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HOLDING OVER TROPICAL PLANTS FOR THE WINTER

WATERLILIES:

FALL: If you plan to save your tropical lily, stop fertilizing in early fall (Sept.). Tuber formation is encouraged by cooler temperatures, shorter days, and lack of nutrients. After first frost, pull and bareroot the lily. Vigorously hose off all mud around the root mass to locate the tubers. Tubers are globular, and vary in size up to 2" in diameter. Trim off all roots, foliage, and debris, leaving only the smallest, immature leaves. Set tubers aside to dry off overnite.
Next, pack the tubers in clean, damp (not wet) sand, i.e. sand that has been draining for at least 24 hours, placing them in an airtight container. (Old yogurt or cottage cheese tubs work well.) Make sure the tubers are surrounded on all sides by at least 2" sand. Store the containers in a cool, dark area. ideally 50-60o. Do NOT store below 45o. Check on the tubers every month and discard any mushy, rotting ones. If there is mold but the tuber is still firm, wash it off and let it dry before returning it to new clean sand. NOTE: A light dusting with a garden fungicide will help retard mold and fungus.

OTHER METHODS: Some people simply bag their lilies (pot, dirt, and all) and stash them in a cool, dark basement area. Success has also been reported storing tubers in distilled water instead of sand. Other folks try all these methods and do not succeed ...

SPRING: Late March through early April, plant the tubers in a small pot or tray full of sand with the top of the tuber showing. Be sure to wash off any fungicide you may have used in the fall. Place the pot in warm (65-75o) water with 3" of water above the crown. Place them under a grow light or in a sunny window. The tubers should sprout in a few days. As they grow, repot the plants in larger containers and fertilize them. Then drop them into your pond late May/early June. Be careful- if the water temperature of your pond is lower than the water you used for sprouting, the lilies may go dormant and lose several weeks of growing time. Two gallon pots work well for normal-sized lilies. Mix heavy soil with sand for good root penetration and easier repotting. A 1-2" layer of pea gravel or sand on top prevents fish from upsetting the dirt, but be careful to let the top of the tuber show so new growth is not stunted.

CANNAS, TARO, SPIDER LILIES AND OTHER BULBS:

FALL: Store your Cannas, Taros and Spider Lilies like other summer garden bulbs. After first frost, pull and bare root them. Hose off all mud, and trim roots and foliage. Store bulbs in moist, not wet, peat moss, and store in a cool, dark place.
The ideal storage temperature is 50-60 degrees F. Do NOT store below 45 degrees F.

SPRING:
Begin growing them at room temperature in a warm, sunny window or under a grow light. Pot up in containers with bottom holes using a mix of heavy soil and sand. Water well and keep moist, or set the containers in a tray of water. DO NOT submerge the pots below the bulb until it has produced at least 3-4 standing leaves or it will rot. Bring them out in the spring after the last frost (early May). Introduce potted plants slowly back to their previous depth.


WINTER CAMP FOR TROPICALS


Most hardy plants prefer to be left out in the cold, just like their ‘terrestrial friends’.
Leave them outside at their appropriate depths, where they can experience winter dormancy. On the other hand, many tropical emergent plants can be brought in for the winter and treated like house plants. Umbrella Palms, Taro, Spider Lilies and more!! Those of us who love our watergardens find we MISS them in the winter. Set up trays and tubs where plants can survive...OR...set up an entire container garden - the works! Keep fish, plants and scavengers in a place you can spend time... and enjoy!


Trays: Most emergents do not need to be submerged. The goal is to keep them perpetually VERY moist or wet. You can keep pots in trays or tubs of water, as long as the plants can draw water from holes in the pots.

Indoor Ponds: Keeping an indoor water garden is a bit more tricky. If you want plants to look great all winter, provide a ‘greenhouse’ environment by using grow lights for them and a fan to keep them strong. If you use the indoor pond method, be sure to bring in some smaller fish- for amusement, yes, and also to move the water and prevent stagnation!

Set up a small pump and add the soothing sound of trickling water- a gurgling rock, or a frothy fountain!



BE SURE YOUR CONTAINERS ARE WATERPROOF !!



PLANT CARE - Trim plants aggressively before you bring them in for the winter. Most of these emergent plants will renew their foliage annually, so don’t hesitate to “whack-em hard” ! The goal is not to grow your plants and watch them
bloom, but more simply to just hold them over until spring. The plants are not as active in the winter, so do not fertilize until late winter/early spring when the days begin to lengthen, and do not divide or repot until that time.

PESTS - Wipe or hose plants off and check dense foliage for signs of pests before you bring in your plants! Aphids, spider mites and scale are commonproblems on indoor plants- treat accordingly with insecticidal soap, pond-friendly aphid spray, and/or light dormant oil. Remember the goal...

SUNLIGHT/LIGHT - Very few aquatic plants do well indoors without adding some form of auxiliary lighting. Provide the proper light for your indoor water plants. If you use incandescent grow lights, be sure the light source is within 3 feet of the plant, and fluorescent lighting must be within 1 foot. Installing a metal halide or sodium lamp will provide the best light for an indoor pond- In the correct position, the light will “fan out” to reach all of the plants in your pond.
Be sure to provide 10 - 16 hours of light for your plants.

HEAT - Although aquatic plants will survive at 50 F or above, the ideal water temperature for tropical plants is 70 F and up for your plants to thrive and look good in your indoor pond.

WIND - Outside in nature, plants produce a hormone that keeps them strong while fighting air currents and wind. Inside, plants can get “leggy” and weak. Provide a fan to keep them strong.


Bringing in plants for the winter provides a few “perks” for the household: It adds humidity, provides amusement (and sometimes - yes- food) for the cats, and occasionally some excitement to see a premature dragonfly hatching or perhaps a random bloom!


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