Experiments in Potted Plant Hardiness—Winter Fun in the PNW

Asplenium bulbiferum, mother fern. USDA zones 9-11. This plant was only taken indoors during two cold spells.

If you’re a hardcore gardener, you’ve likely learned a few lessons over the years about what will and will NOT survive in your garden. For most of us, that begins with learning about your USDA hardiness zone.

While we used to sit at USDA zone 8b, where I live in Portland, Oregon is now leaning more towards a USDA zone 9a. I’m conservative though, and chunky. So while I may wear a size 10 pant in ladies, I still tend to wear a size 12 just so I don’t feel too fat in tight pants. I like to feel comfortable, and to be honest, so do my plants.

But I DO like to go out on the edge. I very much like some risk. More than anything, I like to experiment. (I’ve been sporting a modern pandemic mullet so go figure.)

So, here’s what I’ve learned recently while living on the gardening edge!

Epiphyllum, epicactus hybrid. To USDA zone 10. This plant has not been taken inside for protection for 2 years.

Lots of plants are not quite hardy, but with some special attention, you can keep them outside longer. Some can even become hardier if planted correctly, but I’m really only talking about potted plants in this post.

If you want to experiment at your home, first I recommend that you get to know your microclimates. A thermometer system with multiple sensors can help with that. This will help you to better understand which corners of your garden are the coldest and the warmest.

A variety of plants. These plants spent the winter on the front porch. Rhipsalis was my greatest surprise over the last few years. So many are so tough!

Dry covered areas are the next best-kept secret. Like a greenhouse during the winter, this leaves you in charge of how much moisture plants receive. If plants are kept nearly dry, they don’t rot in the cold. Some of mine are now kept bone dry and they’re looking great!

The plants need some light, but I’ve been surprised at the dark corners where I’ve been able to stuff them. Leaving some of the hardier plants outdoors has allowed me some space indoors to work too.

Aporocactus sp., rattail cactus. USDA zones 9-11. This plant has not been taken indoors for two years.

Not all of them look fantastic, but I don’t either in my size 12 pants, so I’m not going to shame them. This is an experiment so that’s all that matters. It’s for science! Just like me!!

What matters is that they’re alive! I have more experiments like these too, but I’m just showing you a few, and I’m going to encourage you to experiment too.

Tradescantia fluminensis ‘Gold Wing’. To USDA zone 10. It’s been outside for nearly a year now.

My favorite surprise has been this Hoya carnosa. I actually have 4 of them outside now since I have kicked them out to make room for other plants indoors. We have very few freezing days around here, so as long as I can bring them in when we dip under 30F for too long, they’re JUST fine.

Hoya carnosa, wax plant. USDA zones 9-11. I leave these all outdoors now for most of the year.

Let me know in the comments if you have any oddballs out there living their best lives! Who’s alive that shouldn’t be thanks to your love and care?

2 thoughts on “Experiments in Potted Plant Hardiness—Winter Fun in the PNW

  1. Claudia

    I’m super novice at this type of thing, but my potted Meyer Lemon spent it’s first winter outside, shielded from cold blasts on 2 sides by old storm windows. It actually seemed to do BETTER outside, due to the rampant scale infestation that was happening when spending winter in the warm, dry house. I’m interested on trying more citrus outside, maybe even in-ground.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Citrus is a fun one! I didn’t even mention them since I have a lot. I pushed my Meyer lemon pretty hard and it is mad at me now but it looks ok. I agree about leaving them out. They get scale so badly and it is just not worth the headache!


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