Homegrown: Oct. 8, 2011

I just received a Mandevilla from a friend, and I am wondering if I plant it outside will it be able to live through the winter here?

I know nothing about this plant. What can you tell me?

— Paulette

I’m afraid Mandevilla are nowhere near hardy enough to grow outside here.

They won’t stand temperatures much below 30 degrees and only for a very short period of time.

Around here, they’re grown strictly as a potted plant that needs to spend the winter indoors.

Most people put them outside on the patio during the spring and summer where they can get partial shade, but they need to go inside as things start cooling down in the fall.

As you know, Mandevilla are climbing vines that can actually grow to 20 feet or even 30 feet. However, in a pot, they tend to stay much smaller depending on the size of the pot.

Many people do a bit of pruning on them to help keep them smaller and denser. You can actually maintain them small like that for a period of time, but it usually shortens the life of the plant.

There are two things to be aware of with this plant.

First, when you bring the plant in for the winter, put it in a spot that gets plenty of bright light. The plant will do better and you can keep the flowers going if it’s bright enough.

Second, when you prune them, they’ll bleed a white, milky, latex-like sap. It can sometimes be abundant enough to drip on the floor or table where it’s sitting, so spread some newspaper around the plant before you start cutting. The “bleeding” will stop after an hour or two.

Personally, I think Mandevilla are worth the effort. They provide spectacular flowers in a wide range of colors which can be hard to find in most house plants.

We have 2-year-old grape, blackberry, and raspberry plants planted in our back yard. Is there anything we should do to prepare them for winter besides mulch the ground around the bottom of the plants?

I was thinking about wrapping the bottom of the trellis with burlap material. We live in Delta and often get a cold drift that comes up from the river.

—Delta reader

With berries, you can pretty much just mulch the ground around the plants.

You want to wait to do that until after the ground has started to freeze up. Mulching too early can actually hurt your plants as you’ve mulched over warm (relatively speaking) soil, trapping that heat which can encourage the plant to delay entering fully into dormancy. A plant such as this is much more prone to cold damage from an early frost.

The mulching material should be coarse and fluffy. Lots of people want to use their grass clippings but they don’t make a good mulching material by themselves.

Use some shredded leaves that you’ve picked up with the lawn mower this fall, straw, or a bagged commercial product like cedar mulch. I’ll dump a 12-inch deep pile around the base of the plant and call it good for the winter.

In the spring, you’ll want to gradually rake that mulch away from the base and spread it out on the ground around the plant.

Wrapping burlap around the trellis or the canes higher up is OK, it’s just not usually necessary.

Raspberries are super cold hardy and should winter over well. Blackberries are less cold hardy, but rarely have cold damage in western Colorado.

If you’re getting late frosts in the spring that are affecting your flowers and fruit set, that’s a different issue and then wrapping or covering the top of the plant makes some sense, but only for the duration of the unusually cold weather.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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