Thursday, February 25, 2010

My basement “greenhouse”

I don’t have a real greenhouse so I bring my tender agaves, aloes, succulents and such inside for the cold wet winter. They live in the basement under grow lights. It stays fairly cool and I rarely water, they aren’t thriving but they are getting by until they can return to the warm sun in the late spring. The larger pots and the hardier plants stay outside under the shade pavilion; the indoor treatment is only for the small pots, truly tender plants, and a pot or two that may not be frost proof.
I usually check them weekly for signs of problems (bugs, dead leaves, etc) but this winter they went for a couple of months with very little care. Getting downstairs with a broken ankle was a rare occurrence, so I was a little concerned about what I would find when I finally tackled the job looking over each individual plant. As you can see, this is no quick affair; it took the better part of an afternoon.

The Aeonium Schwarzkopf is holding up nicely. It’s lost a lot of leaves (I almost called them petals because it’s so tempting to think of these as flowers) but still looks healthy.
This is the first winter that I’ve left an Umbrella Palm outside (planted in a stock tank planter), hopefully it will return. Just in case I brought this one inside, it’s my insurance plant. Some of the older shoots are turning yellow and I should cut them off but it’s still sending up new green ones too.
Luckily there was only one sign of an infestation. On the Sedum around this purple Echeveria…I sprayed it with Neem Oil but I think it was too late and the Sedum needs to go. The Echeveria is fine (except for a little unfortunate overspray that dotted the leaves).
What I did find was a lot of babies! These plants have been busy producing pups! Aloe pups…
Agave pups…
The pups around my Agave desmettiana were out of control! So I decided to separate them. These guys grow so close to the mother plant that you have to work really hard to get roots along with the pup.The smaller the pup, the easier it is to get roots. I would have thought the reverse would be true.Not a bad litter once they are all potted up!And the momma plant looks happier without all the pups crowding around her too…
This Agave chrysantha has been very prolific.
All of these pups came from that plant. There were only 3 small pups in each black planter when I first planted them. Obviously they’ve been busy too.
I really need to pull these and divide them before the start damaging each other, but that is a job for another day.
This Agave (unknown name from a gifted plant) gives real meaning to the word “spiky”, no wonder agave spikes were once used as sewing needles.
Before the cold weather hit I dug up these Datura seedlings (volunteers from a plant the year before). They still look good, hopefully I can successfully transition them back outside once the weather is reliably warm. There are a few “ifs” in our forecast for the coming week, talk of an Alaskan chill making an appearance. I hope it’s just talk.
So what’s your method of overwintering tender potted plants? Do you take over an unused bedroom or have you made the jump to an actual greenhouse?


  1. Oh Dear Loree, this is the first I've heard of a cold snap. I'd better keep attuned to the forecast. Your tenders are amazing and it looks like they're thriving in their winter home. I'm sure my Umbrella plant is a gonner. Luckily my friend Carol has them reseed all over so I'll get another one but next year I must be more diligent. Your Datura seedlings look full of promise. What a day it will be when they bloom. I'm wondering if you've got scars and blood spots on your hands from handling these not-so-friendly spikies.

  2. Wow, you do have lots of agave :). Beautiful pics. They all look healthy.

  3. We overwinter almost nothing. I'm very impressed with yours! That's a lot of work, even if you haven't checked them in two months.

    Your daturas should transplant OK. I'm always digging up volunteers in the spring and moving them around. Just be sure they stay in the shade for a while after the moves.

  4. So, just how often do you get punctured?

  5. Loree, you have a fantastic collection of pots!

  6. I had to laugh at myself: I was ooohing over the "gold" umbrella palm in the first pic then read that it was yellowing!

    Nice litters of aloe and agave desmettiana pups. You're a good agave mother.

    We have a sunny, south-facing breakfast room that holds most of our tender overwintered plants, but next winter I think I'm going to need reinforcements like your basement greenhouse. It looks pretty nice - like the kind of place you could set up a lawn chair and relax with a margarita in the middle of winter!

  7. Grace, sometimes I worry that I look like a crazy addict with all the poke marks on my arms. Gloves protect my hands but only when I remember to wear them!

    Evelyn, thank you!

    K&V, I think it was a post of yours (or a comment you made here) that convinced me to try and overwinter them. I'm starting some seeds too. Thanks for the shade advice!

    Les, luckily the punctures heal. I just look a little odd at first.

    Lauren, thank you! I've been collecting for many years.

    Jane, funny! I have been tempted to do just that! I aim to be a good agave mom, but a few of my outdoor babies died this year! So sad.

  8. No garage, no basement, so the little dears have to move right in with us.
    It looks like you could just hang out your shingle and go into the plant business. As Joseph Campbell always used to say, "follow your bliss"...the problem for most ordinary mortals is usually figuring out what their bliss is...not a problem for you, I should think.

  9. My overwintering system is to religiously protect everything for the first couple months of winter, hauling things in and out, wrapping and unwrapping. Then I run out of steam and forget toward the end of winter and everything I managed to save is then lost by a late frost.
    It could use some improvement.

  10. Oooo, your Agave mediopicta is awesome!! Color me jealous.

  11. ricki, true...but in what form? I am trying to figure this out! Part of it seems to be falling into place but the rest...well...I'm working on it! Thank you for the sentiments!

    Megan, I know this system. I start practicing it a little later than you but its the same idea. I decide it's spring and to hell with it all, of course mother nature doesn't always agree.

    Nature Assassin, oh god! Your name! I have to visit your blog! Thank you, I love my Agave mediopicta. I need to move it outdoors though, it's starting to head in the not so healthy direction. It's hardier than I am giving it credit for.

  12. Between your posts and my neighbor's fondness, the agave's are growing on me...pokes and all! Your basement greenhouse seems to be perfect.

  13. Well you know what happens during the winter!! People and plants gets busy propagating! LOL How wonderful to have a great area to be able to hold these beautiful succulents. I am glad they are doing well. I have about half of mine in the garage. Another 1/4 in the gazebo greenhouse and the other 1/4 on my front patio near my house. Most are ok, some are not which is sad but the way of living in Sacramento.


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