A GROWING CONCERN: Overwinter for a beautiful spring

TODAY WE ARE already past mid-October, in fact we are now at the beginning of mid-fall.

We all can see how early it is getting dark and we are all seeing the mercury drop at night.

Soon, so very soon, cold freezing weather will be here to stay for a few months.

This has many of my clients looking around their yard.

As per these many clients requests, I would like to explain two techniques for overwintering fuchsias and other worthwhile plants such as geranium, lantana, passion vine, foliage plants or other frost-sensitive plants.

First and foremost, let us all realize that when we are overwintering a plant, our intent is to have this plant survive until next year. We are not interested, nor do we care about, flowers, buds or nice lush, thick foliage. We care about producing the healthy robust plant for next year.

Flowers take a lot of energy and redirect the way a plant is growing, so as we first decide which plants we are going to over-winter, we begin the process of removing all flowers and flower buds.

That process is usually very simple because each and every shoot or stem we cut back to a few inches of several nodes in length.

Yes, even if that fuchsia stem is 32-inches long, and yes, even when those gorgeous geraniums are 28-inches high, both these plants get pruned down to 3- to 5-inches high.

Next, after your own personal shock from this drastic cutback subsides, cut or strip away 75 percent of the largest leaves.

Remove all dead limbs, stems and branches along with any yellow or blemished leaves.

Now, you have a very nice, low branch bunch of stubble with a few tiny yellowish leaves.

At this juncture, a healthy dose of fertilizer, particularly bone meal and blood meal, is extremely beneficial and wise.

Now comes the fun.

After your plant is dug up, potted, cut back, fertilized and leaf stripped, an extremely bright, warm and sunny location is mandatory for producing a robust plant.

If you have less than a very bright light location to overwinter these plants, they will stretch, becoming spindly, weak, leggy plants and produce yellowish leaves. But a well-lit area is only the first requirement.

These plants will need a constant weekly care regime in order to grow a superior product.

Each week, turn the plants slightly and again remove any and all flower buds as soon as they appear (the sooner the better).

When the leaves get to their mature size, throughout the winter, cut them away too. And finally, as new shoots and stems develop and grow upward, make sure to continually pinch them back.

As a super bonus round, you can pinch back these new lush stems and use them as new little cuttings.

By dipping the ends in a rooting hormone, such as root tone, and propagating these new cuttings, even more plants can be produced.

The goal is to keep the plant short, flower-free and constantly leaf-stripped so it is a nice, plump, big plant until March.

Then in March, let these plants go!

All your pinching, pruning, dis-budding and leaf-stripping has pent-up a lot of energy and has produced many new branches.

With a new dose of fertilizer given at this time, the plant will explode with flowers and leaves.

Slowly condition to plant in outside conditions and make sure you wait to plant it until all chances of frost have passed.

Overwintering is a great way to not only keep expensive and desirable plants from year-to-year, but it is also an excellent method to enhance their size and value.

And remember, as we move indoors and the weather changes, please … stay well all!

________

Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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