Life begins the day you start a garden.

Chinese proverb

I live in garden zone 8b but I love tropical plants.  It’s a fun challenge to grow tropical plants in subtropical weather. It’s possible to do and I be-leaf in you.  

No part of the United States lies in a tropical region, although parts of Texas, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and California are subtropical. That means that in the wintertime, the reduced light, lowered temperature and humidity, and the threat of frost damaging leaves and roots often require that tropical plants are moved indoors and placed under greenhouse conditions.  Find your garden zone here.

Unless adequate light is available for the plant to grow food using photosynthesis, leaves may turn pale and/or drop, stems thin, and the plant may grow few flowers. Humidity controls the leaf temperature that affects how a plant transpires. 

The warmer and dryer, the quicker the plant will transpire. Double-potting plants with a heavier decorative outer pot and a lightweight easily moved the inner pot to make the transition to a greenhouse environment easier. If a homeowner or gardener decides to take on the challenge of caring for tropical plants in winter, this list of supplies and steps will help.

Helpful Materials for the Winter Gardener (But Not Necessary)

Greenhouse enclosure

Humidistat

Table or windowsill

Grow Light

Reflective Surfaces

Air Heater

Exhaust Fan

Shade cloth ( if used during summer )

Flower pots

Peroxide

Water Mister/Sprayer

Pebbles

Gardening Books

Growing Tropical Plants in Zone 8b

8 Easy Steps a Winter Gardener Uses to Care for Tropical Plants

1) Identify whether or not your plant is tropical and the proper growing temperatures. Most tropical plants will want a 9 degrees difference between night and day temperatures. Commonly grown tropical plants include :

Orchid, African Violet, Bougainvillea, Amaryllis, Asparagus Fern, Bird of Paradise, Brugmansia, Cyclamen, Elephants Ear, Passion Flower, Jasmine, Venus Flytrap, Banana Plants, Plumeria, Pothos, Monstera, and so many more.

Use a Plant Catalog, Plant App, Garden Book, Google or a Facebook Identification Group to identify growing season requirements.

2) Ease the transition from a cooler outdoor climate to a warmer indoor climate by moving flower pots to a transitional zone near the house and under a porch, especially with plants that retain their leaves year-round.

3) Set up your greenhouse enclosure

If using a windowsill, choose a window with southern or southwestern exposure. If using a greenhouse enclosure, be sure to allow adequate ventilation by having an open vent that passes through damp panels of a porous material such as paper or wood shavings and an exhaust fan opposite. Put clay, sand, or gravel on the flooring of the greenhouse. Set the inner temperature so that daytime temperatures fall in the proper range, 65F or above and 56F and above at night. Install a humidistat to help regulate temperature. Place table(s) inside and install hooks on upper beams to store plants in flower pots.

4) Ensure plants in flower pots get adequate lighting

Add a growing light with a fluorescent bulb that maximizes the frequencies that plants use, such as a Grow Light and use it to augment natural light for enough hours in the day. Hang the growing lights well above the flowerpots.

5) Move your flower pots indoors

Check to see if your plant needs repotting since many plants are best repotted in winter. Place flower pots in trays filled with gravel, hang or set on gravel flooring.

6) Regulate the humidity and water plants in flower pots

Check flowerpot soil moisture weekly and water if needed. Increase humidity by wetting the gravel flooring and the surfaces beneath flowerpots.

7) Fertilize your flower pots

In general, use a balanced fertilizer, 18-18-18 during most of the year, but in winter, increase nitrogen levels to 30-10-10. Read the fertilizer and plant requirements to ensure correct feeding.

8) Don’t forget to check your flower pot soil for fungus and plant for disease and insects.

I like to spray a very diluted peroxide solution on my plants and soil.  This adds oxygen to the soil and roots while getting rid of fungus and mold.

Happy Gardening Friends!  

Related:  How to Grow a Butterfly Garden

How to winterize tropical plants Garden Zone 8

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