Overwintering Plants That Aren’t Hardy In My Climate

By Laura Miller | February 9, 2022
Image by Tatiana Foxy
by Laura Miller
February 9, 2022

I love living in a climate with four seasons. From the rejuvenation of trees budding in the spring to the beauty of a new snowfall in the winter, my northern Ohio backyard presents ever-changing scenery throughout the year. There is a downside, however. Each year, I find myself overwintering plants that won’t survive my Ohio winters.

Bringing Plants Inside for the Winter 

From tropical flowers to potted fig trees, bringing plants in for the winter is an autumn ritual at my house. It starts when the overnight temperatures begin dipping near the 50 degree F (10 C) mark. The first plants to come inside are the tropical evergreens that will overwinter inside my house.

These include my banana plants and tropical hibiscus. I begin by thoroughly watering the pots. This helps prepare the plants for the drier air inside the house. It also seems to reduce the number of insects that hitch a ride indoors when I’m bringing plants inside for the winter.  

At the same time, I also gently hose off the foliage. When the leaves are no longer dripping water, I move the tropicals inside and place them in a sunny window. I continue to water and feed my tropical plants as needed throughout the winter.  

Overwintering Flower Bulbs

The next plants to come indoors are my potted bulbs that are not winter hardy in my area. For me, growing and overwintering flower bulbs in pots is far easier than digging, storing and re-planting bulbs in the spring. I love begonias and this is one way I can keep my favorite flower colors from year to year.

When overwintering flower bulbs in pots, I start by reducing the amount of water the plants receive in the fall. When it rains, this sometimes means relocating the plant under the eaves of the house or another sheltered location. 

When the foliage begins to turn yellow, I cut back the stems a few inches (7-8 cm.) above the soil line. The planters can then be moved into a frost-free area, such as a garage. Unlike my tropical plants, I don’t water overwintering flower bulbs before or after I bring them inside. I’ll resume watering in the spring when outdoor temperatures begin to warm.

Overwintering Fig Trees

I treat my fig trees a bit differently than my tropical plants. In my area, fig tree roots will survive the winter in the ground, but the tops will die back. The problem with overwintering plants like fig trees in the ground is that our season isn’t long enough for the fruit to develop and ripen. 

Growing container fig trees is an easy solution. The potted figs can be moved into a frost-free location once the foliage has fallen off the trees. An unheated garage or enclosed porch is ideal as the trees will receive the necessary chill hours required for fruiting, but the branches won’t die back in the winter. 

When overwintering plants like fig trees, I find it easier to water the containers after bringing plants inside for the winter. This helps keep these large planters as lightweight as possible for the move. Once inside, I water to moisten the soil. Then about once a month throughout the winter, I’ll water lightly to prevent the pots from drying out too much.

Over the years, I’ve found that bringing plants in for the winter is not only easy, but it allows me to grow a variety of plants that otherwise would not survive in my climate.

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