Thursday, October 6, 2011

3 ways to Overwinter Tropicals as House Plants

#1. Growing and Blooming

If you have a home with bright light and lots of space you can keep your tropicals growing and blooming through the winter. 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees during the night are actually the perfect winter temperature for most tropicals.

Water moderately - you want keep the soil on the dry side during the winter months, but to keep the humidity at around 45%, you need to spritz the leaves with a misting bottle regularly or set out a shallow dish of water near the plants. (Most homes with forced air heat have humidity levels of around 20% during the winter months.) Make sure the plants get plenty of light (12 hours) and get plenty of space and air circulation (a fan can help) to help prevent indoor pests.

What to do about whiteflies, scale, and aphids.

Plants to keep growing and blooming: Fig trees, citrus trees, palms, geraniums, oleander, tropical ferns, Christmas cactus, Jasmine, hibiscus, bougainvillea, plectranthus, agave, echivaria

#2. Resting Dormant

I've read articles about forcing dormancy for winter storage that include digging out bulbs, wrapping them in moist packing materials, misting the packing materials through the winter, carefully monitoring light and temperatures, and I have to say it all sounds like a huge hassle. Here's what we do (and it's easy!):

For bulbs (canna lily, caladium, elephant ears, and sweet potato vines) let the leaves get hit by a light frost, then bring inside and stop watering the plant. Let the soil dry out, let the leaves turn brown and the cut the plant and foliage back. Put the whole pot in a cool dark space (an unheated basement or garage, or a root cellar - we keep them in a cool room under a table!). In the spring pull out the pots, expose them to light, and start watering.

For woody-stemmed plants (brugmansia, bananas, tibouchina, and jasmine) expose them to low night time temperatures 40 to 50 degrees and then move them to a cool dark space. Stop watering and if you have the space you can leave the plant standing until the spring (we cut them back as soon as the leaves drop). Two times during the winter you want to give your woody-stemmed tropicals a little bit of water (a half gallon or so), and in the spring expose them to light and start watering (and fertilizing).

That's it - easy-peasy! Cool, dark, and dry = dormant.

#3. Cutting and Propagating

If you don't have a lot of space to over winter plants, cuttings can be the answer. Unfortunately, this only works for soft-stemmed tropicals.

Soft-stemmed topicals (geraniums, coleus, and plectranthus) can be propagated by clipping off succulent new growth (woody stems won't root) and place the cut end into water. When roots sprout, pot into soil-less mix in a small 4 inch pot. Once potted place them in full sunlight and FEED THEM! Weekly fertilizer is must to keep them healthy. In the spring, after the last threat of frost you can put them out in larger containers or plant them in your garden.

Tropicals can add color and drama to your garden all summer, and with these 3 easy tecniques, you can enjoy thos tender beauties year after year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Aphids, Scale, Whitefly, oh my! 3 ways to prevent them and 3 ways to treat them.

Bringing house plants in for the winter is an October ritual. Dealing with indoor pests is usually a January ritual! One reason for this is many of us crowd our one southfacing window with an many plants as we physically can. Lack of air circulation can lead to desease and pest problems, so...


#1. Try (try!) to give each plant a little breathing room, and set up an oscilating fan for a couple hours a day, especially in a tight space.

#2. Water moderately. Most house plants need a whole lot less water than you think they do, especially during the cool winter months. Experiement with your house plants and see how they respond if you let them dry out a bit more in between each watering.

#3. Examine your house plants every week. If you do spot a problem on one plant, move it away from the others and treat it right away.


#1. Scale - catch it early and you can get rid of pretty easily. Brush off the scale with an old toothbrush (as much as you can). Rinse the plant with soapy water (dish soap like Joy works great). Then swab any scale left with a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Continue to treat until all signs of the scale are gone.

#2. Whitefly - quarentine any plant that has whitefly, because they can quickly become an infestation. Take it to a well ventillated space and wipe the underside of the leaves with rubbing alcohol. Then wash the plant with soapy water (again Joy!) Keep treating the plant in quarentine until you see no signs of the dandruff-like bugs.

#3. Aphids - Aphids can be green, pink, red, brown, white, black, yellow, or grey. You will see them in concentrated clumps and the underside of leaves. Use a spunge or a tooth brush and soapy water (Joy!) to remove the aphids. If your plant is small you can do this in your sink. If it's medium you can rinse it afterward in the shower. If it's large, layout a tarp or a drop cloth, use a step ladder to reach the top of the plant, and rinse the soap residue off with a spray bottle.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Victoria Gardens' Favorite Spring Bulbs

We believe when you plant into fall, you spring into color. Few things are as satisfying to a gardener as the green tips of spring bulbs emerging from the sleeping soil - except perhaps the colorful blooms that follow! Click the link below for:

Ten simple ways to stop wild animals from digging, eating or stealing your newly planted tulips & crocus.

When we choose which spring-blooming bulbs to bring into stock, we choose the flowers that have performed the best year after year here in Ulster county. We have the benefit of field-testing new varieties and watching some varieties naturalize and bloom again and again for the past twenty years. Here are just a few of our favorites:

Antoinette is a wonderful tulip for cutting. Each petal is a painterly springtime combination of butter yellow, white, and Easter pink. The bulbs are multiflowering, which makes Anntoinette a must have. If you like cutting from your garden, you will love this tulip.

Fantasy, Lambadda, and Apricot Parrot are exotic feather-edged, multi-colored tulips that will dress up your garden or your table. Tulips, unfortunately need to be protected from critters and deer, so if you don't have a fence you will have to diligently spray deer repellent.

For those of you with gardens in the middle of deer territory, not to fear, we have a wide assortment of deer resistant bulbs. One of the most under-used (but awesome) deer resistant bulbs is Allium 'Ivory Queen.' Every May when they bloom at the nursery, everyone asks, What's that plant? We planted three bulbs in this spot three years ago in full sun, and every year they have multiplied and the foliage and flowers have gotten bigger.

Fritillaria persica and Fritillaria persica 'Ivory Bells'

Fritillaria persica (also deer resistant!) is very sculptural with tufts of green pineapple-like leaves on top of the large (2' to 4' tall) hanging bell-shaped flowers. A stunning companion to white tulips, hellebore or the coveted, greenish-white Fritillaria persica 'Ivory Bells.'

Camassia 'caerulea'

Another deer resistant beauty, Camassia 'caerulea' which put up lovely spikes of lavender blue flowers. Ideal for heavy clay to loamy soils! Camassia can tolerate full sun to part shade and can grow pond side or stream side. The flowers are very long lasting making them ideal for cut flowers to be used in flower arrangements. Camassia 'Semiplena' produces tall spikes of large, white, semi-double flowers.

Both naturalizing and deer resistant, Daffodils are the reliable gold standard. Diminutive varieties like Tete a tete and Bellsong can planted at the front of beds while taller varieties like Dutch Master and Hawera can be used throughout your perennial border. And not all Daffodils are gold in color, white, peach and and soft pink are also available.

Daffodil Delnshaugh

Not all bulbs bloom at the same time, so you can choose a variety and have a constantly blooming show of bulbs from early spring to early summer. Stop by the nursery and we'll help you plan your spring blooms.