How to overwinter plants
The growing season is just about over for many, and it’s hard to say goodbye to the garden plants you’ve nurtured all summer long. Instead of tossing healthy plants into the compost pile, use these tips to overwinter your favorites indoors. 1. TAKE STOCK. First, remember that not every plant needs to be overwintered indoors. Plants hardy in your zone are fully equipped to survive winter, and some borderline plants actually benefit from a hefty winter mulching. 2. START SELECTING. Take a careful look at each candidate. Those with high sentimental or monetary value take priority. As for the rest, some can help fortify the compost pile, and you can take cuttings from others (see No. 8).
3. NIX PESTS AND
DISEASE. Before you bring plants indoors, thoroughly check and treat for bugs, or else you might introduce these unwanted critters to your houseplants. Should you discover an infestation or disease, quarantine and treat the affected plant with a product labeled for indoor use. If the treatment doesn’t take, problems may multiply, and the fight might not be worth the effort.
4. DIG IN. When digging up plants to store in pots,
get plenty of the root system. Brush off roots, rinse with water and plant them in containers of fresh enriched potting soil, watering thoroughly afterward.
5. THINK INSIDE THE
BOX. Once you’ve dug up tubers and tender bulbs, gently remove the dirt and let them dry. Nestle them in an open box of peat moss, vermiculite or sand, and store in a cool dark place.
6. MAKE IT INTO A
HOUSEPLANT. Start the process early, while the growing season is still in full swing, or the plant could be weakened by the colder air or reduced sunlight. Move the plant in stages, starting in early autumn. Put the pot in a shaded, sheltered area for a week or two, then bring it indoors and place it near a window. Be aware that growth slows as your plant responds to less light, humidity and fresh air. Often, leaves turn yellow and drop off. This doesn’t mean the plant is dying, just that those leaves didn’t adjust to the reduced light indoors.
7. PREP YOUR POTTED
PLANTS. Before you bring containers inside, remove spent or damaged flowers, stems and leaves. If you discover that the plant is pot-bound—or has grown too large for its container, resulting in tangled and matted roots—go ahead and repot in a larger vessel. Otherwise, wash pot exteriors and saucers, with soap and water. 8. TAKE CUTTINGS. Soft-stemmed plants are good candidates for cuttings. Snip off a few stems, about 6 inches long; remove the lowest leaves, dip in rooting hormone and place in moist vermiculite or well-draining potting mix. Set in a bright location out of direct light, and let the plants take root. Once roots develop, plant the stems in pots and treat them as houseplants until spring.
9. SELECT A PRIME
STORAGE SPOT. For plants that need to go dormant, find a cool space—50 to 60 degrees is ideal—that’s dim and moderately humid. This keeps the plants from struggling to grow and becoming leggy and pale. Prune them back and water just often enough to keep roots moist.
Dig up gladiolus bulbs after a light frost for overwintering.