Save your favorite plants over winter and enjoy them for longer

Published Nov 12, 2017 at 9:00am

Geraniums, other annuals and tender bulbs such as calidium, cannas or dahlias cannot survive our winters.

However, they can be lifted out of the ground and saved indoors; or, in the case of geraniums and other annuals, carried over as actively growing plants indoors. Saving plants can be a real cost-saver when the next gardening season arrives.

Here are some tips to help you:


These plants do not need a dormant or resting period. You can bring them indoors to a sunny window or you can save them in their dormant stage. If you bring entire plants indoors, prune them back by about one third. Find the brightest spot in your house; or supplement with artificial lighting.  

Geraniums can also be kept as dormant plants. Prior to frost, dig out the plants and carefully remove all the soil from the roots. Hang the plants upside down in a cool, dark place where the temperature is 45 to 50 degrees and the humidity is low.

A cool, dry basement is perfect. Take the plants down monthly, and soak the roots in water for 1 to 2 hours. After frost damage in spring has passed, cut the plants back to about one third of their original height and plant in the garden.

You can also start them earlier by planting them into a container and growing them indoors before transplanting outside.

Saving Tender Bulbs

Cannas, calla lilies, and dahlias won’t survive our winters.

These plants must go through a dormant or sleeping period over the winter in order to grow again next year. Don’t bring your tubers or bulbs in too early; wait until a hard frost has browned the foliage before getting them ready to bring indoors for storage. Cut the tops back to about 4 to 5 inches.

Gently and carefully lift the clump out using a garden fork; be sure to go out enough distance away from the crown of the plant to insure that you don’t cut the tubers. Remove as much of the soil as possible without damaging roots.

Allow the clumps to dry in the air for several hours. Then store in a dry, cool, frost-proof area. To avoid clumps drying out, wrap the clumps in newspapers or pack them in boxes of peat moss, vermiculite, dry sawdust, or sand. Keep an eye on them over the winter months. Be sure they don’t dry out; mist them lightly if necessary. Also be sure they don’t suffer from excessive moisture/humidity which can rot the tubers.  

Other Plants

You can easily save other plants such as coleus or impatiens either by bringing pots indoors or taking cuttings of your favorites. Many annuals will root easily in water and then can be transplanted into potting soil. You can also bring herbs indoors.

Keep in mind that many of these plants will want as much light as possible along with warmer temperatures.

Consider using artificial grow lights or heat mats to supplement what you don’t have in your house. Select your healthiest plants and look them over carefully before bringing them inside; check for any insects. Consider spraying them first with an insecticidal soap.

Transplanting them into fresh potting soil will also help prevent insect issues later on. Don’t expect the plants to bloom as well as they did outside; the light is different indoors. Herbs won’t produce as much either. However, it’s still a joy to have your favorite plants inside with you when those cold, snowy days of winter arrive.

If you follow a few simple steps, you’ll also save money next gardening season! Enjoy a little of your garden indoors this winter!