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Vermont Garden Journal: Overwintering Annuals

Begonia is one of the easiest annuals to try to overwinter by pruning them and bringing them indoors.

I always feel a bit sad this time of year for my annual flowers. Some have just come into their own, only to be nipped by frost. While it’s easy to buy new plants in spring, some varieties just beg to be overwintered. But before you go digging up your prized flowers to bring indoors there are a few tips to keep in mind.

First, not all annuals overwinter easily. Some just can’t adjust to the diminishing light levels. The easiest to try include geranium, fuchsia, begonia, and coleus. Prune back these annuals by up to 1/2 to fit them in your indoor space. You can also take cuttings from large plants, root them with rooting hormone powder and overwinter these rooted cuttings instead of the mother plant to save room. Dig up annuals in the ground now and pot them up with potting soil. Place the pots in a protected spot outdoors for another week or so to get them acclimated to low light levels. Choose only insect and disease free plants. There’s nothing worse than bringing pest-infested plants indoors to spread bugs on your houseplants. For all plants remove dead leaves and quarantine them for a few weeks once indoors. Watch for aphids, white flies, mealybugs, scale and other insects and spray plants with insecticidal soap to kill them. Place your annuals in the sunniest window you have, or under grow lights. Group them together sitting on a tray of clean gravel filled with water. Low light and low humidity can kill your plants in winter. Don’t fertilize and water sparingly. The goal is just to keep the plants alive, not stimulate new growth.

And now for this week's tip, dig up sweet potato tubers now. Carefully remove them from the soil and place them in a well-ventilated, warm, room out of direct sun for a few weeks to dry. Store in a dry, 60F room for 6 weeks before eating. During that time the starches will turn into sugar, creating the sweet tubers we all love.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about fritillaria. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.


Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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