Rethinking and Applying Lessons Learned
The mini-heater experiment was part of an overall attempt
to keep skyrocketing costs of wintering over tropicals in check
and, based on this year's results they will be part of our ongoing
effort, but only a small part. In order to come up with a plan
to do a better job of containing costs next year it is necessary
to look at the bigger picture, starting with examining why we
have attempted to keep tropical lilies growing through winter.
Why have we insisted on keeping tropical lilies growing
through winter? The primary reason is that my wife Ruth and
I really enjoy having beautiful waterlily flowers all winter
long. We also have had a lack of confidence that stored tubers
would survive winter and some varieties have not formed storage
tubers for us. Thanks to resources at Victoria-Adventure.org,
we probably have a handle on why so many of our lilies fail to
form tubers, but I'll get into that later, and given fairly good
results with tubers stored over last winter we are not as worried
about storing them. Of special concern previously, because the
lily existed nowhere else, has been the possibility of losing
stored 'Hickory Bend Ruth' tubers. Tubers of this variety seem
to store exceptionally well and a friend is now growing this
treasure so there is a source of replacements.
Why bother if they don't bloom? Last winter only one
non-viviparous lily ('Star of Zanzibar') bloomed consistently
and it had supplemental lighting. Looking at the situation with
cold logic, we have been going about keeping lilies growing through
winter for our enjoyment all wrong. We have been keeping non-viviparous
lilies that haven't been blooming in the sun room. There they
are far more visible and we pass them many times a day. We've
kept our viviparous varieties in the attached green house where
they are out of sight. Energy costs aside, this is dumb because
we have the non-viviparous varieties that need more light in
the sun room where they get only filtered light, while keeping
the viviparous varieties in the green house where they get more
sunlight. If we switched the types, the fact that we are trying
to cut energy costs is impractical, because keeping the green
house temperature high enough for non-viviparous tropical waterlilies
would make our electric meter spin like a top.
Rethinking our situation. It has been suggested that
we would be better off letting our tropicals go dormant in the
winter. Given overall success in storing tubers this past winter,
probably due to better temperature control, I feel far more comfortable
doing so. Kit Knotts also addressed failure of some of our lilies
to form tubers by pointing out something that should have been
obvious to me. Keeping lilies growing through a southern Ohio
winter is in effect the same as growing them in Florida..
That being the case "Tubering
Tropical Waterlilies in Warm Climates", which I had
previously ignored, is applicable, and it seems I have been keeping
my tropicals too happy for them to bother forming tubers. It's
sort of like the story about a boy who didn't speak until he
was 11 years old. One morning he surprised everyone by complaining
that the toast was burned. "Why haven't you ever talked
before?" his mother asked. "Up to now everything has
been OK," the boy said. Guess it is the same with tropical
waterlilies. As long as everything is OK they don't speak up
by forming tubers.
Another article that is applicable, but I ignored previously
because I thought it didn't apply to our zone, is "Repotting
Overgrown Tropical Waterlilies", which explains why
some of the lilies we bring in and repot for winter die. From
now on we will "turn" or "chop and drop"
old tubers so that they don't affect healthy growth above them.
Our New Plan
I wasn't planning a major overhaul of our wintering over program
but it looks like that is what we are going to do. To reduce
energy cost as much as possible we intend to implement the following,
roughly step by step, plan:
Step 1: We are going to order quite a few new tropical waterlily
varieties because, by letting most to go dormant, we will have
enough room to winter over more varieties.
Step 2: We will promote formation of storage tubers / Kit
Knotts "Tubering Tropical Waterlilies In Warm Climates"
Step 3: Tubers of as many varieties as possible will be stored
in damp peat moss, possibly in a mini-refrigerator to maintain
cool temperatures over a longer period.
Step 4: We will keep all, primarily viviparous, varieties
that we want to keep growing through winter in the sun room and
not have electric heaters running in the green house until we
bring tubers out of storage to float and sprout on the heated
shelf in the green house in early spring.
Step 5: We will postpone potting sprouts in small pots and
repotting into larger pots for placement in green house tubs
and heated basement tubs until April or May.
Step 6: Varieties that don't make it through the winter as
outlined above will no longer be grown.
Hope our little experiment will help a few people lower energy
costs a bit.