I’ve been attempting to salvage some of my summer bedding plants this week. There are a few plants that I have in my garden that are worth saving for next year.
I have a few geraniums, or pelergoniums as they are really called that I am putting in my polythene tunnel for a few weeks along side some begonias. Both these types of plants are sensitive to frost so I will eventually have to bring them indoors where I’m going to try to over winter them for next year. I have a very bad track record for keeping plants indoors though as they either die from lack of water or get eaten by greenfly. I remember last year trying to microwave the pests growing on my busy-lizzies. The greenfly survived but the plants ended up in the compost bin. Space is at a premium in our house and the window ledges aren’t practical for putting pots on, as they are too narrow so I try not to have too many plants in the house. The only one that has survived my neglect is a money plant (Crassula argentea) or Jade plant, as they are also known. This plant has managed to live quite happily with little or no attention for the past six months.
I have a couple of fuchsias in the garden that will want some form of shelter now that the nights are getting cold. There is the common hedgerow fuchsia and other hardy ones such as “Tom Thumb” that will withstand the frost around the coast, all they need is a mulch of straw or dry grass put around their crowns to protect them. The more tender shrubs that are in containers and hanging baskets will need that little extra care.
After flowering all summer, fuchsias, like gardeners, need to have a rest period. If you have the plants in larger, mixed containers, take out the fuchsia and pot up into it’s own container, make sure that there are no grubs in the old soil such as the dreaded vine weevil (small curled up white grub with an orange head) as these will eat the roots over the winter and you will be left with a dead twig stuck in the pot in spring. The compost should be just damp to the touch, as they don’t need much water when they are not growing.
Cut back the stems of the plant by about half with a sharp pair of secateurs. The aim is to create an even, well shaped specimen that you can start into growth again next spring.
The leaves will probably have started to die and drop off already, but if there are any left on the plant they are best removed as they could cause pest and disease problems when the plant is in storage.
Label the plant and put it in a cool frost -free place, check the plant every six weeks and give them a drop of water if the compost is very dry. Don’t over water, as this is the main reason for the plants dying.
REVIVING IN SPRING.
It’s probably a bit early to talk about what to do in spring but if I don’t tell you now I will probably forget until next summer and by then it will be too late. So, in late February or March, bring out the plants and put them in a warm, well-lit place. Don’t be alarmed if they look dry and twiggy (unless you didn’t check for vine weevil) because in a short space of time they will be covered in fresh, new growth. If you are worried that the plant might be dead, scrape back a tiny piece of bark to see if the wood underneath is green, if it is then the plant is still alive.
Give the pots a little water every few days and mist the woody stems with tepid water as this will help to soften the stems and encourage the buds to break. If you have the plants somewhere near the kitchen the steam from the pan full of boiling spuds will have the same effect. When the plant is safely back in growth, start to feed with a balanced plant food.
When the new growth on the plant reaches a couple of inches, nip them off, pinch out the growing tip and either push into a small pot with some moist potting compost added or simply rest them on the side of a glass of water, they root very easily. This will increase your stock and save you money on your bedding plants next year.
CARING FOR STANDARDS
If you have a standard fuchsia (the ones that grow on a long stick) then you would probably have paid a lot of money for it. For this reason alone it would be worth trying to hold on to it until next year. The stem is the most vulnerable part of the plant, so protect it with a length of pipe insulation tubing. The pot head can be protected with horticultural fleece or bubble plastic. When you revive it in spring, lay it on its side to encourage the sap to flow to the top of the plant.