydrogen peroxide can protect indoor plants from diseases and pests1. Cut back foliage before bringing pots inside

The only reason to leave lots of foliage on overwintering plants is if you want to give “the buggies” a place to hide. I cut most plants back to about a foot. If you have questions about cutting back specific plants try a google search or post in the comments below.

2. Hose down your pots/plant before bringing them in

It’s a lot easier (and less messy)to clean the grime off pots before you take them inside.

3. Put a plant saucer under each pot

This keeps dirty water from potentially soiling your floors or creating slip hazards.

4. Spray and water plants with a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide

Last season, I was the fool who believed that after our plants were cut back (with no bugs in sight) they would remain pest-free for the winter. Little did I know that fungus gnat eggs lurking under the soil were hatching an alternative plan.CFL Daylight Bulb g two of my tropical plants.

This year I am treating all plants with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) to prevent this issue. H2O2 kills gnat larvae on contact. Hydrogen peroxide also helps your plants by putting more oxygen into the soil. Many plant diseases and fungus are the result of low oxygen levels in the roots. H2O2 feeds roots more oxygen and will help prevent root rot.

I apply hydrogen peroxide according to this helpful chart:

Spraying also raises the humidity level for optimal plant growth.

5. Have adequate lighting available

In past seasons I have only used natural window lighting on plants. This has worked well for tropical milkweed and most plants. Two plants died last year (mexican flame vine, goose plant) but I suspect it had more to do with overwatering and fungus gnats.

This year I added more light in the form of CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs. I’m using two 40 watt bulbs (each equivalent to a 200 watt regular bulb) and a 25 watt bulb (equivalent to a 100 watt bulb). I am using full spectrum bulbs that simulate natural daylight. The plants get approximately 12 hours of light each day.

You should be able to find these bulbs at big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. The 3 bulbs I purchased were less than 30 dollars total.


Think it through before you buy.

2004-05-01 11:57:20 by WillCreed

Does she want a fruit-bearing fig tree (Ficus carica) or a Ficus benjamina that is often called weeping fig? The former will only bear fruit if it is planted outside and wrapped for protection in the winter; it requires considerable dedication. The latter is a good indoor tree, but it must be right in front of a sunny window; it goes through a difficult adjustment period, but is quite hardy after that.
A bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a tropical plant that will do well indoors in front of a bright window.
A gift plant is only successsful if the recipient is up to the challenge and pleasure of keeping it alive and healthy


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