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August 31, 2013

1 - There are several way to prepare houseplants for winter, but now is a good time to start.

Yard and Garden August 31, 2013

Q.

It is still hot, but I was considering the fact that winter is coming. I have a lot of house plants that I will need to bring indoors in a couple of months, but they are large and the space I have for them indoors is limited. I especially want to save my geraniums and begonias. Is it a good idea to cut them back or should I leave them intact?

A.

You are wise to begin planning ahead for wintering your house plants. Late summer is a good time to get the plants into good condition for the winter.

You have enough time to cut them and allow new growth to begin before winter. If you have a location indoors with that is well-lit and not too hot, they should grow well through into the winter. The begonias should bloom through the winter for you. The geraniums may bloom before spring if they enter the winter in good condition and receive enough light while indoors.

Geraniums may also overwinter well if stored in a cool location where temperatures never drop below freezing and remain consistently below 50 degrees. Under these conditions you may even be able to remove soil from their roots and store them in paper bags. Geraniums are succulent, storing a large quantity of water in their stems, allowing them to be overwintered in this strange manner. When I lived in Montana, I met gardeners who stored unpruned geraniums removed from the soil and hanging by their roots in a humid root cellar. Winters were long there, but the constant cool temperatures and humidity of the cellar allowed them to survive the winter in this manner.

Both geraniums and begonias may be grown from cuttings. If you trim the plants to reduce their size, you can start new plants from the trimmings. Begonias will usually root readily if their cut ends are put into cups of water. If the leaves receive enough light, roots should form in a few weeks and the new plants can be potted up. They will be small and take little space, replacing the older, larger plant, or they can be given to friends. The geraniums will root more readily in a moist potting soil. The geraniums will also benefit from treatment with rooting hormones. Cool soil will slow root development, so keep the plants in a bright, warm place until roots are formed.

If you will keep the old plants, it is a good idea to repot them in late summer to allow time for new root development. Replacing the old soil with fresh, high quality potting soil, reduces the chance of damage to leaves and roots by mineral salts accumulated in the old soil from watering and fertilizing. Gently wash much of the old soil from around the roots, and then replace in a slightly larger pot with fresh potting soil. Washing away the soil removes much of the mineral salts even if some soil remains on the roots and the roots will not be damaged by drying out. Water the plants well and keep them in a bright location while they reestablish in their new pots and soil.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd.
SW, Los Lunas, NM 87031.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist emeritus with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating