Some favored container plants luxuriate outside all summer, and when the weather shifts, they’re hustled into the greenhouse, frost-free porch, sunroom, or even a windowsill. These summer/winter dancers are mostly perennials or small shrubs— tender for whatever zone you’re in.
What makes them worth the trouble? Outside or indoors, the best ones are easy care. They thrive in less-than-stellar indoor circumstances, whether that means too cool, or too hot and dry; they’re not bothered by pests; and they won’t scorch or drop their leaves when returned outside (if judiciously moved from shade to their preferred light conditions).
I asked a gathering of gardeners to nominate their favorites. Here are their top picks for the seasonal dance.
Epiphylliums – Cathy Wilkinson Barash, prolific garden author, photographer, speaker, and gourmet horticulturalist, favors the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter cacti. She says, “They thrive on neglect, except when they’re about to bloom.” Then, she notes, “they need constant watering.” Her collection goes to a semi-shaded patio after frost danger and back indoors before first fall frost. “Usually they’re in bud by then.”
Succulents – Robin Stockwell, author of the upcoming Sunset book, Succulents: The Ultimate Guide, says that a wide range of these plants take to indoor winter living. Some, more than others, says Courtney Helena, garden designer/blogger. “Without artificial light or really good daylight, only my green succulents do really well for months in the house.”
Begonias – Sharon Gentry Beasley, garden writer, has great success growing angel leaf begonias in a north-facing bay window. “Most begonias are such easy plants to deal with,” she notes, “and look pretty even without flowers.” Karen Chapman, garden designer and coauthor of the new book, Gardening with Foliage First, says, “I love the tropical look of all begonias, but B. luxurians is especially beautiful with its palmate foliage.”
Peperomias – Julie Brocklehurst-Woods, Master Gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension and garden columnist, says, “I love my peperomias. I probably have half a dozen varieties and want to get more.” Her number-one choice? P. obtusifolia ‘Variegata’, commonly known as the baby rubber plant. The burgeoning collection lives in a shaded spot outdoors in summer.
Brunfelsia pauciflora – Here’s my favorite—yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s the common name for this woody shrub because the flowers emerge deep purple and shift to almost white over several days. Although it blooms sporadically outdoors in partial shade, as soon as it hits the warmth of my house in late fall, it throws out hundreds of fragrant blossoms.