Moving the tropicals

Happily, there are fewer tropicals to be moved into the basement this year. This is a chore I despise. First, the pots are heavy and muddy. My wife, of course, doesn’t care about the heavy part, since she’s not doing the lifting, but she has a problem with the mud, even though all are set onto plastic to protect the bluestone tile floor. Her bigger beef is that almost without exception, some living beasts are brought indoors that have already hunkered down for the winter in the soil of the large pots.

Elephant ears are dug and potted to bring indoors.

When they come inside, into the cool, sixty something degree basement that is much warmer than our early November nights, there are beasts on the loose, ready to explore. Most years there are a frog or two that chirps every evening until it’s finally tracked down, but occasionally there’s been a small snake, though it cannot be verified without a doubt that any came in with the tropicals. No matter how much I deny it, that is the logical source, but I can be as illogical as the next guy when it suits my purposes.

This never foolproof process is part of the reason for the recent purchase of a greenhouse, so at least the portion of potted plants that are almost cold hardy can be overwintered outdoors. Who cares if there’s a snake on the loose in the greenhouse? I’m the only one who will ever go in there, and frogs won’t hurt a thing. Snakes will be politely asked to leave.

Cannas and a tibouchina stashed in the greenhouse ahead of this week’s freeze.

At least one very large pot on one of the patios is cracked, and it can’t be moved. The elephant ears in it will be dug out and set into another pot for the winter ( I debate the basement or unheated greenhouse for these), and probably the soil left in the cracked pot will freeze soon enough and expand to split the pot into pieces. I expect it won’t be too big a mess to clean up, but if it holds together I’ll plant something in it next spring. This pot was almost too large to move anyway, which is how it cracked when it was moved outside earlier this year.

Usually, I delay bringing the pots indoors until the last second, and already I gambled that a recent freeze warning wouldn’t turn out so bad, figuring that it would be another week or three until the next freeze. This time, I got away with it, but I’m travelling for a week a few weeks from now, and last year temperatures dropped into the twenties while I was gone. Fortunately, the suffering wasn’t extreme, but that is part of the reason there are fewer pots to move indoors this year.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ray says:

    I just whack the tropicals down, store the bulbs, and start over again next spring.

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve dug dahlias, elephant ears, cannas, and bananas in the past and stored them in the unheated garage for the winter. It can be too cold, and there’s limited space with all the other junk in there. It’s too warm in the basement to keep these dormant except by withholding water, and occasionally it gets too cold in the garage, which is why the bananas and dahlias are gone.

  2. tonytomeo says:

    If growing such plants was so much work, I wouldn’t. Is that dark canna ‘Australia’? I got one for my planter box downtown. It is the only canna I ever payed money for. I wanted it to contrast with the light yellowish green houseleeks. It is not doing so well though.

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