Osmocote Advertisement

Basement Bounty


For opulence and tropical splendor there’s nothing like angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia). Tall, elegant, with draping fragrant bells of bloom, it can dominate a patio, balcony or an entry way like little else.

But here’s the rub. It’s not hardy in Chicagoland. So this raises the sticky issue of overwintering. Should you just toss the plant when winter comes? Some do. Others would like to save it for another year. But how?

Some gardeners bring the entire plant into the house and try to treat it as a houseplant. This may work if you have the muscle to tote a 5-foot plant indoors as well as really good bright light, but you’re likely to have a lot of leaf drop once the plant is indoors.

Others have success by first cutting back the plant and then taking it into a protected, but cool place, between 40 and 50 F for the duration. A garage or unheated basement will do. Then water once a month or so and hope for the best. By spring all of the plant’s leaves will have fallen off and it will look dead, and sometimes it is.

Richard Tilley, longtime Wicker Park resident and expert gardener, has another solution, one that has served him well over the years. Each fall he takes cuttings from his four “mother plants,” roots them and grows them under lights until May, at which point he trots them over to the Wicker Park Garden Club’s annual plant sale in Wicker Park. This year he donated 15 plants. “They flew off the shelves,” he notes approvingly.

Tilley’s plants are the yellow ‘Inca Sun’ and an unknown pink. The pink plant, with its more vertical habit, has flowers that start white and gradually turn a rosy pink. The ‘Inca Sun’ is more horizontal. They are equally fragrant. “On a hot summer night with no wind,” he says, “the scent is almost overpowering.”

How To Do It

1. Tilley takes 6-inch cuttings from his mother plants in the fall, usually in October. “I like to leave it as long as I can,” he says. Take cuttings from the stems, making sure you’re cutting “green” wood — that is, this year’s growth. “I usually get five or six cuttings per plant, depending on how much the mother plant has grown during the summer,” he explains. Each cutting should have two to three leaf nodes.

2. Root the cuttings in water. You can also put them in a pot with soil, but then it’s difficult to see if they’re going to grow or not. If they “take,” they will do so in three to four weeks. If they haven’t started to form roots in five to six weeks, toss them out. Tilley reports a 90 percent success rate.

3. Plant each rooted cutting in a 6-inch pot. Make sure that one leaf node is below the soil. Any good potting soil is fine, but Tilley likes to use Bacto® Light™.

4. Place the potted cuttings under fluorescent lights and let them remain there to grow throughout the winter and until you’re ready to move them into the garden, sometime in May. Transplant them to a larger pot before you move them outdoors.

5. Water regularly and feed weekly with a high-phosphate fertilizer (the middle number listed on the bag). Tilley uses one with a 10-55-10 formulation, following the package directions.

6. Once the each new plant starts to bloom, it will continue flowering until frost. Expect it to reach 3½ to 4 feet by season’s end.

categories

popular

Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - Mar/Apr2015

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” wrote the author of Psalms 30. Something to keep in mind as we


Article Thumbnail
Columns
Go Pantless … er, Plantless!

If there’s absolutely one thing I’m sure of as I slog through this vale of tears, it’s that the MacArthur genius grant ...


Article Thumbnail
Features
Perk Up with Pots

In our family, my sister Chris hosts Christmas and I host Easter. Among her many talents, Chris pulls out the stops when it …


Article Thumbnail
Departments
From the Editor - SeptOct 2015

One fine morning this summer I looked out the second-floor window of my study and discovered a 1-foot tall tomato plant ...


Article Thumbnail
Features
Let It Rain

Rain gardens are hot news, but are they pretty? Here are some examples that take the concept beyond mere buzz words.


questions

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

I have a cycas palm and am not sure how much direct sunlight or water it needs. It has light brown marks developing on the leaves. What is causing this, and how do I care for my plant?

I have some peonies that I want to transplant but cannot plant them in their permanent place until next spring when our new house will be built. Can I dig them now and transplant them again next spring?

ChicagolandGardening Advertisement