Overwintering potted plants indoors

Tiffany Daneff / 12 February 2015

February can be a cruel month for tender plants overwintering indoors, writes gardening editor Tiffany Daneff.



In my book February is the cruellest month. You’ve soldiered through December with its Christmassy distractions, girded your loins and joined battle with damp virus sodden January.

And then, just when you really can’t bear any more along comes February with its promise of snowdrops and possibly, for those bathed in the warm currents of the Gulf Stream, the sight of a daffodil.

With the lengthening days come the first buds, stinging the dead branches into life. But that’s all you get. It’s still bitterly cold and far too early to even consider waking up all the dormant plants which I’ve brought indoors over winter.

I do hate overwintering plants in the house but I have no choice. The barn’s too cold and dark and I don’t have a glasshouse. So indoors they’ve been.

Every year I go through the same process. After summer outdoors everything looks plump and healthy and full of vim. There’s not much I bring in now, mostly succulents, a calamondin orange and a few tender geraniums. I also tried overwintering the begonia though I’m not holding my breath.

Read our guide to growing succulents.

I know what I’m meant to do:

  • 1. Reduce watering and allow compost to dry between watering
  • 2. Make sure excess water drains away
  • 3. Water using room temperature rainwater
  • 4. Keep them on a sunny windowsill in an unheated room

All this I do though I’ve had to compromise a bit as some of the window sills are east facing.

What happens? It all starts off wonderfully and I feel huge pleasure and satisfaction at seeing the plants being happy and healthy. But as the months wear on and, in particular, as we hit the dreaded February leaves start losing their sheen, some wither and drop and so does my mood.

This year, I’m glad to say, things are going relatively well. Some jade plants are looking just splendid though others have lost all their leaves. The reason? Lack of light. So that’s one lesson learned.

The citrus still has glossy leaves which I think is because I am using rainwater. Last year I made the mistake of using tap water.

As for the echeveria those that are in good light are looking just great whereas those in the bigger pot that stayed in the slightly darker and colder porch are distinctly unhappy.

But then we are only in the first week of February. I can hardly bear to think what the next three weeks may bring.

Read our guide to caring for outdoor pot plants over winter.

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