Overwintering Your Blooming Tender Treasures

It is easy to keep your flowering pots over the winter to be enjoyed year after year!
Potted Fuchsias are simple; cut back the plants to the edge of the pot and across the top of the plant to leave a woody dome of 2-3 inches. Strip off any remaining leaves, and insure that insects such as aphids and scale are not present on the stems or soil surface. Place the pots in a cool area that is protected from freezing, but not warm. A basement window could work well, but light is not necessary for 2 months. Check water a few times a month, and don’t let it completely dry out or sit in water. By mid February or the first week of March, bring the plant into warmth and bright light and begin fertilizing according to the directions on your chosen fertilizer. Feed the first few times with a fairly even number, balanced growth fertilizer such as Espoma Organic starter food, 1-2-2. As the stems grow, pinch back the tips to encourage branching for a fuller pot or basket. Bring on the blooms with a high middle number, liquid organic bloom food like Espoma Bloom, 1-3-1. Plants can usually safely be put outside by May.
Geraniums may be treated the same, but with extra consideration regarding insects. Geranium Bud Worm can overwinter in the soil, but an application of BT will kill the crawling caterpillars that might be present or hatch after winterizing. Most people cut back the top 75% of a mature plant before bringing it inside, leaving just a few leaves on each stem base. Be sure to scout for bugs. If you have a bright enough window, geraniums can be enjoyed as houseplants and do not have to have a dormancy, just be willing to cut it back again in late winter if the new growth is stringy. They can also tolerate a fairly cool environment, such as a shed that does not freeze. Geraniums don’t like as much fertilizer as some other plants, so use a light application when you feed after bringing it out in late winter.
Tuberous Begonias are fun to keep from year to year also, and the tubers can get huge over time. They can be left in a pot of soil, if you cut off the top of the plant and leave a short 2″ stub of stem with no leaves. That stub will soon wither, and can then be removed from the soil surface. If you do nothing else but protect from frost, leaving the tuber in the soil and pot, that will possibly be enough. But to get the best and most vigorous plants every year, after the stem stub dies back, gently remove the begonia tuber from the soil by dumping out the pot and crumbling away the old soil. Wrap the flattened tuber in dry paper towels, saw dust or peat moss, and store in a cool dark place that does not freeze. Be sure to label the paper sack, and avoid plastic bags. In late February or early March, plant the tuber in fresh soil at a slight angle, with the top shoulder of the tuber just barely under the soil surface This allows water to drain out of the cupped, dimpled center of the top of the bulb, preventing stem rot. At the appearance of a few first leaves, begin fertilizing with a growth formula. After 6-8 weeks in a warm bright window, you can fertilize your plant with a bloom booster formula and start watching for the buds to form. Most tuberous begonias are self-shaping plants and don’t need to be pinched or pruned to shape.
Lastly, If there is any sign of disease on the leaves in fall, it might be best to start over with fresh plants in the spring. Most of all, check on your dormant plants at least monthly, and say encouraging words to them so they wake in late winter ready to grow and delight. Some people have been known to keep their flowering plants for over 20 years by following these easy steps!

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