Greengirls Helen Yarmoska, Nicole Hvidsten, Martha Buns, Connie Nelson, Kim Palmer and Mary Jane Smetanka are dishin' the dirt from the back-yard garden and beyond. Whether you're a greenthumb or greenhorn, they're eager to learn from your mishaps, mistakes - and most importantly, your sweet successes - all growing season long.

Lackadaisical tropicals

Posted by: Lynn Underwood under Annuals, Flowers, Preserving Updated: June 19, 2014 - 12:10 PM

For me, the rock star of deck and patio plants is the tropical hibiscus.

The mini-shrub’s huge trumpet-shaped flowers explode in colors like blood red, fiery orange and delicious peach. Sometimes I see tiny hummingbirds flitting around the blooms. It’s no surprise that the hibiscus is the national flower of Hawaii and  Jamaica.

But since we live in Minnesota, these beauties have to be brought inside for the winter if you want them to survive until spring. And I found out that you have to be patient to make it worth the trouble.

In October, when it’s time to empty the outdoor planters, the tropical  hibiscus is too lovely to send to the city disposal site with other garden debris. So I lug the super heavy pot to the basement to chill out for the winter in a special spot by a window. The cold and darkness hinders bud growth, but I water it every week, dreaming about all the bodacious blooms it will produce come summer.

In May, I keep track of the night time temperatures. It’s only safe to place tender plants outdoors when temperatures stay above 50 degrees. So usually by Memorial Day, I lug the hibiscus pot up from the basement to a special spot in the sun on the deck.

It looks pretty pathetic - the foliage is sparse and scraggly - but there’s promising new growth.
I give the plant a little TLC and fertilizer. Then I wait, every day inspecting for buds.

The last two summers, the slow-as-a snail hibiscus didn’t produce buds until almost August. It really takes a tropical plant, which likely would choose to live in Hawaii over Minnesota, a long time to get in the groove.

This summer, I've seen lush hibiscus bursting with flowers at the garden centers. Ther're  very tempting - and I bet they’re on sale.

Do you have good luck overwintering tropical plants?  What are your favorites?

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