In the Garden:
New England
September, 2008
Regional Report

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Save your favorite glads by storing the corms in a frost-free place over the winter.

Overwintering Tender Plants

The brilliant colors of fall have exploded in the past week. Tawny ornamental grasses, red sumacs and maples, and purple fall asters grab my attention and almost make me forget the summer stars of the garden. But wait, there are still lots of annuals and summer bulbs in colorful garb -- coleus, dahlias, gladiolus, crocosmias, acidanthera, geraniums. Although in more modest dress, the tender salvias and ornamental oregano are still in leaf. I could leave all of them to die with the deep freeze and start with new plants next year. But keeping them through the winter is relatively easy, and the cost savings can be considerable. Plus the longer the potted plants grow, the larger the plant, and the better the show. Many can share our living quarters, others need a cool spot to rest. If you have any of these plants and would like to keep them safe and sound until next year, here are some guidelines.

Gladiolus, Crocosmias, and Acidanthera
When they have finished flowering or when frost kills the foliage, carefully dig the corms of gladiolus, crocosmias, and acidanthera and spread them out in a dry, well-ventilated area at room temperature for two to three weeks. Then remove and discard the old corms. Store the new corms in paper bags in a 35- to 40-degree location.

Cannas
After the foliage has been damaged by frost, allow cannas to dry in the ground for a few days, then cut back the stems to 3 to 4 inches and carefully dig the rhizomes and let them dry at room temperature for a few days. Store in cardboard boxes or mesh bags filled with vermiculite or peat moss at 40 to 50 degrees for the winter. In spring, plant the entire clump or separate the rhizomes, leaving a portion of the old stem attached to each one.

Geraniums
You can keep geraniums growing and blooming indoors by cutting them back by about a third and then starting to fertilize them a couple of weeks later. Keep plants in a sunny window. Or to keep them dormant for the winter, move the potted plants into a dark, cool (40 to 50 degrees) location. Don't water them and don't cut them back until they show new growth in spring.

Coleus
Take cuttings from non-woody stems and root them indoors in water. If you want to save the entire plant, bring it indoors now and cut back the stems a few inches to remove the most succulent growth, which is most susceptible to aphids.

Fuchsias and Tender Salvias
Bring plants indoors now and cut back stems by about half. Keep them in a state of semi-dormancy by moving them to an unheated basement or a place with low light where temperatures stay between 40 and 55 degrees. Water about once a month. When temperatures reach the 60s in spring, move them outside to a shady spot, give the plants a trim, and begin watering and fertilizing.


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