Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bringing them Back In

It’s that time of year again, when I have to bring the plants that have been summering outdoors back inside. Therefore, it is also the time of year when I question my sanity. This year has been a little better than most, since I started several days before dangerously cool temperatures were forecast. I was able to bring them in over the course of a couple of days, and not in a mad dash. A mad dash to beat the frost is definitely insane when it involves bringing 150 plants inside in a matter of a couple of hours. Especially if you want to make sure that you don’t bring in a bunch of insects, too.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis blooming during its "vacation" outdoors

For many of my plants, making sure that they are insect-free involves un-potting them and examining the root ball for hitchhikers, as well as checking leaves and stems for pests. This year, I also liberally dusted the bottom of several large trays with diatomaceous earth, and set my plants in them for a couple of days. This way anything that might crawl out of the pots won’t crawl elsewhere.

Even though 150 might seem like a large number, I’m not one of those people who empties her home of plants during the warm months. I put fewer than half of my plants outdoors. I have houseplants because I like having plants In My House. To me, putting all of them elsewhere for one-third to one-half the year defeats that purpose. I also try to buy plants that do well in my available indoor conditions, so they don’t have to go outdoors to be healthy. One of the saddest things I ever read on a plant forum was someone describing how beautiful and vigorous her plants became outdoors, and how they declined horribly over the winter. I may have a plant or two that gets a bit leggy indoors, and a few others go mostly dormant, but nothing I have does truly badly over the winter.

But I do love succulents, and they make up most of those 150 plants that I have to bring in. I have to admit that most of them do better with as much outdoor time as I can muster here in zone 5. Because of that, I’ve come to consider them as outdoor plants that I overwinter indoors, rather than houseplants. I feel the same about my tropical Hibiscus, and my Hippeastrums (Amaryllis). I will also put out any plant that might be in flagging health, (this is usually due to poor cultural practices on my part, not because it is the sort of plant that is unhappy indoors) in hopes that some time in the bright light, rain and humid air of summer might revive it. This year, my Schlumbergeras got this treatment. (Even though they are cacti, I don’t class them mentally with my succulents–I tend to think of them as tropical houseplants.)

Succulents on Trays, waiting to be put away in their permanent spots

Besides those mentioned, the selection of plants that I put outside varies from year-to-year. I put out things that I think will look pretty on my porch, and in the shade garden under my maple tree. This year, my porch was decorated with my latest obsession: Hedera helix cultivars. I have 16 of them, and they are actually still outdoors, since they can handle fairly cold weather. I also think keeping them cool as long as possible discourages spider mites. Hedera helixes rightly have a reputation as mite magnets.

Hedera helix cultivars on my front porch, yesterday.

The Hederas bring me to what will likely be a recurring theme of this blog: The other reason I question my sanity is that bringing in and rearranging plants makes me realize just how many of a certain family or genus I have accumulated. (Thirty aloes? How the hell did that happen?) The Urge to Collect--I Haz It!. I will be writing about some of the plants I collect, or have attempted to collect, and in so doing, I will try to figure out what drives that impulse.


mr_subjunctive said...

1) Hooray! It's up! Working on tomorrow's PATSP post; I will include a link and stuff.

2) Do you have an ID for the tallest Aloe in that succulents picture? There's one at ex-work that looks very similar, that I've almost bought twice now, but of course they don't know what it is (it's a "mixed succulent") and neither do I.

Karen715 said...

Hi Mr_S. Thanks for dropping by! I'm pretty sure that the large Aloe is Aloe marlothii.

Jenniferina said...

Congrats! Found you through PATSP and I'm looking forward to future posts. Well done!

Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ said...

I blame my plant obsession on having many farmers in my family history! I also got to your blog from PATSP. Best of luck!

Ivynettle said...

Also coming here via PATSP, lured by the ivies. As is to be expected from my name, I love them! I've lost count of how many I have - I planted them all together in window boxes and keep them outdoors year-round. Not risking the spider mites again, and then there's the issue of space!
Looking at your picture, you seem to have quite a few varieties I don't have - I'm jealous!

Karen715 said...

Jenniferina, Nancy and Ivynettle, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I hope you continue to enjoy it.

@Ivynettle: I try to keep on top of the spider mite thing, and I did quite well for months, misting the ivies every day, as well as giving them a thorough spraying with soapy water every other week, followed by a good rinse. But last May, I had a crisis in my personal life, and I slacked off on my routine. Also the windowsill where I keep them indoors, which is nicely cool in the winter, got very warm in the spring. Both things led to a mite infestation on a few of my favorites, which I have, I hope, gotten under control at this point.
I just moved them back in today.

Nature Assassin said...

Yessss!! Another great plant blog for me to read. Your Sans "Coppertone" is fantastic, and your aglaonemas are so unusual. Can't wait to read more.