by Ken Lain, The Mountain Gardener, Watters Garden Center
It’s a shame to lose your tender annual plants each winter. Many are actually warm weather perennials that grow all year if brought indoors.
Shade tolerant plants make excellent houseplants since homes have less light. Other conditions to consider are cooler temperatures and indoor humidity. Tropical plants brought in as houseplants may need extra attention.
Start by acclimating outdoor plants gradually. Bring them indoors while the windows are still open to bridge the change in conditions.
Begonias are becoming more popular with plant breeders, and many varieties make excellent indoor foliage plants. They can be challenging to grow indoors because they prefer high humidity, but growing them on a pebble tray helps.
Water: Allow to dry.
Boxwood is a small potted evergreen that makes easy-going houseplants and engaging winter decorations. Turn the pot every few days. Humidity is crucial to evergreen houseplants; misting is necessary.
Water: Only when the soil feels dry.
Caladium do not like the cold, preferring temperatures in the 60-85 F range. If the leaves start to yellow and the plant is struggling, allow it to die back and rest until spring. Store it in a cool, dry spot and repot in March.
Water: Keep moist, not wet.
Coleus is everywhere these days. The old- fashioned variety prefer shade so especially nice houseplants. If your plants are too large to bring indoors, coleus roots quickly from cuttings.
They like to be warm but will tolerate temperatures down to about 55 degrees. Be sure to pinch off any flowers to keep the plants from going to seed.
Water: Keep soil moist; feed monthly.
Fuchsias look very tropical, but they actually enjoy cool temperatures in the 60-70 degree range. This plant benefits from a winter rest, so don’t expect a lot of flowers. Bring the plants indoors before frost and trim them to about 6 inches. Place it in a cool spot, 45-50 degrees, with low light. Perfect in an insulated garage or basement. In spring, move the plant back into a sunny place; resume regular water.
Water: Water lightly when soil is dry
Geraniums like a bright south-facing window for repeat blooms all winter. Geraniums grown outdoors in containers make the best candidates because their roots will not be disturbed. Bring them in before frost, giving the plants a light trim.
Water: Allow to dry out between waterings.
Herbs (basil, chives, parsley, lemongrass, Rosemary) do well indoors. Basil and parsley are best started as young plants.Chives are a particularly easy herb to grow indoors. Even when hit by frost, they rejuvenate quickly indoors. Lemongrass and Rosemary can be potted and brought back and forth from the outdoor herb garden to the indoor window sill. Trim and use your herbs to keep them bushy and full.
Water: Water sparingly once seedlings sprout.
Hot peppers are tropical perennials and often keep growing and producing for years. Smaller hot peppers are the easiest to bring indoors, but any pepper is worth a try.
Water: Water sparingly.
Tropical hibiscus adapt well indoors and may bloom all winter if kept in a sunny window with bright, direct light. Hibiscus grows slowly in winter, and you may not see much new growth. If you do not have a warm, sunny window, opt for a cool spot with average light and let them drop their leaves and go dormant.
Water: Water daily; keep well-drained.