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Outdoor Gardening With Houseplants

The photo of this garden wasn't taken in Florida it was taken on the west side of Chicago and you're eyes are not deceiving you those are Bromeliads and Crotons planted in the ground. From time to time I have the opportunity to pass by this home and I aways have to chuckle at the plant selection I find planted in the raised bed.

As a Midwestern gardener I have to admit to having a severe case of zone denial and my day dreams of having a tropical garden aren't isolated to the cold and snowy winter months. I don't think the gardener in this case is suffering from zone denial, I think he or she may just be frugal or not above dumpster diving behind the nearby big box garden center.

I'm basing my guess on the fact that whenever I find myself near this house the garden tableau changes not with the season but with the plant material at the greenhouse nearby. Last year there was a mass of miniature florist roses that bloomed wonderfully and the year before that it was African Violets and a few ficus trees. This year the gardener lucked out and came across 15 Bromeliads and five Croton plants that look at home next to the ferns and daylilies. When the owner of this garden first planted them I didn't think any of the plants would survive because they looked dried to a crisp and the Crotons had barely a single leaf on them. After a couple of years of keeping my eye on this raised bed I should have developed more faith in the gardener because the brownest of houseplants that get planted there seem to rise from the dead. Although it only took me one year to learn not to pass by this house after our first frost because seeing all of the houseplants succumb to the cold every year doesn't get any easier.

In my own garden I planted I my Amaryllis bulbs in the ground this spring mixed in with my Daylilies to give them a chance to bulk up. The green leaves right now are acting as a filler now that the Daylily foliage is starting to die back. I submerged my potted corn plant in the center of a large planter and my wandering jew was added and allowed to drape over the edge. The areas between and around the pot were filled in with dirt and planted with flowering annuals that provided color. Now that the weather is cooling down I can just lift the pots and bring the plants in to the areas where they will spend the winter. One of my neighbors seems to be in even greater zone denial because she keeps planting specimen cacti in her garden that don't survive the winter. I'm all for experimenting and seeing how far I can push my zone but I'm also a realistic and know I will have to lift and store tender bulbs like my Eucomis and Calla Lilies.


  1. Zone denial! That's funny.

    I have a bunch of tropicals that live outdoors in the summer. Winter always feels a bit claustrophobic at first as they all move back indoors.

    Almost that time...

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  2. What an interesting post, Mr Brown Thumb.

    If this gardener planted petunias and geraniums they'd freeze and die, too ... but one would need a certain kind of pragmatic mindset to think of Crotons, Bromeliads and Cactus plants as annuals, I guess, rather than categorizing them as houseplants. It is practical to think this way if there's nowhere inside to winter the plants, and they were plant rescues to begin with.
    Like the Grasshopper in the fable, the crotons will have one jolly season before winter!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  3. I have a neighbor that plants coleus every summer under a large tree. I don't believe they overwinter here though.

  4. Robin,

    I know what you mean about feeling claustrophobic in the winter when you bring them in. I bought a Bird of Paradise this spring for 5 bucks at HD and now that winters coming I realize I should have opted for the Mother-in-Law's tongue or the ferns that were just as big and cheap.


    You bring up an interesting point. I have to problem with "annuals" croaking in the winter but there is a tender spot in my heart for houseplants. Maybe it's all part of our conditioning that allows us to eat animals like cows and chickens but feel bad when we hear about cases of animal abuse.


    The Coleus won't survive but sometimes the seeds do.

  5. thats a great comment about animal abuse. it made me chuckle.

    Also, lovely picture, although "mr BROW thumb" is quite funny. Can you draw a unibrow on your thumb and post a picture?

  6. I'm SO with you on zonal denial, but I've never gardened quite like this. I do put all the houseplants out for a happy summer bash, and am starting to bring them in; AND because I fell HARD for some striking New Zealand Flax this summer, I brought both of them in already, and will nurture them with care all winter. Now, if I can just keep the cat-children from chewing off the ends of the leaves..

  7. FunTime,

    You know I was wondering how many people would catch that and comment. A friend of mine was asking me about your comment and what you meant by it. I didn't tell him where the typo was because I'm waiting to see if he catches it on his own.

    My 'puter is getting old and the n,e, keys are sometimes stuck and won't work.


    Welcome to the support group. Maybe we should start a forum for people like us. Good luck with your plant the winter.



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