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Saving your plants for another year

Rachel Burrows

Sadly summer is nearly over and we need to start thinking about how to save some of our best plants for next year. Corms and tubers such as gladioli, callas and dahlias can be cleaned off and stored until the spring. Save your best begonias and geraniums to flower again next summer. If you have enjoyed fresh herbs all summer, bring some plants inside to a sunny windowsill. My agapanthus, pineapple lily, amaryllis and oxalis have been enjoying their summer outside in pots. Now is the time to think about bringing them inside as the nights get cooler and there is the possibility of frost.

Lets start with some of the herbs. Most herbs flourish with the high light levels outside and need to slowly get used to lower light levels. I like to move the pots into the garage for a couple of weeks before moving them indoors. This will also protect them from any early frosts. It is extremely important to examine all plants very carefully for pests such as aphids and whitefly. Do not move them in with the rest of your houseplants until you have washed the plants with a solution of dishwashing soap and water at least 3 times over 3 weeks. This should kill off all the life stages of any pests. This applies to all plants, not just herbs. Herbs suitable for indoor use include chervil, dill, fennel, mint, basil, chives, parsley and scented geraniums. I leave my bay tree outside until late October, as it will withstand light frosts. This also helps to kill off any pests. Water your herbs with tepid water when nearly dry. To help keep moisture in the air, group plants together. Mist them regularly and stand the pots on pebbles to ensure good drainage and humidity.

There are several ways to save geraniums. I like to bring in the best plants and enjoy the flowers during the winter. I usually take cuttings from the plants so that I can have several new plants in the spring. Another way to save your geraniums is to cut them back, let them dry out and store in paper bags in a cool, dark, dry area. Plant them up in the spring 6 weeks before you want to put them outside.

Tuberous begonias must be dug before a heavy frost or when the flowering starts to slow. Store in peat moss or vermiculite in a cool, dry place, between 5C and 10C. They will need starting 2 to 3 months prior to outdoor planting time. Begonias can also be allowed to partially dry out and be kept in a frost-free garage. Water occasionally during the winter.

There are so many amazing colours of gladioli that you will certainly want to keep your favourite ones for another year. After the flowers and leaves turn brown, lift the corms with a fork and shake off the soil. Cut off the top stems and leaves a couple of inches above the corm. Let the corms dry, uncovered, in trays in a cool airy shed or garage for 10 days. Clean off any remaining soil and check carefully for any rot and destroy any corms that show signs of decay. Store the cleaned corms in mesh bags, old stockings or flats in a frost-free area. Keep the different varieties separate and label carefully.

Canna lilies can be lifted when frost has blackened the leaves. Let them air dry for a few hours, being careful not to let them freeze. Clean off most of the soil but dont wash them, store in dry sand or peat moss at 5c. Calla lilies can be treated in a similar fashion but stored in slightly moist peat moss. Check regularly during the winter and if the tubers seem shriveled, water lightly.

Dahlias need a couple of good frosts before digging. Cut off the blackened foliage and turn upside down to drain the stems. Move to a dry garage or basement and let dry for a

couple of weeks. Store in dry vermiculite or peat moss at 5C to 13C. Check occasionally during the winter and water lightly if the tubers are shrinking. Remember to label the different varieties and colours.

As for my amaryllis, they are ready to move into a lower light position. I move them into the garage and let the pots dry out and the foliage slowly withers. They can then be given a rest in a cool, dark and dry place. Bring them back into the light, water and feed them with a diluted houseplant fertilizer about 1 month before you wish them to flower.

My pineapple lily and oxalis will stay in an unheated basement until next March. You can

treat agapanthus like this or bring the plant into the house and hope that it will flower. As you can tell there is no room for my car in my garage during the months of September and October! Given a little care most tender plants can give you several seasons of colour and enjoyment.