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January 13, 2018


I’m covering Lavender, Rosemary, roses with porous plant covers when the really low temperatures are predicted. The lavender and rosemary are large bushes and are looking good. My Ajuga and creeping jenny aren’t looking good, and the pansies and other winter annuals look pretty sad.  Should I start cutting them back now or just pull them up and be done until spring?



Winter is just beginning so we have a lot of potential weather left.  At this point, I would just ignore your ajuga and creeping jenny. Ajuga should be evergreen, but creeping jenny is deciduous and does die back each winter.  The winter annuals may have some damage, but should bounce back.  You can cut back damaged foliage on the Swiss chard, mustard and kale but then be prepared to cover the rebounding plants if they start growing again.  They should do ok unless temperatures dip much below 28 degrees.  How much growth we see on these plants will be determined by what else Mother Nature has in store. 


January 6, 2018


We have been having a lot of really low temperatures.  When should I consider covering plants for protection and which plants need it?  If I'm supposed to cover plants while below 32 degrees, do I uncover them during the day?

AnswerUnless you are growing winter vegetables, covering plants in the middle of winter is usually not needed.  Winter protection is usually called for during the transition seasons—as plants are breaking dormancy in the spring and a hard freeze is predicted.  Azaleas, Japonica camellias, etc. are plants that sometimes need a little extra protection in late winter or early spring as they are coming out of dormancy.  Clear, still nights are more of an issue than overcast, windy nights.  Covering usually gives you a few degrees of protection. Depending on what you are covering with, they can stay covered for days if the material is porous.  If you are using plastic coverings and the sun comes out and the daytime temps heat up, venting them may be needed.  If you are growing winter vegetables, most are usually good to around 26-28 degrees depending on what is being grown.  I usually cover with a large cardboard box or inverted large flower pot as needed.


October 24, 2015

QuestionOn October 3, a reader asked about overwintering angel wing begonias. Yes, they do look very pretty right before the first hard freeze. But they drop flowers every day, which is a real pain when they're in the house. I finally realized I am MUCH happier buying new ones in the spring than cleaning up after them all winter


AnswerThe same thing could be said for Boston ferns, tropical hibiscus and others.  But for those who don’t mind vacuuming, the plants should be inside now.  If you wait until a killing frost, they will shed even more, since they will have been exposed to some pretty low temperatures


October 10, 2015

QuestionI have successfully wintered some very large lantanas but also continue to lose a few each winter. A friend suggested that" Lady Luck" is a main factor. How severely does one cut back a lantana prior to mulching?  And do you have any suggestions on winter preparation?  Would covering them with plastic be of any benefit?

AnswerI would say more like Mother Nature versus Lady Luck.  A lot has to do with how cold it gets and for how long.  Lantana is an iffy perennial in central Arkansas, a pretty proven perennial in south Arkansas and definitely an annual in NW Arkansas unless you are growing a hardy variety like Miss Huff.    Some folks don’t cut back their plants until spring, thinking the dead top debris adds to their layer of mulch, while others cut back and then mulch.  Whichever method you use, let the plant experience a killing frost before you add the extra mulch.  If you mulch the plant before it goes dormant, it will rot during the winter.  How wet our winter is and how well drained your site is can also play a role in winter survival. Sitting in wet soil can also cause the root system to rot.  Plastic is not my recommendation—something breathable is best—a large cardboard box or something similar.  But in reality, lantanas are readily available to plant each season, so in a worst case scenario, you are supporting the green industry by buying new plants!



October 2012

QuestionI planted a lot of Sweet William seeds in pots in late spring and kept them in part shade during the summer due to the heat, so they didn’t grow very much. They are now around 4” high and I am wondering if they would survive the winter if I planted them in the ground, or should I keep the pots in an enclosed porch – without heating – until the spring?


AnswerI would plant them now. Sweet Williams are actually Dianthus barbatus which is usually grown as biennial — growing foliage in the first season and blooming, setting seeds and dying the next. For some gardeners, it lasts a few extra seasons, but it is not a long lived plant. It should overwinter just fine—and will probably stay evergreen, blooming early next spring. Hot weather tends to take its toll on many dianthus, but this one is fragrant and quite showy when in bloom.      

November 2012

QuestionI have about 10 large geranium plants, is there any way I can keep them until next year?


AnswerYou have several options with geraniums. They form a fairly woody stalk compared to other summer annuals, so they can be stored as they are in your garage or under the house in a crawl space. Don’t cut them back when you move them in, since they will die back some during storage. Next spring, cut them back, begin to water, and they should come back to life. An old fashioned method that used to be common was to lift the plants out of the pots and store them dry, hanging upside down in the attic until the following spring. If they freeze during storage they will rot, but provided you prevent freezing they should come back.

November 2012

QuestionI have a 10' Angel Trumpet (Datura Brugmansia) planted in my backyard. How should I winterize? Some say to cut down and it'll come back. Others say leave it and it will grow onto a tree.


AnswerThere are two plants called angels trumpet, and you have included both into one name. Datura is one and Brugmansia is another. Datura will overwinter outdoors almost statewide, but they do die back to the ground with a hard freeze. They come back and can grow the next season and then bloom next summer, but rarely do they grow taller than 4 feet or so. Their flowers grow upright and are usually white or purple. Brugmansia is typically the one that grows like a small tree or large shrub, and it is not quite as winter hardy as Datura, but it will overwinter in protected spots in NW Arkansas and does well in central and southern Arkansas. It comes in white, pink, yellow or apricot color and its large flowers hang down. If you want it to be a small tree and bloom earlier, then moving it inside or to a protected spot in a garage to prevent freezing would be called for.

November 2012

QuestionWe have a hibiscus plant in a pot outside our front door that we bought earlier this summer. It still has a flower and some buds on it. Yesterday I put a black garbage bag over it to protect it over night from the freezing temperatures. How should I take care of this plant so it survives the winter ?, if they do. Can I plant it outside ? Please give us your advice.


AnswerTropical hibiscus will not survive our winter outdoors. You have a few options: 1, leave it outside until the frost kills it and buy a new one next year (which is what I do), 2, move it into your garage or under the house in your crawl space to protect from freezing. This must be done before a hard frost. It won’t look pretty when you move it back outside next spring, but you can cut it back, repot and it should rebound. The third option would be to treat it as a houseplant all winter. However, since you have left it outside in all this cool weather, a move into a heated house would probably cause it to lose all of its leaves. Many areas of the state have had light to moderate to hard freezes, depending on where you live. I have had a light frost, but my tropical hibiscus and mandevilla are still growing fine.

November 2012

QuestionI have a baby Hydrangea bush that is probably well under a foot tall. We have tried to grow Hydrangea in the past with no luck, they all died. This is the first that we have had any luck with. It was just a baby plant when we put it in the ground several months back. With cold weather coming on I don't know how to take care that it doesn't die, but I don't know what to do to protect it during the winter. What should I do!


AnswerHydrangea bushes can be damaged by a cold winter, but usually are not killed. Pay attention to it in late winter. If we have mild winter days, they often begin to grow, and this tender new growth can get zapped by cold weather. The problem lies in the fact that they set their flower buds before they go dormant, so if they get nipped back by winter weather, they will not bloom that summer. I am a little worried about even larger, established plants, because many began a new set of growth late this season, which may or may not have a chance to harden off before winter sets in—only time will tell. Mulch your plant with 2 – 3 inches of mulch, leaving a little space between the main stem and the mulch. You can cover it during really cold days with a large cardboard box, but that only gives you a few degrees of protection. Hydrangeas like well amended, well drained soil on the north or east side of the house, provided they do get some sunlight—(planted in heavy shade, they will not bloom). They are not drought tolerant plants, but if you give them the right location and ample moisture, they can be beautiful plants in the landscape.

July 2012

QuestionI have an angel trumpet that I rooted from a cutting. When and how much do I cut it back in the fall? Is there a special way I need to cut it to make cuttings?


AnswerAngel trumpet is a common name for both brugmansia and datura. Datura’s are much more winter hardy in Arkansas than brugmansia, but even those have started overwintering from central Arkansas south. Typically, if they are planted in the ground, they will die completely to the ground with a killing frost and emerge the following spring. If you want to move the plant indoors for the winter to keep a larger plant, then prune only as needed for size constraint. They root quite easily, so if you do cut them back, you can easily root what you have, cutting them into 4 inch cuttings.

October 2011

QuestionI have a beautiful tropical Hibiscus. It is 5 ft high and in a large pot on my deck. I am planning to move it into the house by a large window in the winter. Is there anything special I should do to winter it?


AnswerMove it inside fairly soon. I think many people wait too late to move tropical plants indoors, and then wonder why they struggle getting acclimated to inside conditions. Be sure it is inside the first time you turn your heat on, or when the inside and outside conditions are similar. Allowing it exposure to many cool nights, will get the plant used to those conditions, and then you move it into a heated house with low humidity and lower light and it tends to shed a lot of leaves. Keep it a little on the dry side indoors and as cool as you can keep it. Don't be alarmed if you do get some leaf shed even if you do move it early. With enough light, they can bloom indoors all winter. Prune it back by half or more when you move it back outdoors next spring.

January 2012

QuestionI bought a small croton plant app ten years ago, have repotted it once or twice and it has grown to about 4 1/2 to 5 feet tall and about 3 feet across. I have taken care of it the same the whole time I have had it, taking it outside in summer and bringing it in during the winter. The last two winters it has lost A LOT of leaves when we brought it in. It always loses a lot of color when inside due to not much sun. I really would like to keep this plant as long as possible but know it will probably reach the end of its lifespan eventually. Can you give me any tips on keeping it healthy when it is brought in for the winter. During the summer when it's outside, it is absolutely gorgeous and a lot of people I know are amazed at how full and colorful it is in summer. I must admit I am not the best at taking great care of my plants but since I have been this way a long time I wonder why the leaf loss has only occurred last winter and this winter.


AnswerAs you noticed, the more light a croton gets, the more colorful it is. They often revert to a green color indoors. How soon do you bring your plant inside? If you allow the plant to remain outdoors until the time of a killing frost, the shock of transplant is greater, than if you move the plant in early to mid October. Make sure you put the plant in the sunniest, coolest room in your house and only water once every two to three weeks. Crotons have thick waxy leaves and can easily suffer from overwatering. Don't expect great growth indoors, but it should survive. If it has gotten leggy during the stay indoors, cut it back by one third, repot it and it should kick back into high gear once back outside in the sunshine and warmth of our summers.

January 2012

QuestionMy son has three potted lemon trees (or bushes). One he has had for three years and two for 2 yrs. The first year the first tree was loaded with lemons. I suggested he cut it back in the winter. It reproduced this year but not nearly as much. Neither of the newer trees produced as much as the first one had. During the summer they sit in full sun all day on the deck rail. I contend the pots should be placed deep in the ground to protect the root system from the heat. What say you?


AnswerLemon trees like warm temperatures and should be fine outdoors unless the pot is small and overheating. You can sink the pots in the ground to aid in watering for the summer months, but they will put out roots into the surrounding soil which can make lifting them in the fall a bit more difficult. Lemons can be ever-bearing given the right conditions—enough sunlight (minimum 6-8 hours per day) and warm temperatures – at least above 60 degrees. That means they can continually bloom and have fruit in a variety of stages. I think the pruning job may have set them into a growing phase and cut back on some of the blooms. Prune minimally, but make sure there is room to house them indoors. Give them bright light, keep them watered and feed monthly while actively growing and they should rebound

November 2011

QuestionI love gardenias and last year I bought a plant and planted it outdoors. It lived until frost and then it died back to the ground. I just left it alone and it came back out slowly but it never bloomed. This year I bought one that says frost free. I planted this one in a pot. Should I leave this one in the pot outside, bring it inside or plant it in the ground? Also, what about the one I bought last year, just leave it alone?


AnswerMany gardenias took a hit with our cold winter weather last season. While most didn't die, if they get frozen back, you do lose the blooms for that season. Gardenias have flower buds set before they head into winter. They are much hardier planted in the ground than planted in containers. Elevated soil in a small pot gets colder than ground soil. At this stage, the one that is in a pot, I would suggest either moving it into a garage or storage area to prevent it freezing and then plant it in the ground next spring. Planting now is not going to allow much time for the roots to establish before winter sets in. The plant that is already in the ground, leave it alone and hope it survives the winter better this year.

November 2011

QuestionI have two five foot tall hibiscus plants which I have brought inside. Their trunks are composed of 3 to 4 intertwined branches and they seem to be healthy. A recent article of yours said these should be cut back 50% when I put them back out in the spring. My plants seem more like a tree than a plant. Should they also be cut back this severely or somewhat less than your suggestion?


AnswerTropical hibiscus plants bloom on new growth. If you don’t cut them back, they don’t grow as quickly and you don’t get as many flowers. Since yours have braided trunks and have been tree-formed, you will not cut into the trunks, but you will want to severely cut the network of branches at the top of the braided trunk. I would also suggest repotting it when moving it back outside next spring. Both pruning and repotting should encourage new top growth, which should result in constant flowers. Don’t forget to fertilize at least monthly once outdoors as well.

November 2011

QuestionWe have purple flowering lantana that grew beautifully. When should we cut it back and how much should we cut it back? Last year we did it wrong and it did not come back. We had to replant.


AnswerTropical hibiscus plants bloom on new growth. If you don’t cut them back, they don’t grow as quickly and you don’t get as many flowers. Since yours have braided trunks and have been tree-formed, you will not cut into the trunks, but you will want to severely cut the network of branches at the top of the braided trunk. I would also suggest repotting it when moving it back outside next spring. Both pruning and repotting should encourage new top growth, which should result in constant flowers. Don’t forget to fertilize at least monthly once outdoors as well.

November 2011

QuestionWe have a deck that is approximately 20 feet above ground. My husband had an arbor built above the railing. He has jasmine honeysuckle growing from 8 large pots sitting on the deck. The plants have been growing for about 4 years and some of them have made it to the top of the arbor which is what we want. However, each year we usually have 1 or 2 plants that die back somewhat and have to start over. I have been thinking that we need to protect the plants from the cold since they are sitting above ground level. Do you have any suggestions as to how this can be done?


AnswerIf the plants are dying back to the pot, but then resprouting, there is enough protection in the size of the containers to protect the root system. What is getting nipped is top growth, which will be trickier to protect. Make sure there is ample moisture in the soil prior to a heavy frost, since dry plants are more susceptible to winter cold. You could also wrap the vines loosely with burlap, sheets, etc. when temperatures are predicted below 15 degrees. You can leave them covered for extended periods without any problems to the plant. Just make sure it isn’t too tight, and be aware of weight issues should we have winter precipitation. Can the arbor support the added weight of wet fabric?

November 2011

QuestionI am hoping you can help identify a plant. It looks like a cactus She doesn’t know what it is called, but it is very hardy, takes very little water and has a large white bloom that appears August of each year (although my plant has never bloomed). If a leaf breaks, it can be inserted in damp soil and it will catch on and grow quickly; new stems/leaves appears to shoot out from an existing leaf? Hope you can help us identify this plant.


AnswerThe plant is called a night blooming cereus. It is a cactus plant and can grow quite large. Once it gets old enough, flower buds are set in July/August time frame and open with gigantic blooms which are quite fragrant. The flowers open after the sun sets and close when the sun rises. I often think it is one of the ugly duckling plants, since it is not the most attractive plant, but when it blooms, it more than makes up for its appearance. It is not winter hardy but does well outside all summer.

December 2011

QuestionI purchased and grew a macho fern on my deck this past summer in Rogers. We enjoyed the large fronds and the yellowish green color and would like to keep the fern for next year. It obviously will not survive the winter outside. Presently, I have it in the garage and I'm watering it sparingly, but I think it will get too cold for it in the unheated garage as winter progresses. I have an enclosed crawl space where I over winter a few other favorite outside plants (rosemary, asparagus fern, spider plant, etc) by keeping them under a bank of fluorescent lights and watering occasionally. However, the macho fern is too large to treat the same way. Should I trim the fern back to a smaller size and place it under the lights in the crawl space, leave it as is in the garage with limited sunlight, or do you have other (better?) recommendations?


AnswerAs long as it doesn’t freeze, it should be fine in the garage or crawl space. It is not going to thrive or continue to grow, but it should survive. I like to cut it back when moving it back outside in the spring, to freshen it up and get rid of the old dead growth. The plants go semi-dormant during their winter rest, so water and light aren’t a huge factor as long as the temperature stays above freezing. The root system should survive and flourish once it gets more light and warmer temperatures next spring.

November 2010

QuestionI have an agave cactus. It grows straight up and the leaves have a dull red tip with a sharp point. I would like to know if I can put it under my house in the crawl space for the winter? It is in a large pot and I plan to re-pot in the spring. I also have a couple of cactus in the ground and have tried to cover them with leaves in the cold weather. Last winter I tried to cover the cactus with a pail or something when the temperature was below 35 degrees and uncover when the temp was up in the 40---50's and they did fine.


AnswerI think your agave should do fine in the crawl space of your house. They are a succulent so don't like a lot of water. Keeping them dry and preventing them from freezing should get them through the winter just fine. Do you know what type of cactus you have in the ground? If they are the common prickly pear, they don't need extra protection, they overwinter just fine--in fact can become invasive. For the others, adding extra mulch after a killing frost can help, but you need to be careful about how much moisture is around the plants for the winter. If they are too wet and then covered in mulch they could rot. If they survived last winter, which was our coldest in 15 years, I think you are doing the right thing.

November 2010

QuestionYou often write about placing a plant in the basement/garage during the winter but you never say anything about 'care and feeding'. Do I assume that I place and forget until spring?


AnswerIf you are storing a plant in the garage or crawl space, those areas are not heated, but should prevent the tender plants from freezing. The plants are not going to be growing or thriving, they are simply going to survive. They should need no care during this time period. If you have a basement and it is heated, then you may need to provide a little light and water, but no fertilization and not much water. Some folks rig up a shop light to provide a little extra light to keep them alive. Many of these “surviving” plants should be pruned back hard in the spring when you move them back outside and begin to water and fertilize.

October 2010

QuestionWe buy geraniums every year and put them in pots. This year, we have a particularly beautiful color we would like to save through the winter. I know there are different types of geraniums; one that can be kept year after year and one that is normally only good for one season. How do you know which variety you have? Also, can you buy true geraniums in northwest Arkansas? Do you recommend trying to store geraniums during the winter and if you do, what method would you use?


AnswerYou have several options. One is to move the plants indoors and treat them as houseplants, but they don't like that very much--low humidity and light levels tend to make them leggy. You can store them in your garage in their pots and ignore for the winter. An old fashioned way is to take them out of the pots and hang them dry in the basement or attic. They may or may not survive that way. In any instance, pot them or move them back outside in early spring, cut them back and fertilize. They are woodier than most annuals and can go dormant and survive as long as they don't freeze. In the scheme of things, buying new plants each year is probably going to be easier.

October 2010

QuestionI have a fern that is 1 1/2 years old and is down to about 3 or 4 fern leaves left. I want to do whatever I can to continue and rebuild its growth. I have cut off all the old dead leaves, repotted it, and need to know what to do now. It was given to me from a funeral so it is very important.


AnswerI am assuming it is a houseplant and not a hardy fern, since you got it from a funeral. I don't know if you move the fern outside in the summer, but if you don't I would highly recommend that for next year. If it is outside now, bring it back inside soon. Ferns often shed old leaves constantly inside because of the lack of humidity, which they love. For now, put the fern in the coolest room in your house with bright light. Let it get on the dry side before you water. Keep it alive until spring, then move it outside in the shade, and I bet it rebounds beautifully. Fertilize two or three times when it is outside and it should get full. You may also want to repot it when you move it outdoors next spring to make sure it is not pot-bound.

November 2010

QuestionI have a large Sago Plant that I keep outside. It is doing well, but is now inside. I want to make sure I do the right thing during the time the plant has to be in the house. Should I water less, how often? Please give me some advice


AnswerAll plants need less water when they are inside, so that is a given. I would water no more than once every two to three weeks. Sago palms should dry out between watering. I would not expect it to grow in leaps and bounds indoors either, so no fertilization indoors. If you have a bright sunny room that is on the cool side, that is where I would put the sago palm. I would also put it as far away from human traffic as possible, since it is not pleasant to rub against. Indoor conditions can be tough on houseplants and tropical’s, since indoor heat lacks humidity and low light is also tough. Cooler conditions tend to make the lack of humidity less of a factor. The key is to protect it from freezing.

November 2010

QuestionI keep reading that plants should be put under the house or in a garage. Would they be OK in a 6x8 polycarbonate hot house/green house? Are they to be kept out of light (under house)? We would appreciate any advice.


AnswerIf you have heat in the 6 x 8 greenhouse, then that would be fine. If it is just a structure, then it won't keep houseplants protected from freezing temperatures. With that small of a structure it is hard to regulate the temperature. It heats up during the day but freezes at night unless you have heaters. Venting on bright sunny days is also needed. Typically the crawl space under your house has enough protection from the house that it protects plants from freezing--the goal in overwintering them. A garage serves the same purpose as long as you put the plants as close to the house as possible and keep the garage door shut except when pulling in and out. The plants will not be gorgeous when you bring them out in the spring, like they would from a greenhouse with bright light, but the root system should be in-tact and they can be pruned back and resume growth in the spring.

October 2010

QuestionI purchased a Tecoma stans var. angustifolia plant early in the summer of this year and it is currently still in the original pot. It is about 4 feet tall and a serious and beautiful bloomer. I am not sure how to take care of it this winter so I can continue with it in the spring. Should I ground plant it or leave it in its pot.      


AnswerTecoma stans var. angustifolia is a more compact version of the Esperanza or Tecoma stans. This plant is an outstanding bloomer in full sun all summer long and it is still going strong. While Tecoma stans is considered hardy to zone 8, the angustifolia form is listed as hardy in zone 7 (which is what central Arkansas is). I would still question its winter hardiness in a container, but if you want to plant it outdoors next spring and get it established, it should overwinter. For this winter, you will probably want to move the pot into the garage or crawl space for winter hardiness.      

October 2010

QuestionI live in Fairfield Bay and have a knockout rose bush that the deer just love. I want to move it to a pot and put it on the deck. However, I don't know how big a pot it will take in order for it not to freeze during the winter. Would you give me some idea about the hardiness of a potted rose and the size pot I should use?


AnswerI would say a minimum of a five gallon container and larger if you can handle it. The larger the pot, the easier it is for you to keep it watered in the summer and the more protection for the roots and the more cold tolerant the plant will be in the winter. Don't forget to water even in the winter, especially prior to a hard freeze. Container plants dry out more quickly than those in the ground.

October 2010

QuestionCould you tell me what these flowers are and will they survive in NLR area over winter. If so where is best area to plant, presently in pots with full sun.


AnswerThe purple flowered plant is Duranta erecta, commonly called golden dew drop or sapphire flower. It is a tender perennial. It comes in purple or white flowered forms and there is also a variegated yellow and green form, which is not as hardy. I have had the common green form overwinter outdoors in the ground, but not in a pot. In the ground, it will die back to the ground. If you want you can move the pot into a protected spot this winter in a garage or crawl space and bring it back out. The yellow flower is Esperanza (Tecoma stans) and it is a tough summer blooming tropical. It is winter hardy in far south Arkansas, but would not fare well in central or north Arkansas. Move it to the garage for the winter.

June 2010

QuestionWe have five hibiscus plants in pots on our patio. My husband calls them my babies. Ha! One is a double bloom tree and the other four are regular ones. All different colors. We take them in the garage in winter and prune and put out in spring. This is the third summer we have had two of them and second for the other three. They are growing good and the leaves look great but are hardly blooming. The double bloom tree will have one or two blooms every now and then and one of the others the same. Three are not blooming at all, no buds, but they all look healthy. We have been told several different things to put on them but wanted to ask you. Do they need Phosphorus? We put Potassium { 0-0-60 } and start 'n' grow time release {18-6-12 } on them in the spring. Not being gardeners we need help. We live in Cabot and these plants are in full sun.


AnswerThis is a common complaint from folks who keep their hibiscus from year to year. Keep in mind that these plants bloom on the new growth. If the plants are large and possibly root bound, they won't grow a whole lot. They can be full of foliage and look healthy, but unless they are growing well, they aren't going to flower well. If you keep your plants from year to year, I suggest repotting every spring when you move them outdoors and cutting them back by at least one third if not by half. Then fertilize regularly--every week or two with a water soluble fertilizer and periodically with a slow release granular fertilizer. I would go with a complete fertilizer which has ample N-P-K (13-13-13 or 20-20-20) would be fine. Water as needed and they should bloom well. Or you can do what I do and buy new plants that are vigorous every year and get plenty of flowers!

January 2010

QuestionCould, you please let me know the easiest way to winter blackberry plants that are in pots. They were dug up in early November. I just need to know the best way to keep them over the winter.


AnswerBlackberry plants are very winter hardy, but in containers they would need a little protection. All containerized plants will be less winter hardy than if they were in the ground. The root system is limited in the containers, plus the container is elevated so the soil temperature will get colder. You have several options: either group the plants and pots together and put some mulch around the base, or heel the pots into soil and mulch the tops. This will give you extra protection, should it get cold. If you know where you want them to grow, you could also plant them now.

January 2010

QuestionWe see Sago Palms in yards where we live in Conway; will they over winter here? I have 2 in pots that I would love to plant in my flower beds. I see them in yards on the East side of homes and the South side. Also what about Banana Trees? I see bunches of them in yards and noticed yesterday that one yard had cut the trees to about two feet off the ground and had mulched them. They had a whole row of the trees. We always bring ours into the garage to over winter.


AnswerThere are a lot of plants that we are now overwintering outdoors that were not possible ten years ago. This year may be a test for us--or at least it is looking like it up front! Sago palms can overwinter, but may not be in-tact when it is over. If they get frozen back they should re-sprout from the root system. They are considered hardy to around 15 degrees F, but leaves can get nipped if the temperatures are in the low 20's of if there is ice. If damage occurs, wait until late February to early March and cut off the damaged foliage. As long as the crown is firm and undamaged, it should re-sprout with spring growth. Bananas are similar. There are new varieties which are quite cold hardy--even in NW Arkansas, but even the older varieties have been overwintering with extra mulch. If you want large plants with the potential to bear fruit, then moving them in the garage each year is still the best bet. If you want a combination, leave half outside and move half in. Be sure to cut back the foliage after a killing frost and add several extra inches of mulch to protect the common varieties for the winter.

December 2009

QuestionLast May I bought a mini-rose bush, and set it in a pot outdoors. The reason I didn't put it in the ground is because the ground is so rocky here in Bella Vista that I didn't feel I had the strength to dig the hole. The bush bloomed beautifully, and I have had much pleasure from it. I think it might freeze and die if I leave it in the pot outdoors all winter. Can I successfully bring it indoors now?


AnswerThe miniature rose should do fine outside all winter as long as you give it a little extra protection. Going indoors into a heated house will be quite a shock now, since it has gotten used to the cold. You could also store it in a garage or storage building. The roots are what you need to protect, since the soil will get colder in the elevated container. If it is a large pot you are probably fine. For added protection if it gets really cold, wrap the pot with burlap or a sheet or place in behind some of your shrubs, next to the house. It would be much happier outside than inside, especially since it has been outside up through a frost. If you leave it outside all winter and it gets dry, don’t forget to water, especially prior to a heavy freeze.

September 2007

QuestionI bought a Mandevilla last spring for the first time. In the past you have told us in the newspaper how to winterize it, but since I didn't have one, I didn't read your words of wisdom very carefully. I planted it in the ground and it has spread its vines on my lattice in the flower bed. What do I need to do to try to preserve it? Should I cut it back after a frost or do it sooner? After cutting it back, should I cover it with mulch and keep my fingers crossed, or should I did it up and put it under the house for the winter? When should I do all this?


AnswerRegardless of how much mulch you use, mandevilla will not over-winter outdoors. If you want to preserve the plant, cut it as little as possible to detach it from the trellis and pot it up. Store the plant under your house for the winter, or indoors. When you move it back outside it is not going to look perky. Spring is the time to cut it back. That is also when you can replant it in the ground if you choose, or grow it in a container. Start fertilizing and watering when you move it back outside and it should recover. If you choose to protect it for the winter, you need to lift and store before a killing frost. If you plan to pot it up and bring it inside your house for the winter, you need to do this by early October. If you are storing it under the house, as long as you beat a freeze you should be ok.

September 2007

QuestionI saw an article in the newspaper several months ago about exotic plants. One in particular interested me, The Devil's Tongue, aka Amorphophallus konjac. I ordered two of these plants and here by the end of the summer is where they are now, see attached pictures. I have had pretty good success with them and I understand they will go dormant at some point. They take three years to achieve fruition. Do you have any advice for when the first cold snap comes and care during the winter months for these plants?      


AnswerAmorphophallus konjac, also called Voodoo Lily, should be winter hardy at least in central and southern Arkansas. It is reported hardy to zone 6, but I don't know anyone who has over-wintered one outdoors in the northern tier. The fact that you have yours in containers concerns me a bit as to hardiness. You basically have a few choices: plant it in the ground and mulch heavily after a killing frost (if you live in central or southern Arkansas), sink the pot in the ground to help protect the root system and mulch heavily for the winter (again determined by where you live), or allow the potted plant to go dormant, then store under the house or garage for the winter. The key is to protect the bulb from freezing. The family of Amorphophallus is an unusual family with interesting flowers that have quite an offensive odor. They smell like rotting meat to attract the pollinators they need. They also can grow quite large, depending on variety. You will either need to increase the pot size each year or plant it in the ground to achieve the large size that this one can grow to.      

October 2007

QuestionI read your column on a regular basis and find many of your tips very helpful. In some of your answers about over-wintering plants, you mention "put them under the house". What do you mean by this? Would under the deck (and off the ground) accomplish the same thing? I have three lush and beautiful Mandevillas that I do not have room for in my garage.


AnswerI guess I should have explained this better. When I say storing under the house, I mean in a crawl space area or unheated basement. If you put them under your deck you would not protect them from freezing temperatures and I am afraid you would lose the mandevillas. Crawl spaces typically have enough residual heat from the house above to protect the plants enough. They don't get light or care during the winter so they aren't lush beautiful plants when they come out but they are alive. Prune the plants hard when you bring them back out and repot and they should be good to go for another season.     

October 2005

QuestionI have several plants that I would like to keep over the winter. Mosquito plant, Mexican heather and begonias. Are any of these winter hardy in central Arkansas? If so, what can I do to get them through? If not, how can I over winter them inside? Also, do I need to cover my gardenia bush for the winter and if so what is the best material to use for cover?


AnswerExcept for the gardenia, none of the plants you mentioned are reliably winter hardy in central Arkansas. Mexican heather and some begonias have managed to survive a few of our winters, but you shouldn’t count on it. To guarantee these plants back in your garden next season, you will need to either move them indoors or take cuttings for new starts. I would advocate the latter, if these plants are in the ground. The mosquito plant—a scented geranium is not going to make it, even with extra mulch, so move it indoors or store it in your garage. For the Mexican heather and begonias, after taking some cuttings, add extra mulch when the weather turns cool and see what you have next spring. Gardenias only need protection if the weather gets below 15 – 20 degrees. If needed, cover with something porous—a sheet, blanket, or cardboard box.


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