20 January 2013

Winter Casualties - 2013 Edition

This past year I picked up a number of tender or tropical houseplants that I planned to enjoy during the summer, but would let them die when the cold weather hit.  I know this sounds harsh, but there are a few things you need to know:  I didn't pay for them - these are plants that I rescued from the trash.  And I get no sun in the house to keep them over the winter.  I've done this for many years and it can be hard work - moving a dozen plants in and out as the temperature fluctuates, and it only take one missed time to kill every plant.  I've been lucky this winter, having only a few instances of freezing weather.

I have to say that I've been experimenting with them a little - testing their cold-hardiness.  When there's a definite freeze coming, I will schlepp them to safety, but if it's just mid-30s, I'll risk it.  Most of my plants have held up well - some, like a night-blooming cactus, tropical palm, a few succulents, and a tuberous begonia, are in a protected place, but others, mostly the same types of plants, are out in the open.  We've reached the mid- to high-30s and everything has been fine, except the begonia - the leaves and stems wilted, but overall I think it will recover.  Even the peperomia did fine.

Sometimes this gives you a false sense of security - that one's plants are more hardy than you thought - but that can go wrong at any moment.  The last freeze we had, I was maybe over-confident about our tropical hibiscuses surviving the freeze.  Needless to say, they didn't - which I regret now, but I did do a scratch test* and it seemed to be alive.  I just don't know when to expect it to come back to life.

(A scratch test is where you scratch the bark off woody plants with your fingernail.  If it reveals a green color, then the plant is alive.  If not, then it is likely dead.)

I have been taking special care of our poinsettia - I wrote before that I was determined to keep that plant alive and I have.  I try to put it outside as much as possible, but I keep it inside when lows reach the 50s, which has been a lot lately.  It needs to spend a little more time outside soon, but we have another cold front coming through.  I'll try to give it what it needs without letting the cold get it, just like the rest of them.

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