We have purchased many tropical plants this summer in Louisville, KY, for their beautiful flowers and vining for the deck. We have the plants in pots. There is nowhere to bring them inside during the winter, except our basement, which has no light at all. What can we do to keep the plants alive through the winter? Would a simple grow light bulb on a timer be adequate? We don’t want to invest much.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Sean: Over-wintering our tropical plants is doable if you have the space and the right light conditions. Since the light levels are so much lower during the winter months than they are during the summer months, it is important that they receive as much light as possible. A simple fluorescent shop light will be sufficient to give the tropicals what they need to get through the cold months. They will not bloom or put on any new growth, but the idea is just to keep them alive so they can go back outdoors next spring. There is no reason to purchase an expensive full spectrum grow light for what you are trying to accomplish. Growing indoors year-round would require a different approach and can get quite technical, but to keep it simple you can purchase an inexpensive fluorescent bulb. It can be placed as close as 8-12 inches away from the plants without them burning. This is not the case with other bulbs such as a halogen. The plants will go into shock when they come indoors because the growing conditions are not what they are used to, but as long as they are kept moderately moist they should survive. You will want to cut back on your watering as well as fertilization. In terms of hours of light, eight should be sufficient each day to keep your plants happy.