Recycle Garden Annuals as Houseplants

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Coleus, begonia and “Purple Queen.” Slightly larger pic if you click to enlarge.

Frugal gardeners have long known that they can save a few bucks overwintering tender annuals indoors to be used in the garden next spring. Annuals generally live for only one growing season before going to seed and dying, but many of the annuals sold in garden centers in Chicago are actually perennial shrubs and vines in other parts of the world.

You can dig them out of garden beds or containers and pot them up and grow them as houseplants over the winter. These plants include, ornamental peppers, lantana, rex and fibrous begonias, petunias, coleus, geraniums, flowering maples (pictured below), ornamental sweet potato vines, fuchsia, hibiscus, mandevilla, Tradescantia pallida, aka “Purple Queen” and Tradescantia zebrina aka “Wandering Jew”.

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Even some of your herb garden can be brought indoors to extend your growing season or to just provide some greenery during the winter months. I’ve successfully overwintered rosemary and basil indoors some years and other years they weren’t very forgiving of being allowed to dry out.

The best space to keep your plants is in a window that faces south, if that isn’t an option consider adding grow lights to supplement the low light levels we have in the winter.

A few years ago while thrifting I saw an old houseplant book from the 50s and one of the plants inside the book was a Black-Eyed Susan vine. This year I’m going to experiment with overwintering a small Black-Eyed Susan vine I bought on clearance.

See also: Propagating Plants Through Cuttings.  


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  • A lot of my annuals reseed themselves or I saw their seeds... but I do plan to bring my coleus in the house over the winter, and my elephant ears have long since been inside. I don't have many houseplants (tm) because I need to space for my annuals in winter.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Speaking of coleus, I was telling Linda I bought an orange one because I was under the influence of your blog's color after going plant shopping one day. I don't have room for coleus indoor this year but now I have an orange plant I need to do something with because of you.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    I did this for the first time last year and managed to save my coleus, 2 palms, a guynura (sp?-- purple passion, golden thyme and rosemary. This year I've potted a calladium and repotted the same thyme and rosemary, which I planted out in the spring. Although I was just joking with my husband that the houseplants scream in despair each fall as I am a known and recidivist neglecter of house plants.

  • In reply to naxn:


  • Hi Steve,

    I think where most of us go wrong is in giving them conditions indoors that are similar to what they had outdoors. More light and humidity, once we turn on those heaters for the winter the plants start to dry out which causes us to water them more and things just spiral down from there.

    I say give them as much light as you can (supplement with artificial light) and keep the humidity up by using humidity trays or something similar. Hope your hibiscus plants make it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Maybe you should see if your neighbor can overwinter your rosemary with hers. That way you don't have to buy a new one ever year.

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