Dormancy and Winter Care of Plants Indoors
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Jean James
Posted on: May 12, 2008

Could you please tell me what zone I am in? I am in Surrey, British Columbia.

According to the USDA zone map (see http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=Zones/NA.html) you are in zone 8.

Also, I notice that one of your seminars is about bringing herbs indoors for the winter. I wondered if I could get some information about that. I specifically wanted to know if you allow the herbs to flower and if they go dormant even if they are indoors for the winter. I am speaking mainly about common culinary herbs.

We do not have a handout for this seminar --sorry. Our seminars are informal and the speakers do not generally prepare handouts that we keep on file.

Some herbs do in fact go into a semi-dormant phase during the winter months indoors. We notice that with french tarragon and chives in particular. They will languish in pots for months during winter and it is very easy to over water them to death. But most culinary herbs slow down in winter because of the diminished light due to the shorter days, the lower light intensity, and the overcast skies. So it is very important to watch the watering and to not harvest so often. Supplementary light from an artificial light source such as a grow light placed right over the plants (even if they are in the window) helps a lot. Some culinary herbs are annuals (e.g. chervil, basil, and summer savory) so these will gradually slow down and die no matter what.

We generally advise picking the flowers off as they appear because the energy devoted to flowering and setting seeds is better spent on producing leaves. In the case of the annual herbs you can sometimes delay senescence if you pick off the flowers.

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