From the Sperry Gardens: October 2014


I had a double power outage in my greenhouse last winter. The pilot light went out in one of my overhead heaters, and the electronic ignition of the other one shorted. It was 30 degrees when I went in the next morning. I lost almost all of my big crotons, one of them 12 feet tall and wide. I lost about half of my sansevieria collection (60 or more varieties). I was quite sad for a while, but I began to realize that many of the plants that I’d lost had gotten big and almost unmanageable.

On the bright side, almost all of the plants that were most critical to me (haworthias, aloes and other succulents) came through just fine. They’re all small plants that only require repotting every five or 10 years.

All of which is to say that I’ll have more room in the greenhouse this year than I’ve had for the past 20 years. I’m sure I’ll manage to fill it, so I’m still going to have to make some bold decisions on what stays and what goes. These same decisions will come your way as you move plants into the garden room or sun porch.

Here are the thoughts I process as I make my difficult choices….

  • Does the plant have sentimental value to me? Those go in first. (Sansevierias from our son’s wedding, haworthias I’ve had for 35 years, etc.)
  • Is the plant rare, or is it quite valuable? Those are just practical thoughts about how much you’ve invested in time searching and dollars spent for an odd tropical plant. Plants that are sold every spring (coleus, begonias, etc.) probably take up more room than they’re worth.
  • Do I have the right conditions anyway? If you have no warm spot near a bright window, there’s no reason to be dragging a fern, ficus, hibiscus, bougainvillea or Norfolk Island pine into the house. And the garage is neither warm nor bright, so that’s not a solution at all.
  • Can I take cuttings and start new, small plants that will take up less room? That might be the way to save those prized coleus or begonias if they’re really that special.


And that’s why I called for this topic for our gathering today. These are peperomia cuttings I took this past weekend. I love these plants, and I use them all around in our gardens. Other than squirrels, nothing much bothers them, and I’m really fond of the bright color and bold texture they bring to shady parts of our landscape.


These will be nice, full plants in 6-inch pots by the time they come out of our greenhouse early next April. I’ll use them to line beds, sinking their pot rims almost flush with the soil. Others will get tucked back into berms and groundcover plantings for little spotlights of interest.


As you begin to make the transition from patio plants to indoor plants, keep those thoughts in mind. The move will start earlier than you think, because many of our tropical beauties can’t handle temperatures very far down into the 40s, and those will be here before you know it.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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