Plants get warm welcome indoors when weather cools

Special to the Packet and GazetteJanuary 22, 2012 

A Kalanchoe plant in flame orange.


When I awaken at 5 a.m. and see it's 35 degrees outside, I know there's a good chance I'll be spending the day moving plants indoors.

The bonsai plans are the first to come in. They spend most of the year outdoors; that's their preferred spot. A frost is certain death to them.

Next are what are loosely called hardy houseplants; they are able to withstand cold winds and temperatures as low as the 40s. These include Swedish ivy, crown of thorns, sword fern, spider lily and certain members of the cacti and succulent family. Favorite succulents are those in the Kalanchoe family. Several K. blossfeldiana plants decorate my sun-filled windowsills for three months in the winter with flowers of orange, red, salmon and yellow. The flowers last for weeks. And the plants need little care and are relatively inexpensive when bought in small pots at our food stores in autumn. When flowering ends, the spent blossoms will be removed; the plants trimmed. In March, they will be set into an outdoor sun garden where they will set new buds and flower in the summer.

Other Kalanchoe plants indoors for the winter months are the flapjack K. thyrsiflora, the panda plant, K. tomentosa, and multitudes of mother-of-thousands, K. daigremontiana. Also know as the maternity plant, it's living up to its name, my 1-year-old mother has produced four pots full of babies. During the warm months outdoors, this happy "mother" grew to a height of four feet and with leaf margins heavy with prodigy.

Outdoor Plants

There are two winter annuals in containers at my front door, a deep pink Cyclamen, and a salmon-colored Diascia. The Cyclamen, C twinsput is a florist variety, not to be confused with the in-ground variety that seldom thrives through our warm summer but will flower for weeks in a protected spot outdoors in spring. When frost is predicted, I move both plants under the front door overhang for the night. I've learned after years of covering many cold hardy plants in containers, only to have the covers blow off, that they will survive without covers. These include all of the citrus trees and vegetables in containers on the back deck. The ready-to-pick Swiss chard, kale, mustard, endive and winter herbs seem to thrive with the cold. Those who grow in farm plots that are without the protection of trees continue to harvest a large variety of vegetables, sometimes with surprising results. There were tomatoes and peppers being picked in December. Rosemarie Wagner who grows vegetables and flowers at Heritage Farms in Sea Pines, recently picked what she calls a "Broccoflower" that resembles a cross between a cauliflower and broccoli plant and was seeded as broccoli.

The winter blooming camellia japonica plants began to flower in November, and will continue to bloom until the midseason varieties take over the show. It is impossible to predict if winter weather will affect their flowering. It appears the camellia flowers growing in yards with a live oak tree canopy will be more likely to have perfect flowers. It also appears that there is a camellia flower contest going on to produce the camellia flower with the most flowers within the flower. Jackie Houck of Hilton Head Plantation is ahead with a camellia that has nine separate flower stamens.

The Spring Island Trust Native Plant Project

Trillium, Atamasco Lilies and partridgeberry plants are available now for $6 a plant. Pickup is Feb. 3 and 4. The next native plant sale is April 14.

Details: 843-987-3234,

Get Ready ... Get Set ... Grow

The Beaufort Garden Club will present a daylong workshop at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 28. The event will be at First Presbyterian Church, 1201 North St., Beaufort.

Topics include: miniature flower arranging; making Hypertufa planters; camellias; container gardening; "Food Among the Flowers"; and modern floral design. Landscape architect Jay Weidner will talk on "Pruning Practically Everything" and Master Gardener Betsy Jokofsky will lecture on "The Importance of Native Plants."

Details:, 843-524-0339

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