Annuals or tender perennials, such as geraniums or begonias, rarely survive a cold Canadian winter. Protecting these sensitive plants until spring has traditionally meant cutting them down in the fall to a few stems, watering them sporadically and storing the dormant plant in the cool garage until spring.
But in an era of biophilic design, incorporating all aspects of nature in both indoor and outdoor spaces is encouraged, bringing summer plants inside for the winter is an alternative that adds a natural element to the home while keeping the plant warm, protected, and growing.
Plants grown in containers throughout the summer are great choices to bring inside for winter. They don’t require transplanting, and will adapt quickly to their new environment. If these tender plants are brought inside before the first frost, sprayed with a gentle insecticide—I like Safer’s 3-in-1 Garden Spray— to stave off unwarranted pests such as aphids, placed in the right location and watered according to their needs, they will add natural texture and character to your home throughout the winter—and be ready to go back outside again in the spring.
Trim off yellowing leaves and cut off old blooms before bringing these summer favourites indoors. Geraniums love bright light and lots of warmth, and will do well if placed by a south or west facing window. But be careful—any kind of cold draft may trick them into deciding it’s winter and force dormancy. Water when the dirt feels dry, and they will provide occasional blooms all winter.
Acclimatizing begonias to their indoor living space is as simple as moving them in at night as the weather gets cooler and back out during the day, slowly increasing their time indoors.
Begonias love humidity, a moist top layer of soil, filtered light and temperatures between 18-23C. Growing at a slower pace indoors than out, they will bloom less frequently during the winter than the summer. When the danger of frost is past, in the spring, gradually acclimatize them to being outdoors again using the same method as when they were brought in.
Impatiens such as New Guinea, and the popular SunPatiens, are easy to winter over. Their dark leaves make them attractive houseplants. If already in a container they can be brought straight indoors; otherwise it’s possible, if you’re careful, to dig up a small plant and repot it into a container no less than 15 cm in diameter. Filtered light and keeping them moist may even produce a flower or two over the winter. Once temperatures climb to between 15-20 C during the day, take them back outside.
Coleus’ multi-coloured leaves ranging from light green to dark purple and pink makes them a cheery houseplant during the winter months.
Before bringing this plant indoors, pinch off any dead or wilted leaves and small flower heads. Coleus love warmth, indirect light and watering when the top layer of soil looks dry. They prefer cool nights, so pick a spot not too close to a heat source.
Over the summer, coleus tends to grow bigger than other annuals so if space is a problem, it’s possible to grow this plant from small cuttings or to transplant a small section making sure to get enough root.
Some varieties are hardy and may survive a mild winter outdoors—but most need protection. Fuchsia’s flower on new growth so removing dead leaves and clipping off old growth from the main stem, providing filtered sunlight, and a spot away from a heat source will help them thrive all winter, even encouraging a blossom or two.Water-loving fuchsias don’t like being dry, so water them frequently and spritz the leaves with tepid water from time to time.
Growing prolifically in hotter climates the Mandevilla Vine is a popular summer favourite showcased in containers on patios, balconies and hanging baskets. Bring this tropical stunner inside before the nighttime temperatures drop to 15C. It will grow more slowly indoors and may not produce many blooms, but if watered regularly and intermittently given an all-purpose water-soluble fertilizer—like MiracleGro or Schultz—it will survive. Its dark green glossy leaves make it an attractive houseplant that adds to a growing collection of tender summer plants able to be enjoyed year-round.