Spiders in the basement …


… and frogs in the kitchen.

The agaves, elephant ears, and assorted tropicals were brought inside over the weekend just prior to the first frost, and already there is trouble. For the record (and previous years tell me that it’s important to establish the facts before I’m blamed for every calamity), there were already spiders in the basement. They’ve been there for months, all sorts, so they didn’t come in with the pots. Well, maybe a few, but I gave the plants the once over before they came inside this year.

Elephant ears
Potted elephant ears ready to come indoors.

Most often the tropicals are brought indoors on a dark evening, with the wind howling and temperatures dropping quickly, but this year I checked the forecast to see that cold weather was coming in a few days. So, I had the luxury of moving the pots on Saturday, in the light of day, and with this a few spiders the size of tarantulas were plucked off before the plants were brought inside.

Problems began only a few hours after the pots were safely indoors. There is no plan for which plant goes where, but the dangerous agaves and the most wide spreading of the elephant ears must go out of the way to the basement. A few variegated gingers stay upstairs, a small lemon tree, and a philodendron of some sort, and I decided that one compact growing elephant ear with relatively small leaves could stay in the dining room.

I was fiddling with something when my wife walked in with a rag and a sneering look. She mopped the wood floor beneath the elephant ear and set the rag on the back of a chair, presumably so that I could clean up later as tiny droplets that form at the tips of the leaves drop to the floor. Oh yes, we’ve had this before, with small black spots on the wood floor as evidence. So, I might be forgetful, but I’m not stupid. Within minutes the elephant ear was moved to the basement, where the carpet is indestructible.

Elephant ears are dug and potted to bring indoors.
Elephant ears are dug and potted to bring indoors.

I could hope that this is the end of it, but I’m not naive enough to think that’s possible. A day later my wife was working on the computer when I walked in. I stooped to pick up some debris that no doubt had fallen out while I was transporting the pots. (It’s a good day when I haven’t scratched floors and furniture, tipped a few pots over, dumped bucket fulls of potting soil onto the wood floors, and tracked mud across the basement carpet.) The litter hopped away, and of course what came next was predictable. Here we go again, she proclaims, with the assumption that this little frog came in with the pots.

Certainly, this is possible, but this summer we had a four foot black snake in the kitchen, and there were no pots inside at all. How is that explained, I wonder? But, there’s no winning this one, so the best that can be done is to capture the poor frog and return him outdoors, and hope that the ants stay put for at least a few weeks.

Black snake slithers across the kitchen floor.
Black snake slithers across the kitchen floor.

There is no doubt that there are ants in the soil in the pots, since there have been ants every other year, or so my wife claims. I suspect that it’s true, and this is why it’s recommended to submerge or flush the pots with water before they’re brought in. I figure that the people who recommend such things have only a few pots, and certainly small ones if they’re considering submerging the plants in a tub so that ants and spiders (and frogs?) float away.

The containers that I move back and forth between seasons are not so small. The agaves are nearly four feet across, and bone dry it’s all I can manage to pick them up to move them into the basement. And, that’s not even considering the spines. How could I possibly move them if the soil is saturated? So, for better or worse, the pots come in dry, and we’ll see what happens in the weeks and months to come until the tropicals go back outdoors in May. I suspect there will be more stories to tell.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jacque Towner says:

    Hi Dave,

    I’ve just moved my plants indoors in anticipation of a frost soon in Rappahannock County. I’m a regular reader, and really enjoy following you through the seasons in VA. My thoughts about soaking the plants beforehand — someone has too much time on their hands!! I had to use the bucket on my tractor to bring a load to the garage, and was barely able to carry the rest inside and situate them somewhere before running out of steam. Lifting some of the ferns high enough to get on their hooks is getting harder and harder–they are bigger and I’m older — this is not something I look forward to! Glad to have it behind me, fire is lit and a glass of wine in hand.


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