Wintering Geraniums, Fuchsias & Begonias
When cooler temperatures arrive in the fall, it is time to give some thought to preparing tender plants for their winter resting place. Fuchsias and geraniums can be saved, providing they receive considerable attention. Tuberous begonias are easily wintered.
Geraniums and begonias must-be taken indoors before the first heavy frost or they are apt to rot and die. Most varieties of fuchsias will tolerate temperatures down to about 25 to 28 degrees before serious damage is done. However, don't take a chance. Start preparing them for winter before the first heavy frost.
To winter begonias, simply take them indoors, placing them in a cool, well-ventilated room. Begin withholding water from them and the foliage will die back. Within a few weeks you can easily remove the stem and leaves without damage to the tuber. Next, remove the tuber from the soil, clean it off, dust it with a complete soil dust and store it on top of dry peat moss until it is ready to be restarted early next year.
Fuchsias and geraniums require somewhat similar conditions for wintering. Of the many methods that can be used, the most popular one is to treat them like houseplants all winter. This method simply requires that the plants be potted in containers and placed either in a cool basement or garage where they will be warm enough to keep from freezing. The plants require limited sun and only weekly watering. Any leggy growth should be kept pruned back and the plant should be fertilized about once a month with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. These plants should be repotted into fresh soil in January or February and continue to be treated as houseplants until it is time to set them outdoors. After repotting, move them into a warmer room where they will get plenty of light, and begin a regular watering and fertilizing schedule.
Over the years I have found that wintered-over geraniums and fuchsias are generally quite slow to bloom the second year, especially geraniums. They tend to grow taller and produce more foliage than freshly started plants, so sometimes it is wiser to take cuttings of your plants when you bring them inside. This can also be done in February or March.
Geranium slips are taken-by cutting just below a node. Each cutting should be about four inches long and should be allowed to set for a few hours before being placed in freshwater, sharp sand. This process will produce a callus on the end of the cutting,
Fuchsia cuttings are taken about two or three inches long, cutting just below a node.
On both the fuchsia and geranium cuttings, remove all leaves except the top few and cut those back about halfway. Then dip the cuttings into a rooting hormone, shaking off any excess hormone powder.
Place the cuttings in a container of freshwater sand, about two inches apart and firm the sand around them. Place them in a cool, light room, water weekly or as needed. Do not apply fertilizer to the tender cuttings.
After the cuttings have rooted, pot them into two and one half inch pots and keep them in a cool, light room. When they have developed a complete root system in these pots, repot them into four-inch pots. Water weekly or as needed and fertilize them about once a month.
Two other ways of wintering geraniums are by hanging them upside-down, bare root, in the basement or garage or by placing them in air-tight plastic bags enclosed with a small quantity of moist, (not wet) moss or peat moss. I have tried both methods and they do not work for me. However, many gardeners claim excellent results, so it may be worth a try. Plants treated by either method should be potted indoors, in soil, in late February or March.
Some gardeners claim good results in watering fuchsias under the crawl-space of the house, watering about once every two weeks. Be sure plants placed in this location are treated with a complete insecticide-fungicide dust
Geraniums that are placed in the crawl space under the house or close to the foundation of the home often will survive a mild winter.
Any time you pot fuchsias or geraniums, they should be placed into a soil mixture that is one-third each of garden loam, freshwater sand and peat moss or leaf mold. A similar commercial mixture is also satisfactory.
Hobbyists often like to winter fuchsias by burying them in a trench or bin about three feet deep. Place about four to six inches of rock at the bottom of this trench or bin for drainage. Then add about four inches of sawdust or straw, or a similar material. Prune the fuchsias back, as you would if you were treating them as houseplants. Lay the plants on their side, not upright-, on the layer of sawdust or straw. Dust the plants with an all-purpose insecticide-fungicide dust. Then cover them and the remainder of the trench or bin with sawdust or straw. Be sure the plants are watered during the winter. When wintered in this manner, the plants are usually a little slower getting started the following spring.
Whatever method you select to winter your tender plants, be sure they do not dry out over the winter. Also remember that they should not get too wet or their roots will rot and the plants will die. Adopt a regular watering and feeding schedule to ensure success.
See Also: Protecting Plants During Cold Weather