Moving the tropicals indoors

A week ago, with the threat of frost and possibly a freeze, pots of tropicals were hauled indoors for the season. Most agaves and elephant ears will tolerate a light frost, but if temperatures dropped below the thirty-three degrees that was forecast, some might be injured. This annual chore is not one of my favorites, and too many years the pain of lugging heavy pots is compounded by waiting until the last moment, when a freeze is forecast for the night and grimy pots must be hauled into the basement in the dark.Elephant ears

As impossible as it is to believe, perhaps I am getting wiser as I age, and for the second year the tropicals were moved on the weekend instead of the last possible moment. Since a mad rush was not necessary, it was decided that a few tropicals would be left outside to perish. The decision was not so difficult. These unwanted few were left in a bunch on the back patio through the summer instead of being distributed through the garden. Not that they looked so sad, but they were dutifully moved in and out each year without much enthusiasm, and this year I’ve been inspired to toss out the old to fill the pots with small Japanese maples.

Orange Dream Japanese maple

Orange Dream Japanese maple grew significantly this year from a three inch pot, but with a more substantial root system in the second year I expect more growth next spring. While Japanese maples in the ground tend to send new growth in the spring, with insignificant growth after, in a pot they continue to grow through the summer.

There is no space in the garden to plant Japanese maples in the ground, but in pots maples can be maintained for years, and there are appropriate spots scattered throughout the garden. I figure each patio will hold two or three, at least, which will allow me to purchase a few handfuls of odd varieties over the next few years to add to the maple collection. Several new purchases, and a few odd seedlings that were potted last year and early in the spring survived the summer drought without much of a struggle, so I’m encouraged to try more this year.

Some day, the potted maples will grow too large for their pots, and then the decision will be to move them into larger containers, or into the ground if some space has opened up. I look forward to the day when my wife complains that the patios are so overgrown with potted maples that there’s no room for her to squeeze by.

While tropicals are moved indoors for the winter, the potted maples will be left outdoors, but with pots jammed together for some protection when temperatures drop into single digits. There should be no reason to bother with them until temperatures warm up and they’re moved back onto the patios.

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