Tropical Plants Back on the Patio

by Nancy Hevenor ~ June 28, 2009

Tropical plants are really a delightful addition to  your summer patio.  In recent years they have become more prevalent and affordable.  Hybiscus, mandevilla, bougainvilla  and brugsmansia certainly are a mouthful!  But they are stunningly beautiful.  The flowers tend to be very bright and profuse.  They grow well in pots and are easy to care for.   Last year, on a trip to Logees I bought a brugmansia among other things. I am thrilled to report this year that I was able to winter over my patio tropicals and they are growing profusely outside once again.

Brugmansia on my patio last July

Brugmansia on my patio last July

Brugmansia Blossoms

Brugmansia Blossoms

There are a couple ways that I know of to winter over these gems.  The first way is to just bring them inside and treat them like a house plant.  These are very large house plants so you must have a lot of indoor plant space and they tend to be messy, losing lots of leaves.  It is also important to thoroughly clean them before bringing them indoors so you will not inadvertently bring in insects.   I have done this before with hybiscus plants but it was a lot of work.

Mandevilla in bloom

Mandevilla in bloom

Mandevilla flowers

Mandevilla flowers

The alternative is to make the plant go dormant.  Traditional advice is to cut the plant down to about 8 inches or a foot and bring it into a cool spot in your basement.  Add a cup of water a month throughout the winter.  I confess to trying this but failing because my basement was not cool enough and I didn’t remember to get to that back corner to water enough.  But last winter I decided to try my garage here in Mystic.  I cut down my precious brugmansia and mandevilla plants and used a dolly to roll them into the garage, placing them right next to the house wall and back door.  I walked by them every day and easily remembered the occasional watering.  At the beginning of May I started a more generous watering and put them outside after the danger of frost was over.  Though one unsually cold night I threw towels over them.  I am now rewarded with lush growing plants.  Next year I think I will start my awakening process earlier, probably early April indoors.  For me this was the easiest method of wintering over and the rewards are terrific.

Hawaiian Brugsmansia grow to be huge trees

Hawaiian Brugsmansia grow to be huge trees

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