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Plant options for pushing the zone in a greenhouse  RSS feed

 
master steward
Posts: 3979
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm working on a (hopefully) tropical greenhouse in Wisconsin.  I believe I can get the temps up into the 60-80 range during the day and stay above 55 at night.  One end of the greenhouse will have the heat source so I could partition the greenhouse to accentuate the temperature there or just plant cool tolerant plants in the distant corners.  It will be 15' high at the center and 20x40 feet.  

Assuming I have the heat thing figured out, light could affect my tropical options in ways that I can't predict.  In the winter I'll get 4 hours of direct sunlight, the days are about 8-9 hours long and it's often cloudy.  I could add supplemental lighting but I'd like to limit that as much as possible.

Given these conditions, what are my odds of having success with:
bananas
avocados
citrus
mango
pineapple
cinnamon
passionfruit
dragonfruit
ginger
figs
coconut (probably too tall)

Thanks!
 
Posts: 102
Location: Ontario zone 4b
6
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Figs and citrus are likely a great option especially kumquat lowquat satsuma tangerine. and chicago fig and i would try dwarf everbearing mullberry to get a constant flow of fruit.. bananas make pups and die after bearing so if space is a issue dont plant it they pop up where they want to..passion fruit is a great idea. Russian pomegranate.
 
Jordan Johnston
Posts: 102
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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You could try fuyu persimmon or kaki blue java banana ...chinese jube jube ..chi fruit ..medlar ..peaches anything would be great.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Jordan, all of those would be great.  Do you know if some are better than others at handling less sun that in the tropics?  I'm worried that I could have the temperatures I need to get them to live but would the lack of winter sun just slow them down or kill them all together?

I have mulberry, peach and persimmon planted outside, hopefully they make it so I can save the greenhouse for more "interesting" plants.
 
Jordan Johnston
Posts: 102
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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Jordan Johnston
Posts: 102
Location: Ontario zone 4b
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I wont kill ya to have less day light 8 hours is sufficient
 
pollinator
Posts: 419
Location: Derbyshire, UK
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cat chicken urban
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Without sufficient light most of those things won't die- but they will slow down and go dormant. I keep citrus and ginger in a greenhouse and I'm in the UK- Winter days approx 6 hours long, all of which are almost always cloudy! Kept warm enough they don't grow- but they don't die either.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Charli, good to know.  Do you know if that slow down would mean less frequent fruiting or just slower growing trees?  I don't even know how often avocados fruit (yearly?) but with a much longer winter for them, would they still fruit on the same schedule?  Maybe the lack of light would mean my 15 year old tree would look like a 10 year old in Florida?
 
Jordan Johnston
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Location: Ontario zone 4b
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With citrus they need lots of daylight to fruit ..so mabey keeping citrus as the canopy tree might help ..and i should mentioned this but throw a goumi in the mix to fix the nitogen and chop it as needed it seems like it might help charge them through winters.
 
gardener
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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I am also a greenhouse gardener and have been trying to learn about greenhouse production for a while. My understanding from what I've read is that most fruit crops need plenty of light and/or heat to ripen. They need photosynthesis to create the sugars in the fruits. There are some kinds of citrus and probably other fruits that can stay on the tree through a chilly winter and ripen later, but fruits that can ripen during a darkish winter might be a rare find. Let us know what you find that works!

I've been mostly producing leafy greens and herbs all winter in the greenhouse, and luckily I like those a lot. But I get like 9 hours of sun in mid-winter and mostly sunny days, so greens keep growing in the greenhouse here.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks folks!  I think I'll keep the citrus at the far end of the greenhouse (relative to the heater) since they can tolerate a bit more cold.  And I'll keep them in pots until I'm sure how the greenhouse works.  I should only need a lemon or two, a few mandarins, a lime and maybe another type or two.  So in my mind, that's not a lot of citrus.  For their location they can have all the sun.  

I'll put bananas in the middle or to the north so they don't shade everything else and yet have some headroom (10-16').  Jordan, you say the banana pups come up wherever they want...  I thought they just came up near the base of the mother plant.  How far away can they pop up?

Luckily I've heard that extra CO2 can make up for a lack of sunlight.  My greenhouse should have plenty of CO2.
 
Posts: 36
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
7
forest garden homestead urban
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Jordan Johnston wrote: lowquat



I just wanted to let you know (maybe you've never eaten one) that loquats are not a citrus fruit, they are in the rose family and more closely related to apples and pears.  So in this case, they are an excellent suggestion!

If your temperatures are in the range you say, you would probably be able to grow some sub tropical fruiting plants quite well.  Maybe a few tropicals, depending on their humidity/light requirements.
Here's what I think would be good options:

Loquat- subtropical, up to zone 7.  beautiful trees
Certain varieties of banana- Orinoco, and Raja Puri are two that I've heard are more cold hardy than most. Even if it does get too cold, they can bounce back from frost damage better than a lot of other plants.  they are fine in shade
Figs- great greenhouse plant.  You can keep them very small if you want, and they go dormant in winter.
A dwarf everbearing mulberry would be an excellent greenhouse tree.
Moringa- Super nutritious green, the miracle tree, etc.  Can handle sub tropical conditions, can take a lot of abuse.
Ginger- up to zone 7.  Likes shade
Cattley Guava/Strawberry Guava- more cold hardy than common guava.

I wouldn't go with mangoes, avocados, citrus, pineapple, or coconut.  They like a lot of sunshine and humidity.
I'll try to think of some others that might work.

BTW, just saw your other question.  Banana pups only pop up right next to the mother plant, however if you don't manage the amount of pups that come up they can spread to a pretty large area.
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks Connor!  How big do everbearing mulberries get (tall and wide)?

I'll have to get a Cattley Guava/Strawberry Guava and taste it.  Not sure what they even look like

While I am light limited in the winter, the north side of the greenhouse will reflect extra light down on the plants (for what that's worth).  I think if I arrange my canopy correctly, I should be able to fit tall and short trees and give them all full sun.  
 
Conner Murphy
Posts: 36
Location: West Palm Beach, FL
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I think you can keep them at about 6-7 feet, depending on how you shape it.  I have two mulberry trees started from cuttings, and they like to shoot out from the bottom. They will eventually take a sort of upright vase or bushy shape and I'll just have to manage the height. This is probably what you'd want in a greenhouse as it's much more compact.  I'd imagine that a seedling mulberry would naturally grow to more of a single trunk, taller tree shape (or you could train them that way) but they are so easy to propagate from cuttings and the fruit is much easier to harvest if it's at eye level.

Arrangement would definitely be key in your greenhouse, making sure enough light/heat gets distributed to the plants that need it most.  If you have areas shaded by canopy, you could plant ginger or turmeric.  turmeric likes a little bit more sun than ginger.  Figs, I've heard, prefer more heat over more sunlight, so put them near the heat source.  
 
Posts: 108
Location: The Ocala National Forest. Florida, USA
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The ever bearing mulberry I have I have to prune like every 3 months to keep dwarf size. Im in fl of course, but it seems to thrive on a regular trim... I'd say also go for the bananas... They don't travel to far to fast. And research David the Goods site (the survival gardener)for an idea on trying a coconut... He had an interesting idea for trying them in colder climes. Not sure that WI is that place.... But HEY... nothing ventured, nothing gained! An you can read about it for free! My cattley guava is very hardy and takes temps into the mid 20's with no problems... Fig handles short times of mid 20's also... Ginger an turmeric should do well also... I don't have experience with mango, dragon fruit or cinnamon but the pineapple should be easy enough to try... And passion fruit grows wild here as a weed. And I haven't had success with growing an avocado yet... I can make them grow, but fruiting hasn't happened yet.... But if on a budget or not wanting to spend a lot just to try, just getting seeds/tops from your local grocery/produce stand can work for some things....
 
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