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tropical plants

Q: Can we transplant rubber trees?

Q:  We have rubber trees on either side of our front walk. Unfortunately, they are located right where our new foundation will be poured. Can we transplant them into containers temporarily until we can replant them back in the ground? What’s the best way to protect them from cold? I appreciate any advice you can give us to help save these lovely plants. We’ve brought all our hanging plants to our temporary location. We have spider plants, asparagus fern, philodendron, aloe, and some purple plant that is very prolific. What’s the best way to winter these?

A:  The rubber trees and the hanging plants you mentioned can be acclimated for this area but they are generally classified as house plants and therefore would be better labeled “tender tropicals”.  This means they may freeze or die back during the winter and then return when the weather becomes warm.  However, if we have a hard freeze of 28 degrees for more than 4 hours these plants may not recover and should be taken inside or covered.  This may present a problem for the rubber tree plants, the aloe and the philodendron once they are in the ground.  It would be best to think and decide now whether these are truly the type of plants you want outside.

You might consider some other plant choices in our cold hardiness zone that would ultimately give you fewer problems.  Remember we are in the 8b-9a cold hardiness zone.  You should also consider the light and watering needs of each plant and group like plant needs together.  Then, check on the plant’s potential height and spread to allow for enough room to grow properly.  At the new site you would also want any shrubs planted 2-3 feet away from the foundation of the house.  This distance will allow you the ability to spot any termite tunnels appearing around your foundation and avoid the pitfalls of over pruning due to overgrown shrubbery.  It would be better to keep the asparagus fern in a pot as this plant is, in some cases, classified as an invasive when planted in the ground.  Depending on the type of philodendron – it may also become a pest in your yard.  The hanging plants found in local garden stores are seldom good permanent outdoor landscape choices.