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Indoor Plants Coming Out of Dormancy

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Indoor Plants Coming Out of Dormancy

Spring is getting closer and this winter has been dragging on. Many people have brought plants in for the winter, to spend a dormant period, where they will not freeze but will do little if any active growing. To fill this gardening void, many people often keep house plants so that winter does not feel so bleak. What may not be realized is that many tropical plants can go through a type of dormancy or semi-dormancy as well. At this time of year you may wonder if the house plants are going to make it. When they start looking bad you feel that you have done something wrong. Well, fear not, for in most cases the plants are just resting—going through their natural cycles. There are many examples of this here at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening. The Plumeria alba, sometimes known as West Indian jasmine, for instance, has just four leaves left and it is nearly 5 feet tall. The fact is that it is deciduous. That means that every winter it loses all of its leaves. Then it rests for a while and after a couple of months, when the days start getting longer and the sun is brighter, it will get its new leaves for this year. The Ficus carica, or fig tree, and several begonias will also go through this rest period. It does not matter how you feed and water these plants they will go through these cycles naturally.

Another good example is the Clerodendrum thomsoniae (pictured). This plant is a tropical vine that has dark green leaves and red velvet like flowers that come out of snowy white, heart shaped bracts, resulting in the common name bleeding heart vine. When these white bracts age they turn to a pinky-purple and if pollinated they form a 1/2” green fruit that resembles a green pepper. When the fruit is mature it turns a deep purple and then pops open looking like deep orange velvet popcorn.

Back in December, this plant looked very sad with leaves yellowing and dropping. As the winter solstice passed and the days began to get longer, it began to “wake-up”. The leaves stopped yellowing, (because most of them had fallen), and the white bracts (modified leaves) began to show. Now, the flower buds are forming and blooming, while tiny green leaves are showing, as the plant starts the growing season fresh and new.

Every season, plants go through the same stages. So, do not be discouraged when you see your plants “resting”, you have not done anything wrong. It is just Mother Nature at work. Plants just need to rest a little sometimes, just like people do. When the days start getting longer and you begin to see the signs of new growth, take that as your cue to feed and water more frequently because the plants “know” it is time to grow.

Come in to the Kemper Center for Home Gardening soon. Our plants, Clerodendrum thomsoniae included, are beginning to “Wake-Up “, for spring.

We can help answer your gardening questions. By phone, call the Horticulture Answer Service (M-F from 9-Noon @ 314-577-5143) or visit the “doctors” at the Plant Doctor Desk (Monday-Saturday from 10-3.) in the Center for Home Gardening.

Jane Roth, Kemper Horticulture Assistant

Posted in: Winter | Tags: clerodendrum , plumeria , dormancy , indoor plants | Comments (0) | View Count: (756)
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