Bring houseplants and tropical plants (tuberous begonias, fuchsias, geraniums, angel trumpets (Brugmansia, Datura), bougainvilleas, coleus) in September that have been vacationing outside, inside - as their vacation is over. Fetch them in now while they are still looking good. If you wait too long they are overcome with diseases and insects and often fail to survive.
There are three ways to overwinter plants: overwinter as houseplants, place them in dormancy, or take cuttings. The type of plant determines how to overwinter them.
I have to warn you that bringing in plants from the outside is a bit messy. They drop their leaves and flowers in protest to the new environment, but after the initial shock, most should sport new growth in no time. Before you bring them in, wipe down their pots and drainage trays with soapy water; remove dead and infected plant parts, flowers, flower buds, weeds and debris from the soil surface and any free loading slugs and bugs. It is not necessary to repot the plants, but if you do, use potting soil, not garden soil as it contains pathogens. Cut back each stem by a half to a third. Propagate those cut stems if you wish to make more plants, as they will make great cuttings.
Wash the plants with dish washing liquid in lukewarm water by squeezing a soapy sponge all over them. You can also spray them with soapy water but make sure you get every nook and cranny. For small plants, dip them upside down in a bucket or sink full of soapy water. Allow them to drip dry. Quarantine these new plants from other houseplants as also from each other so any bugs or diseases don’t spread.
Once plants are cleaned up, move them to a bright sunny window or under grow light. Use a timer to keep the light on for 8 to 12 hours. Water plants with lukewarm water thoroughly wetting the soil. Water again when the top ½ inch of soil is dry to the touch.
If plants grow but are leggy, weak and pale they are not receiving adequate light. If plants become mottled, pale and dusty with wee spider webs, water more often as spider mites love dry soil. Get a magnifying glass and look under the foliage for tiny spiders. Wash the plant with a soapy sponge or dunk into a bucket or of lukewarm soapy water.
For geraniums planted directly in the ground, dig them up and shake off as much soil as possible. Use a good draining potting soil. Add sand and/or vermiculite to aid in drainage if it’s too peaty. Hang them upside down or place them in paper bags and place in a cool, dry, frost free area. Mist their roots weekly. All their leaves will fall off, but their stems should remain intact. In late February or in March, remove any dead parts, shriveled sections and discard any dead plants. Soak their roots for a few hours before potting them up. Water after planting then place in a bright location for a week. Once new growth emerges place them in full sun and allow soil to dry slightly before watering as they rot in wet soil.
Tender Fuchsias: Save fuchsias by bringing them inside or bury them outside. Keeping them outside during the winter depends on how far north you live. If you live in cooler zones from 1 to 6, bring them inside. Store in a cool dry place, 4-7°C (45-55°F) - a basement works well. Water every 3 to 4 weeks to moisten the soil, but don’t soak it.
To overwinter fuchsias outside, bury them in the garden, pot and all. Cover them with 3 to 4 inches of soil, fallen leaves or another mulch and mark the location with a stake. Dig them up in spring after the danger of frost has passed. Although they may appear dead, they should sport some new growth once unearthed, watered and given light. Wipe off the pots, water and place in a sunny location away from frost. When new growth emerges repot them into the same pot with fresh potting soil or a bigger pot if needed. Mix in a slow release fertilizer and bone meal, according to the manufacture's instructions. Water and keep them away from any lingering frost.
Plants suited for Winter Dormancy
Overwinter through dormancy: .
Some plants such as cannas, tuberous begonias, gladiolus, dahlias, ginger, sweet potato vine, elephant ears (Colocasia, Alocasia) and caladiums, can’t tolerate northern winters and they also require a dormant period. Allow them to be nipped by frost before bringing them inside. This gives them time to send their food and water to their roots. There’s no need to repot potted plants. Just clean the pots and plants with soap and water and place in a cool, frost free, dark location. Keep the soil dry, but don’t allow it to dry out too much that the soil is pulling away from the pot.
For those pot-less plants that where dug up from the garden, allow them to dry for a few days. Remove any excess soil then place in cardboard boxes, pillow cases or paper bags and avoid plastic tubs or bags as it promotes rotting. Dust the bulbs with cinnamon to prevent fungi, then cover with vermiculite, perlite, peat or potting soil. Place in a frost free location. Check them monthly and remove any rotting ones and add moisten if they are shriveling.
There are many plants including annuals that are easy to propagate as cuttings and you can keep them inside as houseplants until spring, where you can plant them outside. These plants include impatiens, coleus, geraniums (Pelargoniums), sweet potato vine, wax (fibrous begonias) and most bedding plants (annuals).
Take cuttings from healthy plants, while they are still actively growing and not declining. Each cutting should contain 4 to 6 nodes (bump-like buds along the stem). Cut the stem just under a node then remove any lower leaves, flowers, seed heads and the tip (growing point) of the stem. Place 3 to 5 cuttings in one pot filled with moist sterile potting soil that’s not too peaty. Add vermiculite or sand if it is and mix well.
Water gently with lukewarm to warm water and place in bright room out of direct sun. If you wish, mist a few times daily or place them in a clear plastic bag blown up and secured to keep the humidity in. Once new growth begins, pot each cutting in its own 2 inch pot filled with potting soil. Water gently and keep out of full sun for a couple of days. For more on taking cuttings click here.
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