Are you among those lucky few that grew up with a touch of the tropics right outside your door? Those of us that dream of growing our own tropical oasis but are stuck in colder growing zones are jealous!
Perhaps the impossible is possible with a little creative care? Sure, we may live in a colder climate, but when the sun is beating down and our weather is warm, we can bring tropical plants out onto the patio—and then bring them inside when fall looms. Here’s how:
How to Care for Tropical Plants on Your Patio
When our summer weather heats up, gardeners can happily introduce tropical plants into their backyard oasis, regardless that our growing zone is in the five range. First, there are some key care tips that you need to know—here’s the low-down on what these warm-weather babies need to thrive in our climate:
- Sun is something many tropical plants crave, but there are always exceptions as many thrive naturally near the shaded rainforest floor where it's warm, humid, and protected from harsh rays.
- Know your tropical plant variety and what it loves. Don’t assume they all need eight hours of sun per day. Perhaps the variety you choose will be happier under the protection of your pergola, where it can enjoy warm, humid days without direct sun exposure.
- Water makes most tropical plants quite content. Well-watered doesn’t mean soaking wet, though. Most plants dislike wet feet and prefer their soil to dry a bit between waterings. Too much standing water equals rot for many plants (unless, of course, they are aquatic). The easiest way to know if your plant is thirsty is via the finger test—put your finger a couple of inches into the potting medium, if it feels dry, then it might be time for a drink.
- Feed me, I’m hungry. Many tropicals have adapted to prefer organically-rich soils, so be sure to talk to us about the proper potting mediums and fertilizers for your specific plant. You want to ensure the right nutrients are applied so that your beauty stays bold and vibrant.
Container planting is probably best; this way you can easily move the plant when days are not so sunny and warm. Now, when the weather really cools down, you will need to bring tropical plants inside. The following will outline some key tips for bringing them indoors.
How to Bring Your Tropical Plants Indoors
We don’t have to say goodbye to our outdoor potted tropicals as fall approaches. Bring the beauty of summer inside! When bringing your plants indoors, they will go through a period of shock, causing them not to look so lively—don’t worry, this is just a phase. Here are some key to-do’s that will make this transition easier.
- Prepare them for lower light levels and cooler temperatures. A week or two before you plan to bring tropical plants indoors, move them to a shadier, cooler outdoor location, such as a covered porch. This will allow your plants to adapt to indoor conditions more readily.
- Spray for pests. Outside plants equal bugs that you don’t want to bring indoors. Our indoor growing experts can offer a few pest solutions before bringing your tropicals indoors.
- Trim and prune any foliage that appears to be less than lively. Remove spent flowers, and cut back up to ⅓ of the foliage IF the plant is too big for your indoor living space.
- Introduce the indoors with baby steps. Start to bring tropical plants inside for just a nightly sleepover, then in the daytime, put them back outdoors. After about a week, you can let them move in for good.
- South-facing windows are ideal for indoor tropical plants. Try your best to mimic their outdoor light and humidity conditions. A mister, humidifier, or time in the steamy bathroom will help.
Will your tropical go dormant? Many popular varieties, such as Cannas and Caladium, like to take a long winter's nap. There’s a process to bring these inside, so come ask us how to store these specimens indoors, so they thrive next summer.
In the meantime, bring the beauty of the tropics to your own backyard space—the summer has many more days of warmth to offer! As always, come visit us at Alsip Home & Nursery to see what we have in store in our St. John or Frankfort locations.
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