I truly admire the frugal gardeners who store pots and pots of annuals under lights in their garages or basements, but all it took was one big infestation of insects crawling out of the pots and all over my basement floor for me to abandon this particular frugality.
I made an exception this year for a tropical plant called a stromanthe ‘triostar,’ though. The pot was high off the ground all season, and this plant’s light requirements are low, so I thought it would survive inside and not have many bugs. The biggest drawback was size. I could barely heft this thing onto a plant stand! The stromanthe was already this big when I bought it, so it wasn’t cheap, either. All in all, it seemed worth a shot.
Instead of putting it under a light in the basement and forgetting all about it, I chose to site it in my office where it’s been surprisingly happy and I’ve remembered to water it because I’m looking at it every day.
NO bugs ever flew out of its waxy leaves or crawled out of the soil. In fact, this plant barely blinked when it was moved from outdoors to in, a move that most plants find highly traumatic. I think the north-facing window is a bit cool for this tropical, but I like the fact it hasn’t dropped leaves constantly. A low maintenance affair, really.
Over-wintering has proven worthwhile this time. I’ll move the stromanthe back out to the side yard in late May, where it can once more brighten a dim corner. And I’ll have saved a few dollars to spend on other plants. A win!
I also has some really nice silver tuberous begonias in a planter on the fence, but alas, I left it too late to repot them and the frost did them in. Next year I’ll try saving begonias, too.
I think light requirement is the key for me. Half the reason bugs can take hold on a plant is because that plant is stressed by lack of light. So if I choose only shade plants to overwinter, that should reduce stress. (I’ve also heard you can wash the leaves with a mild soap solution before bringing them indoors to reduce insects, but that isn’t foolproof and doesn’t work well with hairy-leafed plants like these begonias.)
So the answer to whether overwintering is worth it or not depends on what you choose to keep. Looks like shade plants are it for this zone 4b gardener.
How’s your winter been treating you?