Garage or house?

One of my biggest challenges each winter is what to do with the plants that are tropical or not quite cold-hardy enough to survive the cold months here. It basically comes down to one choice: keep them in the garage, or keep them in the house.

Last year I kept several different plants in the garage for the first time, and my success there has encouraged me to try it with even more this year.


Some of the elephant ears (both Colocasia and Alocasia) will overwinter again in the garage, where they go semi-dormant in the 40ºF (4ºC) temperatures. They get by on very low light, and little water. I only want to keep them from rotting -- if I can do that they'll grow again in the spring.

The papyrus I've talked about recently:

This huge plant will spend the winter in the garage too. It should be ugly but fine in 4 months.

Some plants that I've not kept in the garage before include the sago palm:

I usually keep that one in the house, but the leaf tips are so sharp they cause us much distress, yelling, and leg rubbing all winter long. I also don't think I can give it enough light to keep it really happy inside, so I figure that the lower temperature in the garage might help -- lower light so lower temps.

I'm using the same theory with the fire sticks and cactus this year too:

They usually come into the basement under lights, but both are so large and heavy this year that it's not practical. If they start looking like they're really suffering I'll bring them inside or figure out how to give them more light, but I hope they'll be fine out here.

The oleander (which got pretty huge this year) spent last winter in the garage and did fine, so that's where it will go again:

I had to prune it though, as it was taking up too much space, and last year the growing tips got aphid infestations. Pruning almost always triggers new growth, but I'm hoping the low temps and low light will keep it from doing that yet.

All of the bananas are out in the garage, and a few bamboos as previously mentioned.

Inside though a few things are happening. The purple fountain grass divisions I potted 10 days ago are all going strong:

Those grasses are so simple to propagate! The other "grasses" I have inside are doing pretty well too:

These bamboo seedlings are in good shape. I've lost some of the seedlings, but the survivors should start taking off now that they have a couple of leaves each.

I won't know for a few months (or until spring) if my choices between garage and house were correct, and I'm prepared to lose a few plants. It's all experience to make next year's overwintering even easier, right?

At least that's how I look at it.


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Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (December 13, 2011 at 11:12 AM)  

For the first time ever I'm overwintering plants in the house. Most of them are small (4 inch or at most 1 gallon pots) but I have no idea what I'll do next year. The challenges never end for plant crazed people like us!

Stupid Garden Plants  – (December 13, 2011 at 1:25 PM)  

I play the same game, with the options I have. Basement, upstairs, cold frame, or work. It all varies on how much I care about them, and what I think they can handle. Still, I often find myself taking pity on under performing plants and they get bumped up to a better living situation. So. Many. Plants. We should start a support group :)

Matthew –   – (December 13, 2011 at 2:18 PM)  

Alan, one secret to overwintering a cactus in dim light is to definately not water it at all once the weather starts cooling, then leave it dry all winter so the plant will go dormant and won't show etoliated growth in the dim light.

Andrea  – (December 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM)  

It really is amazing that people in your cold climes try to plant and care for tropicals, while we here in the tropics try to raise yours. In our dry season, we try to put umbrella on our heat sensitive plants sometimes with umbrella, or mist the surrounging areas to lower the temperatures. I am trying to plant Asiatic lilies and others which only grow nicely in our highlands. Maybe the supreme intelligence is laughing at all of us called 'humans'.

Anonymous –   – (October 16, 2012 at 9:24 PM)  

I overwinter my EE's in the garage in their pots. Once it's too cold, i place them in the garage, kept at 40-45 degree average, and don't water them til spring. They do great!

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