7 Secrets to Overwintering Tropical Plants

Tropical flowers dazzle in the heat of summer but are some of the first to fizzle when temps fall. Tropical plant expert Michael Walek shares his tips for helping these colorful beauties thrive in northern climates.

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1. Store Smart

Cut potted tropicals back one-third and overwinter them in a cool, low-light place like a basement. Tropical plant expert Michael Walek stores tubers like dahlias in a cool, dark place in untied plastic garbage bags, or sometimes places them directly into potted containers to save time in the spring. (See our complete guide to dahlias.)

An exception: Walek finds that bananas do best in regular household lighting and temperatures, so consider using those as houseplants.

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2. Light Right

Walek swears by standard grow lights from the hardware store. 

3. Watch the Forecast

Move your plants to safety indoors before the first frost. Most tropical plants don't like nighttime temps below 40-50 degrees. But, if you slip up, Walek says he doesn't worry about temperature, just as long as there's no frost.

Bulbs like cannas are a different story -- you should wait until frost kills the leaves, then dig them up and store them.

Find your average first frost date.

4. Bug Off

Prevent pests from coming indoors by rinsing off both sides of foliage with a gentle spray from your garden hose. For bigger infestations, use organic insect-killing soap. But, Walek says, even if your plant attracts bugs indoors, it will usually start to flourish once placed back outside.

5. Water Wisely

Walek finds watering about once a week works best. He also likes to place assorted clippings in a bucket of water to try to get roots to sprout.

6. Dig It

Dig up planted-in-ground tropicals and place them in basic plastic pots for overwintering. 

7. Take It Easy

As eager as you are to get those beautiful plants back outside in the spring, don't overdo it. Ease tropicals back outside by placing them under a tree, bush, or a shady side of the house so they can adjust to brighter light. 

Learn more about growing gorgeous tropical plants.

Browse eight patio-perfect tropicals.

Yes, you can grow hibiscus where you live!

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