Bringing in the Tropicals

It makes me sad to take my lush, oh so happy palm trees and ferns of all kinds in for the winter.  It is always a sort of quandary: they’re not really that expensive, and this is a lot of trouble, but I hate to see a plant die when it doesn’t have to.  So, I spent most of the day today unpotting and repotting tropicals, combing their fronds with my fingers and Joyce Chen’s to remove dead leaves that dropped in during the past weeks, and driving them to the store, their leaves flopping out of the back of my trunk, to spend the winter in their back room at the store.

Because it is a back-breaking job, I started with the smallest first:  the Kimberly Queen ferns.  These are wonderful plants; I get more every year.  If you haven’t found them, they’re like a Boston fern but their branches are more upright.  They are gorgeous; I pop them into two urns in the spring and they get very large by the end of the summer.  They would live until Thanksgiving if I left them outside.

When I remove them from the urns, they are rootbound enough that they come out intact and the soil and roots are in the exact shape of the urns.

It is easy to work on them in this condition; there is no dirt mess to deal with.   Dead leaves get stuck down in among the fronds, and around the base.  You can separate the fronds methodically and get rid of the debris.  Cleaning out the debris  will keep them healthier, with less chance of them acquiring a bacterial infection during the winter.

To repot them for the winter move, I removed the bottom 4 inches or so and try to loosen the roots before I put them in their lightweight plastic pot with a few inches of fresh potting soil added.  I inspect them for pests; ants, spiders, sowbugs, whatever.  There were very few.    I think that fewer pests find their way into urns since they have the tall stem so far from the ground.  Thats my theory anyway.

I soil scooped some fresh potting soil in the bottom of the new pot and around the edges.  The end is in sight, only 7 or 8 more to do, and most of them are larger.   Don’t worry, won’t bore you with each plant.   Because it is repetitious and not very mentally stimulating, I listen to the sounds of nature while I work.  There is a lunatic mocking-bird that sounds like 6 different songbirds; very inventive.

I also soak a few chunks of Pinon wood in charcoal starter fluid and pop them into an empty glazed terra-cotta pot on a stone, near enough to enjoy the aroma without being smoked out.  The neighbors tell me they enjoy the lovely aroma too.

Then, being finished with the repotting of the first fern, I watered around the area where the roots meet the new potting soil; the outer ends of roots absorb the water.  One fern down, watered in and awaiting transport to winter lodgings.

Several hours later a variety of ferns including several of these gargantuan Mondo ferns with their 4′ long fronds(saved the worst for last), a Jasmine, and several succulents have been repotted, watered, and transported or are ready to transport.

I feel that I did the right thing to attempt to save these beautiful plants; I feel fulfilled after a physically demanding day of lifting heavy plants.  Now, if I can remember to water them every couple of weeks and keep them healthy until late March, I will have it made.   Woo Hoo!


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