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Simply: How to I save Coleus over winter

North Grafton, MA

My growing Season is 5,, ... I have a full basement that holds temps about 55 degrees . I have no other cold safe areas to overwinter plants. Question is : Can i store coleus down there and if so how do I prepare them and then eventually store them. Thankyou In advance,,,

Brewster, MN(Zone 4b)

In my experience coleus will not thrive long term in temps lower than 60*. Can you take cuttings and keep them in a sunny window upstairs? They would take up less space. How many do you want to keep? Could you keep on isolated area warmer using some kind of enclosure with a bit of additional heat? Even a couple of light bulbs can keep a small area warmer. And of course you'd need to keep them under flourescent lights as coleus do not go dormant. Good luck!

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

I had shop lights in my basement in Z5 for years and only ever managed to get a couple Coleus plants through winter that way. Cuttings in water is my preferred way to winter Coleus. They may be primarily a shade plant outside, but the sunniest windowsill you have is the best place for wintering, especially up north. On panic night (when it's going to frost for the first time in the fall,) I trim off every Coleus branch I think is big enough to bother, strip all but the top 1 or 2 sets of leaves, put in water. Don't let them dry out and if a leaf falls in the water, be sure to remove it before it makes a rotting mess.

Also works for Perilla 'Magilla' and Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) and some Alternantheras. Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas 'Margarita') survived but got some whiteflies with this method. They thrived when put outside again.

Brewster, MN(Zone 4b)

You are so right about dashing around for cuttings before a frost. And rooting in water works best for me, too. For awhile I had a large collection of coleus, mostly the sun kind. The cuttings were upstairs in a sunny window untill they rooted and got started in 2" pots. Ran out of room so they went to the basement under the lights. They did fine for a couple of weeks, then started looking sickly. I'd bring them upstairs to watch them more closely, they'd improve and go back down. I repeated this a few times before I read that they don't like it under 60*. My basement stays about 50* or so. Most things do fine there but not the coleus!

Sometimes I just pot up the whole plant and wait to strick the cuttings till around New Year's. Whatever the method, be sure your plants or cuttings are free of insects before you bring them in. I fought whiteflies all last winter and lost the battle. The bugs are terrible this year with the extreme temps, drought and such a mild winter last year. Lots of guys I've never seen before.

Slipping Sweet potato vine has never worked for me, I'll be trying again as I can't afford to replace them each year. I'd rather propagate my own and save some money to try the new plants each year. Besides, its so rewarding to have all those babies ready for a new season.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

I meant I leave the cuttings in water, sorry if that wasn't clear. I don't have a basement here, so that's not an option anymore. This past spring was my "biggest" year for saved Coleus cuttings, had over 100 to put out, and then the others I mentioned also. Allows me to use my meager gardening budget for different Coleus and a few other new things - and new "dirt" for about 100 pots.

North Grafton, MA

Thankyou for all your information. I was totally coleus ignorant. I was going to try and put them in (or leave them in) their pots that I had them in all summer and let them die down and save the bulb if i could. It appears that they are not really bulbous,, ,, It might be a little late for me to take cutting as I had already let them take a frost hit. I have a bad feeling about saving them now. Ill try again next year after the summer is over and give some of your ideas a try. thanks again....

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Don't know why I didn't notice your comment about sweet potato vine sooner, ghopper. But there should be a magenta potato in the soil you can dig up to save. These root easily if you cut a piece and put it in water, but they get whiteflies inside when I try to keep them growing.

Tomatoman, better late than never! Good luck next year! If it's not black and crispy, there may be hope this year yet. You're right, no bulb on Coleus. Wouldn't that make life easier!?

Sweet potato vine potatoes:

Thumbnail by purpleinopp
Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

I've never gotten white fly on spv indoors.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Pic is kind of fuzzy, but I've begun to take Coleus cuttings to save. Here are a few in an east window.

Thumbnail by purpleinopp
Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Here's another days' batch, somewhere around 100 individuals, and a few other cuttings that were out on my porch.

Thumbnail by purpleinopp
Worcester, MA

Z5: I overwinter my deck pots in my unheated sunroom (gerbera daisies, coleus, mandevilla, nasturtium). On sunny days it can warm up a bit but cools overnight or on cloudy/bad weather days to the low 40's. I've always mulched my big pots to cut down on watering in the summer and I typically add a little bit more for the winter before I bring them in. They all droop a little and drop leaves but I think the mulch is what helps them best to get through the season. If you have a cool spot, adding mulch along with the plant lights (as someone else suggested), will help keep them warm enough.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Hi, David. Are you talking about a layer of mulch on the surface of potted plants?

Worcester, MA

Yes. A few years ago I started adding up to 2" of mulch in the big pots (the ones I keep and overwinter), mostly to keep them from drying out so quickly in the summer heat. I leave it when they come in (sometimes add a bit more to the mandevilla and the coleus). It gets very cold in the sunroom and the mulch prevents them from being too affected. It's winter, so they droop and pout, drop leaves, etc. but overall they all do so much better than in the past when I didn't mulch - and lost quite a few plants. The dahlia's did so well I got tired of taking care of them so last year and this year I cut them back and pulled the tubers to store. The coleus I cut back a month ago are happy and beginning to get tiny blooms now.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

That's good to hear. Getting a Mandevilla through winter in your zone is noteworthy. Great job. I wouldn't think mulch would have much impact on potted plants, but your testimonial is definitely cause for thought. I can only wish I had a spot like your sunroom to try it. More power to you and your plants!!

Worcester, MA

Thank you purpleinopp. I think it works so well because these are really big pots. The huge amount of soil with the mulch keep the roots just warm enough. I confess my ignorance of grow zones, but isn't your winter more like my sunroom in winter than the winter outside my door? Would bigger pots with mulch make the difference? Here's a couple pics of the mandevilla, in September when I brought them in and in February. They'd wrapped their vines around everything they could reach by then. I know I should cut them back when I bring them in, but they're always still in bloom. Then all that great green in the middle of winter everytime I go out or come home is just too much... I can't do it... I cut them back about 6 or 7 weeks before they can start going out again. They're slow to come back but will finally start blooming again by the end of June. It's a trade-off. The nasturtium is leggy but still blooming in February and the daisies are coming back after their final 'haircut' of the winter.

Thumbnail by davidsl88 Thumbnail by davidsl88 Thumbnail by davidsl88 Thumbnail by davidsl88
Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Your Mand. vines are stunning! Whatever you are doing, I wouldn't change a thing.

It does get below freezing some nights here, sometimes WAY below, and occasionally a rare snow. I do use mulch and leaf cover for outside gardens, up to a couple feet high during the cold months, but even that will only do so much, maybe help you cheat 1/2 to one whole zone. Sadly, not enough to save Coleus out there.

But I'm confident I gathered enough cuts to do this all over again in the spring.

Thumbnail by purpleinopp
Worcester, MA

You've got beautiful plants there! You are certainly ambitious - and patient. It never occured to me it could get that cold that far south.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Thanks, David! I've lived here for 5 years and 9 degrees is "my" record low so far. My brother lives in Tampa, where frost is truly just occasional and he says people freak out if a frost is predicted, it's a big news story.

Worcester, MA

Yikes! And so destructive without a good snow cover. I guess I'll have to go farther south when I'm finally ready to ditch the weather here for good - how far away are you from those beaches? Are those Elephant Ears? They're beautiful - what do you do with those?

We've had mild winters with little snow and 'high' temps which confuses the flora (and drives me nuts). Bulbs and greenery sprout, roses bloom... Then winter comes back, we get whacked with the Polar Express (O Canada!) and it's all over... It's nerve-racking when there's not enough snow for insulation. I think we had less than 12" of snow all of last year and only a few days here and there when we suffered those bitter temps. But 2 years ago we had record snow and I'm pretty sure I paid off plow guy's truck! Here's a couple pics of the backyard and one looking out my kitchen window at the sunroom roof. The snow was higher but the day before I took this pic the temp was over 65 and melted it down quite a bit.

Thumbnail by davidsl88 Thumbnail by davidsl88 Thumbnail by davidsl88
Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Yes, elephant ears, Colocasia esculenta, they are hardy here, kind of considered a weed. Not to this transplanted Yankee! I don't miss scenes like that at all!

I'm right above the FL border, directly north of Destin FL. To get to Tampa is about an 8 hour drive. I feel the same way about wanting to live in a place where it never freezes!

Wish I had to room to keep some of the giant Coleus stumps I was just pulling out of the ground. Some were definitely still alive! I have brought a few plants in after reading so many encouraging new testimonials from others. The last time I tried to overwinter a Coleus plant was in OH. Ugh, I've talked myself into going back outside to see about potting up a few of these stumps... headed back out...

Worcester, MA

Okay - I was waiting to hear whether you managed to get some plants in!! Did you?? Do the Elephant Ears get through the winter or die off?

I can't wait to NOT miss the snow and cold! My youngest has finally grown and flown and I'm free to roam about the universe, so I've been doing some serious researching. Now, you're quite a distance from Tampa so aside from driving there to visit family is there a reason you wouldn't go to the Destin area for the beaches - or do you go there as well? How far away you from there? Is that too many questions? LOL!!


Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Yes, I did, potted up 2 Coleus stumps. I can't tell if they're going to grow again yet or not. Silly not being able to let go since I already have hundreds of cuttings...

The EE's come back bigger and better every year, with pups. I had enough extras to give some away and already have a couple people wanting more in the spring.

Oh yes we go to Destin often, Pensacola, or Panama City, it's about a 90 minute drive to any of these. We often go just for the day, we've rented a pontoon boat a couple times, and love to go camping at the state park on the Cape San Blas peninsula at Port St. Joe. From Oct until about April 1, the water is too cold for me on the gulf coast but we always see people from Canada in the water no matter when we go. I still like to walk along the beach when it's cold.

Happy hunting for the perfect retirement spot!

Worcester, MA

Thanks for the info - and thanks!

The area you're talking about is in the Panhandle? I vacation in the the Ft. Myers area, typically anywhere between Jan to the end of Feb. I love the Gulf water - I'm with the Canadians - it feels so WARM even in the dead of the Florida 'winter'!! You're from Ohio so you probably know how cold the Altlantic is here, even in July or August (when it finally 'warms' to 60 or even 63 degrees). Of course the bays on the Cape or in Newport are a little warmer but smell horrible! LOL!!

Happy gardening!



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