Mystery box of my own creation

You know how sometimes I participate in a plant trade and end up with a box at my door whose contents are unknown, a mystery?

Well this time the box is different: it's of my own creation. It contains several plants that I stored last fall in an attempt to determine different overwintering strategies. As you may remember, keep a lot of plants that are not cold-hardy enough alive over the winter indoors under lights, or semi-dormant in my garage. That's a pain, and I'd much rather store some roots, tubers, or bulbs than a large potted plant. So I experiment.


I've already learned some interesting things this year, like black-stemmed taro tubers (stems really) can be stored over the winter -- no need to keep small plants alive under lights! (The plants also survive in the garage with very little light or water).

So here's what I have in the box: a collection of mostly unlabeled plastic bags!

Some look like they're goners but I can't be sure yet:

Others I know for sure are no longer viable, like this sweet potato tuber:

What tuber? Exactly! There should be a nice fat tuber there, but it has rotted and disintegrated.

Here's another that is now a bag of compost:

Others show that they started growing a while ago in complete darkness:

That yellow or white growth doesn't look great, but at least I know the plant is alive and it helps me identify the plants in the bag, as I didn't label most of them. I guess I assumed that if they grew I'd be able to recognize them then. I didn't consider that I may want to remember which plants did not overwinter too. I think I'll be able to figure it out though, as it's all coming back to me now.

These look perfect:

Not dead, and no lanky white growth. Just the perfect amount of waking up. Plus, there's a label!

Cannas are so easy to store over the winter!

Several plants show growth, but will it continue once they're potted?

Not sure what this is, so hope it survives so I can identify it.

I think this is Vigna caracalla. I will be *thrilled* if it survived!

On other plants there are some roots that indicate the plant might still be alive, but I'm not sure:

The roots reveal that something is still stirring inside, but there's not really any evidence of growth. We'll see what a few weeks in the warm sunlight will do.

Then there's this one with so much growth, which at first I couldn't identify:

I realized I couldn't ID it because I was mentally searching the list of plants that I'd like to salvage. Only when I started thinking about plants that I already had plenty of did I realized what it was:

Another Mexican petunia, of which I have so many this year (including this large, full pot). Apparently there's no way you can kill this over the winter -- although I haven't stored it as a bare root out in the air yet. I suspect that wouldn't work, but everything else does with this plant.

Here's my surprise of the winter though:

Usually I just pull my castor bean plants out of the ground after a freeze and throw them onto the compost pile (or leave them in place all winter to give the birds something to perch upon). This year though after I cut one to a 3' stump I realized it wasn't dead yet. So instead of pulling it out of the ground I dug up a little rootball, bagged it to keep soil from getting all over the place, and left it in the garage with just a dim taste of fluorescent light. The stump sprouted new growth during the winter, which grew at a glacial pace after emerging. So it's potted up now, and I'll see how it does. I'm eager to compare it to a new plant grown from seed -- although I didn't plant any 'Carmencita' seeds myself this year, there are always volunteers.

I'll give an update on how all of these plants are doing in a week or two.

Finding an easier way to overwinter some of these plants is very exciting!
So is waiting to see what they'll do!


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danger garden  – (May 9, 2012 at 10:39 AM)  

What fun! I'm amazed (and jealous) at the Castor Bean surviving. My only over-wintering project of this style (letting them go dormant) are my Ensete maurelii. I just pulled them out of the newspaper I wrapped them in and potted 'em up last weekend. I should have done it earlier but I kind of forgot about them. Right now they are white ghosts, slowly coloring up.

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