OverWintering Tropicals - A Mid Atlantic Survey

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Please indicate your participation by reserving a space for yourself to post responses to our survey of tropicals we grow and how we care for them over the winter.

Specifics to be announced

Thanks in advance.

I'll reserve the first two spaces for organizing activities.


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annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Sallygs tips for ...

Calathea insignis/ lancifolia Rattlesnake Plant- Keep moist, medium light, and don't worry! Great plant

Plumeria Have one that bloomed once- That was the year it was planted in ground in full sun, and had been kept green the previous winter. It was small enough, one stick.

Canna Have kept them by just shaking off dirt and storing in cardboard box, basement, 60 to 70 degrees

Oxalis Have lived over in ground here, zone 7 to 8 depending on site in yard.

This message was edited Nov 10, 2012 8:25 AM

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Reserved for whatever I caan contribute.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Terri's spot
Reserved for soaking it all in and asking questions - I am in the learning mode from all you SMEs (Subject Matter Experts - a work term in my job title, not that my SME capabilities have ANYTHING to do with plant care LOL). Only tropicals I have are a Plumeria (from Chantell), Brazilian Plume Flower (from Gita), and Night Blooming Jasmine (from Jill)...

Tips for getting them to bloom (learned from some on-line research recently)
Although nicely leafed out, and amazingly still alive after two years in my care, it hasn't had any blooms. Will try this starting in spring:
Fertilize - use a high phosphorus (middle number) water soluble mix such as a 'super bloom' type fertilizer (10-50-10). Feed every other week during the growing season (last frost to first frost)

This message was edited Nov 11, 2012 11:10 AM

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)


I worked for a number of years with growers of tropicals and other tender perennials so I follow what worked for us.
All of my tropicals are grown in containers not planted in the ground.
All of my tropicals are overwintered in their pots in an enclosed porch that is not heated but remains above freezing.

I grow
elephant ears, colocasia and alocasia
several types of bananas

Currently need guidance on oxalis Thanks for the interest every one.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

I'll save this for Holly and I.
Judy, The best way to grow oxalis is to throw some under the greenhouse bench! In 2 years you can't get rid of the stuff. LOL Ric

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


Purple Oxalis can be allowed to go dormant--indoors--or kept alive as a houseplant--also indoors.
I am not sure it can be left outdoors for the winter--even tjhough I have heard that it "may"make it....

Either way--it will "wake up" around early March and start growing back from the little corms
(if it was dormant)--or just get bigger and better if it was kept as a houseplant.

Outdoors--give it bright, filtered light and water as needed. A bit more shade makes the purple more intense.
If your pot should get knocked over by squirrels (they sure liked to do that with mine!)
just gather up all the spilled, little corms and poke them back into the pot.

Overall advice---ignoring it is bliss with this one. No fuss--no muss! (What is "muss" anyway ????)


edited to add----coleup--ask Donner! She is the one who gave us all this plant.

This message was edited Nov 9, 2012 9:09 PM

Blue Ridge Mtns, VA(Zone 7a)

Great topic. Will be following along to learn from you all.

Middle of, VA(Zone 7a)

Squatter's rights - 'here'

My tips...don't forget to water the dang things - since the heat dries them out. Put those you can in your bathroom (if you have a window) they'll thank you for the humidity!! Alcohol in a mister bottle works great for the spider mites that will surely make their appearance. And your mosquito dunks or the sprinkles will keep those oh so annoying fungus gnats at bay...

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Coleup- what would make my black stemmed EE happy? GOing dormant, or what sort of care? It's lost big leaves but has just popped out a new little one. We're both confused.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Reserved for info on overwintering Elephant ears. I will concentrate of the varieties I have shared at our swaps. But first some general info.

How to Over Winter Colocasias

I have excerpted passages from an article on the Plant Delights Nursery site Tony Avent is one of the pioneers in tropical introductions that have made them a favorite garden addition for so many in recent years. Indeed, some of the offspring I have shared may be traceable back to Tony, so I'll use him as a 'general rule of thumb' guide from which we can vary and supplement with our own experience. The complete article is available here :http://www.plantdelights.com/Colocasia-Elephant-Ear-Perennial-Plants/products/503/

I am numbering the paragraphs so that we can refer to them in our comments and discussion. Any helpful comments I make will be in italics and designated with an asteric *

"How to Overwinter Colocasia bulbs

1-As the day length shortens, Colocasia switch their energy resources from producing leaves to flower and corm production. The production of leaves will become smaller and the corm will swell noticeably. At this time, most of the current season's roots will die off. It is important to understand this physiological change in order to successfully overwinter your elephant ear. *This timing will vary for each of us each season. But, never fear as a frost will not kill the corms but will turn some leaves to mush!

2-There is also quite a difference in winter hardiness of Colocasia. Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain is a solid USDA Hardiness Zone 8b, while Colocasia 'Pink China' is reportedly winter hardy to Zone 6. The rest fall somewhere in between. Typically, triploid cultivars are about a half zone hardier than their diploid counterparts. From Zone 8b south, most Colocasia should be reliably winter hardy in the ground without protection. This successful zone of cultivation also extends into Zone 8a, but some marginally hardy cultivars may be slow to return after a hard winter.

3-In Zone 7b, most Colocasia will return without benefit of mulch with a few exceptions. In this hardiness zone, hardy Colocasia may survive, but the large central corm can freeze and rot during the winter, leaving only the smaller offsets to survive. In this case, returning plants may not reach full size during the ensuing season. To overcome this, cover the clump after the first frost with a 1' tall pile of shredded leaves, which works well to protect the main corm. The plants will grow through the leaves when they re-emerge in spring. * I'm in 7b but I'd rather not chance it, so I bring mine in every year. Remember, too that drainage must be excellent in the cold ground or rot is a real possibility with these.

4-In colder zones, the same principle can be used but with a slightly altered technique. Assuming the plant has made good growth during the summer, after the first frost, encircle the base of the plant with a 3' diameter cage of hog wire and fill it with shredded leaves. If left unshredded, the leaves will pack together and hold unwanted moisture against the plant, causing it to rot. When new leaves emerge in spring, remove the cage and filler.

* Ok , here we go!
5-Northern gardeners (Zone 7a and north) will need to bring their elephant ears indoors before the temperatures drop below freezing. Over winter, elephant ears can be grown indoors as potted house plants * This means supplying the warmth and humidity to keep them happy and some will need more light than others Let's call this "Houseplant Method." If you grow your elephant ears outdoors in containers during the summer, cut back all but the top two leaves, then bring the pot indoors before the first frost. If growing elephant ears in the ground during the summer, pot them before frost in an appropriately-sized container and bring them indoors. *Cut back on water and feeding as you would any house plant. Treat for pests etc as necessary. ( More on this under Pests and Diseases if we ever get to that section lol J)
6-Alternatively, the pot can be placed in a cool area (45-60F is ideal) where the plant will not freeze . If there is bright light and ideal temps the plants will grow very slowly and achieve semi-dormancy . * Let's call this "Semi-Dormant Method"Do not over water in winter as the plants are still semi-dormant. * Cooler temps and less light = more dormancy = longer time to wake up and resume active growth but generally quicker than the"Full Dormancy Method"which is similar to how cannas are stored for the winter, bareroot in peat moss, etc.or left in containers or pots and placed in a garage/basement/crawl space where they will remain cool but not freeze. No light required but moisture and drying out must be checked and managed so corms do not dry out or rot.

7-Most of the dwarf non-corm forming species should be kept growing during the winter, along with non-tuber forming selections of Colocasia esculenta including Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and Colocasia esculenta ‘Nancy’s Revenge’. Colocasia gigantea Thailand Giant Strain is also slow to develop a large corm, so is best kept in active growth. *"House Plant Method" or "Semi-Dormant Method"

8-Varieties of Colocasia that form large corms, such as most Colocasia esculenta cultivars, can be dug up and the corms stored in peat moss for the winter. They need to be kept in a dry, cool, but above-freezing location. Do not store in an airtight container which may allow moisture to build, causing the tuber to rot. * This is our "Full Dormancy Method"

9-Don't forget to label your tubers!"

This message was edited Nov 10, 2012 8:03 PM

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Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Thank you!
My Black stem is behaving just as you said- smaller leaves. I'll go for SemiDormant in the basement.

Fairfax, VA(Zone 7a)

I would love someone to talk about bananas. This year I have one that's just too big to be potted up and brought in. It's currently in the corner of my unheated garage, next to the wall that abuts the house.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Ok Medlarman. I'll start work on "Bananas" tonite.

Hopefully have something similar to what I did on colocasia above.

I believe that Elephant Ears, Bananas and Cannas are the most cold tolerant of the tropicals we can grow in our Mid Atlantic zones 7b to 6a (for the most part). Most others should probably made their way into 'winter quarters' by now.

I grow
-Ensete mauralei
-Musa basjoo
And have experience with a number of others

See you all soon.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

How to Over Winter Bananas in the Mid-Atlantic"

1-The larger the banana pseudostem that can be successfully overwintered, the greater the likelihood of that banana to flower and fruit. It takes 18 or more months of active growth (or more) for most bananas to reach maturity. Bananas are rapid growers and the large size they attain after one growing season in our temperate zones make their overwintering more of a challenge because of their size. There are methods for protecting the pseudostems of bananas indoors or in the ground. Of course, some kinds of bananas are hardier or more successful in our area.

2-House Plant Method If container grown, just bring inside as temperatures cool before first frost or dig and pot the plant in the fall and keep it growing indoors in a warm location. During the winter, bananas will grow fairly slowly indoors so care should be taken to provide plenty of light and humidity, and not to over water. Avoid exposing the container to temperature extremes and cold drafts. Banana trees (even the cold tolerant ones) prefer warm humid temperatures for maximum growth. They grow fastest when the daytime highs are 80°F to 95°F (27°C to 35°C). Growth will slow drastically below 57°F (14°C). The tops of the plants will die back to the ground at the first sign of frost. This method works well with 'Truly Tiny' or smaller 'pups' divided from main stem.

3-Semi-Dormant Method Container grown bananas can also be maintained in a semi-dormant stae with the pseudostem intact if temps are kept between 40 to 50ish degrees, providing only enough water to prevent the soil from separating from the sides of the pot. The more consistent the temps, the less the plant will be worn out by growing/not growing as bananas are consistantly growing and do not naturally experience periods of dormancy.

4-Dormant Method - ContainerizedAllow plants to go dormant by slowly withholding water as the weather cools and removing the main stem. Place the container in a cool dark place such as a garage or crawl-space for the winter. Provide only enough water to prevent the soil from separating from the sides of the pot. A dormant banana in a container can withstand temperatures into the mid-30s F (3 °C) using this method. Placing the pot on a piece of styrofoam or rug, or a thermostatically controlled heater can help to modulate temperatures. Avoid cold drafts from opening and closing doors.
5-- Dormant Method - Bareroot The entire banana plant can be dug from the ground after it has gone dormant. Allow to dry. Remove the soil from the roots by tapping. Wrap the plant first in newspaper and then in plastic bags, like it was being shipped. The plant can be stored at 45 °F (7 °C) and ignored until spring. Plant can be stored vertically or horizontally . Because the pseudostem is comprised of mostly water, many gardeners allow the plant to dry for 3 or more days before storing. The plant will weigh about half as much as when first dug.
6-Dormant Method -In Ground Zones 6 and 7. The following is taken from Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery in North Carolina, zone 7b http://www.plantdelights.com
"Consider mulching the plant in the ground. We prefer this, since it has proven the most successful for us and requires less indoor space. Our procedure for overwintering banana trees in the ground is as follows:

1. Once freezing temperatures have caused the leaves to turn brown and collapse, cut off the top of the plant, leaving 3-4' of pseudostem remaining. It is okay to leave the brown leaves on the plant since they will provide additional insulation.
2. Construct a cage around the trunk using rebar and concrete reinforcing wire (this is a sturdier material than chicken wire). Drive the rebar into the ground 2' from the outermost pseudostem to create supports for the wire. Two or three should be sufficient. Use the concrete reinforcing wire to wrap the stakes, forming a cage. Secure the wire to the stakes with zip ties or string.
3. Fill the cage with shredded leaves. It is important to shred the leaves since whole leaves can hold water, clump together and cause the plant to rot. We rake the leaves onto a lawn area and use a mulching mower to bag them for use. Most municipalities which collect leaves run them though a large shredder, and the result is usually perfect for this purpose. Do not use pine straw, hay, or grass clippings since they do provide the proper amount of insulation and aeration. Without this protection, the plant would die to the ground and need to begin from the soil line in spring.
4. When new banana leaves start to emerge in spring, remove the cage and spread the shredded leaf mixture around the base of the plant where it will continue to decompose and provide rich compost for your banana plant."
Good info here :http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/550365/

And Critterologist's article here: http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/299/

This message was edited Nov 13, 2012 2:44 AM

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Middle of, VA(Zone 7a)

Perfect - will print it out (with your permission) for my nephew

Central, MD(Zone 7a)

I have two thing to share.

#1: An attic ladder turned plant stand to create more room for trops. It is still a work in progress, haven't decided on painting or staining it yet.

#2: An Unknown tropical. It grows to be about 2 feet and is a very vivacious grower. I imagine that's why it was sent as a bonus in the first place a few years ago. I plan to post in Tropicals if the MAGers can't determine it. Unfortunately it hasn't bloomed, probably because it never gets fed. Oh well. If you look closely I have some walking irises in there, I had to cut them off so they may or may not live, if not I'll have some from the mother plant to share. http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/177981/ It is very easy as you might suspect and has bloomed all summer and continues to bloom while inside. Mine is yellow, hoped it was the purple/white.

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Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Terp, Your plant looks like a Ginger of some type. The ladder idea is quite clever, maximum space for pots minimum floor space used, and easy to clean around. Ric

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


I have to agree with Ric....The "hint" is the way the leaves grow out of the stems....the shape of the leaves, etc...
At first glance--I thought it looked like Corn....

When I used to be in charge of the whole GH in HD--(for 5 years)--we got many Gingers in,
but they seldom thrived. The leaves would brown like yours have. Then I had to remove them, and on and on....

I believe Gingers need a very high humidity to grow well. Not necessarily being watered often.
They are VERY, VERY tropical.

Even in the Greenhouse--I have never seen it bloom. Gita

Blue Ridge Mtns, VA(Zone 7a)

What a cool looking multi-branching ladder. Show us how you arrange your plants on it later on.

Thank you so much for your Colocasia tutorial, coleup. I posted this question days ago on the Aroid forum and not a soul chimed in to offer help. Of the three Colocasia macrorrhiza bulbs I planted in Spring, two are now reduced to their original form and am overwintering the third as a Houseplant. Not really knowing what to do, I did cut all but two leaves back when I brought it in, mainly because a few had become tattered either from the wind or help from our cats. Already a new leaf has emerged. Very happy about that and assume storing the bulbs as per your instructions in number 6 above in peat moss is the way to go. The green growth where the stems were cut back has now hardened, like a callous.

Are any of you growing Caladiums indoors without the benefit of a greenhouse? Most of mine are stored, but did bring in our small collection of five Thai Caladiums that now reside on a tray on our lighted plant stand. And what about Callas? Would it be futile trying to grow them indoors over Winter? Or is it worth a try? It would be great to have a tutorial on these bulbs as well or learn from anyone's personal experiences.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Fruity sounds like you are doing fine on the Colocasia. There is a wonderful "sticky" at the top of the Aroid Forum on 'overwintering elephant ears'
Hope your houseplant ee does well for you. If it starts to struggle you can let it go dormant and then store with the others! I think you can do the same with caladiums or callas you are trying as houseplants Would love to see some pics of your Thai caladiums and other trops you grow.

Reminder: Tropical house plants respond better to tepid water than cold H2O.

I'm about tutorialed out so hopefully others will chime in.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Fruit of the Vine,

This thread has a good post on overwintering EEs and Bananas. And it is short!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

My Caladiums all went blecch with the shorter days. I don't try to keep them as houseplants.

I save rainwater, let it come to room temp in the house, then use on potted plants.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

heya! I'm still consolidating overwintering plants inside... tucking cuttings or smaller plants into some of the larger pots, putting others into hanging baskets to get them off the floor, etc.

My biggest banana and the huge Black Stem Taro from Coleup are both on the basement floor at the moment, with a good bit of dirt around their corms... 2 smaller bananas have already been potted up for the "houseplant treatment," not sure if I'll pot up the big one or just throw a little water on its rootball from time to time.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


You can dig up the corms of your Caladiums and save them for next year--just like any others.
They will do OK in a dormant, dry condition. Gita

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Gita, I just left the Caladium in their pot and let them dry. I think it'll work.

Blue Ridge Mtns, VA(Zone 7a)

In previous years, I've lifted ours and decided this year to leave them in the pots and have stored them in our garage. Except the Thais. Those bulbs are still no larger than the end of my thumb and will try to baby them.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Are any of you growing Thai caladiums that Fruit of the Vine mentions above?

Very interesting plants according to an article here on Daves by LariAnn Garner (tropical plant breeder)

Some pics here on this blog http://hootowlhollow.blogspot.com/2010/07/caladiums-of-thai-variety.html

Fruity, where did you get yours? Which ones do you have? Can you post some pictures? Thanks

This message was edited Nov 16, 2012 8:09 PM

Blue Ridge Mtns, VA(Zone 7a)

I'll have to take pics of the little gems, coleup. One especially isn't doing well at all, had a bit of bulb rot and have set it aside to dry, hoping it pulls through. The bulbs came from Spring Hill, pricey and disappointing they were so small back in March and still are. It pays to ask how large (or small) a bulb is before ordering if it isn't specified. These are the ones I'm trying.

KAUAI (suffering)

This isn't a very good photo since it was taken late in the day, but these are the six large pots of regular Caladiums back in July that lived on our side porch, about the only place with partial Sun and have a matchsticks blind to aid as a filter.


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Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Fruity, I've just let caladium pots go dry in winter, and they've done fine stored in our cool basement. For me, that works better than storing them clean & dry... I'm not good at remembering to check on corms (or geraniums) from time to time to see if they need a little misting. Being in the pot with potting mix seems to keep them from getting tooo dry, and it's easy to start them up with a good soak in the water tray come spring.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

I have stored mine both in their pots and in brown paper bags. Both methods have worked for me. I do store them in a rather warm room.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

I need to start growing Caladiums---I love them!
getting better corms somewhere may be needed. The ones that come in bags in
Box stores are not really the best grade.

Wish I could dig out the corms on all the potted Caladiums they throw down the Chute.....
but that would qualify as "stealing"......G.

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Yes, Gita the ones that come in bags at the store really aren't the best. Oh don't you just hate seeing all those plants wasted. Order your plants from Bill at http://www.caladiumbulbs4less.com/servlet/StoreFront you will be very pleased with the bulbs. He usually puts out some kind of discount or add in the DG Classified in Jan/Feb. He did mention that he wasn't sure he would do that again next year. But you can always E-mail him and ask about a discount.
My Janet Craig compacta, Dracaena is blooming. I have never seen a Dracaena bloom.

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Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Both of the Hib's are blooming in the GH also. I Thought of bringing one of them in to the house while it is blooming but they are in very heavy pots. I should have a name for this one somewhere around here.

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Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)


Your Jeanette Craig is beautiful! I bet that was a nice surprise!

A couple of other plants that I have seen bloom in the past (HD G.H.) that was an absolute
surprise were an Aloe and a Snake Plant.
I will also never forget the first time I saw a huge cactus bloom. That was when i was working
for the grower.
Plants are full of surprises---aren't they?


Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Yes they sure are. It has turned out to be a very nice plant. It came off the HGHA Raffle Table. Wasn't looking too good but Ric picked it out because wanted the pot it was in. The member that had brought it in said that it was a rescue plant and thought someone would be interested in it even though it was looking a bit rough. I cleaned it up, gave it some support a bit of fert, and water. Stuck it in a nice shady spot in the garden and it just looks great now.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I had a Janet Craig a few year ago and gave it to my MIL because it was SO easy it got boring lol. Give me something that needs repotting and fussing with!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Sally, I'll remember that... anything that starts getting too fussy to live with me (literally), I'll be happy to pass along! just like peach-flowering plants! LOL (speaking of which, I found your peach astilbe out in the "nursery corner" this afternoon... can't believe I forgot to bring it along, but then again we were running a little behind that morning)

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Lol Critter, that was my first thought, too....in fact I ahave already passed on a 'Bird of Paradise' that looked to me like it would never fly again to Sally's R&R.

Todays article is on pests and diseases in tropicals and succulents. And, it is full of pictures! Good info and read.

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