Can I Bring My Annual Pots and Boxes Inside For The Winter?

Can I Bring My Annual Pots and Boxes Inside For The Winter?

On Cape Cod many of us have pots and window boxes that are still full of flowering annuals in September. Our customers wonder if they can bring these beauties inside before frost. “Is it possible to keep them looking this good through the winter?” they ask, or “Can I save them and put them out like this next spring?”

Unfortunately, without a greenhouse most annuals won’t stay so lovely once they are inside. Since there is so much less light they will shed leaves and often stop flowering. Many become prone to infestations of whitefly or other insects as well. So if you are expecting to bring a container in and have it be just as lovely as it is now, you’ll be disappointed. Some plants can be saved, however, and used in pots and boxes next year, so it’s useful to examine your containers plant by plant and be selective about which varieties could be brought indoors.

In order to over-winter selected annuals, be willing to either repot them or take cuttings. Know that many will lose leaves and flowers in response to having less light, and be prepared to monitor them for insects.

The following plants over-winter well indoors in front of a sunny window: Geraniums, Tropical Hibiscus, Plectranthus, succulents and Mezoo trailing red Dorotheanthus. Begonias and ferns do well in an eastern or western facing window. Although Mandevilla vines will live in front of a sunny window, you will find that it won’t come back into flower until August the following summer, so most people decide not to keep these from year to year. Brugmansia, calla lilies and cannas can be put in a cool basement or garage that doesn’t go below freezing, and left to go dormant until next spring.

You can try taking cuttings of other annuals, keeping them first in a bright location and later moving them to a sunny window. If you want to try this approach, use rooting powder and seed-starting mix in clean 4″ pots.

When bringing plants inside be prepared with some yellow sticky cards (aka whitefly traps) to catch fungus gnats, Captain Jack’s to add to the watering can should fungus gnats become a problem, and some insecticidal soap for whitefly and aphids. When bringing in pots of annuals intact from the outdoors, check for slugs under the pots and ants that might have nested in the soil.

Begonias often live over the winter inside but won’t stay this beautiful. Transplanting individual plants into pots, and cutting hanging plants back, will be more successful than trying to keep an entire window box alive.

Most of these plants won’t be possible to save although the sedum in the blue box can be planted into the ground in September. The Gartenmeister Fuchsia in the urn could be potted up and over-wintered in an eastern or western facing window. Fuchsias are prone to whitefly inside so keep an eye out for these pests.

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