Winterizing Plants

Remember when I got really excited this spring to buy oodles of plants to spread throughout the planters outside? Well, now that it is (almost) winter here, temperatures are dropping and the first frost is just around the corner. I had a hard time thinking about all those dear plants and how I just dealt them the death card by leaving them outside. Okay, that’s a little intense, as I knew those plants would probably only last a few years. Then, I saw an article about winterizing plants, and that got me thinking that perhaps I could save some of my favorites. Yup, I am playing favorites with my plants. For my first try at winterizing plants, I wanted to choose a manageable amount since we are far from having a greenhouse in the basement. My lucky plants? The geraniums and ferns.

First, the ferns. Those are pretty easy since they are in pots. I brought them inside and did a little research. It seems that these ferns (Boston Ferns to be exact) will do great over the winter. All they need is some sunlight, lots of water, and some humidity. The humidity will definitely be the hardest, but the temperature in my house will just have to do. One little trick I did do was to buy a sprayer so I can mist the plants with water every day. This can help simulate humidity. Can’t hurt to try, can it? So those are now safely in the house. Hopefully those will stay alive indoors this winter. Nothing too hard about those.

Now how about those geraniums? Since they were in big planters, option one was to bring the while planter into the house. Not ideal and certainly messy. Also, where would I put those plants? Option two, try the risky way of winterizing them. All it took was a few simple steps.

1. Protect your plants from cold weather and a potential frost. I didn’t get my act together before the weather got colder and a frost warning snuck up on me. If this is the case with you, don’t worry (but don’t let it happen too often). You can protect your plants from harsh weather for a little while by covering them with linens. This will protect them from having the frost reach them. But hurry, you don’t want to risk their delicate branches out there too long!

2. Get a little dirty in the soil and dig! Gently dig around the plants to carefully dislodge the roots from the soil. Try and keep as many roots as possible. Then do a little shaky, shake to get the roots free of soil.

3. Soak the roots. I filled up a big bucket and just let those free roots get their fill of water.

4. Wrap the roots. I took some old newspapers and soaked them in water until saturated. I them wrapped them around the roots to provide moisture throughout the days.

5. Put a bag on it! Ok, so everything I read said to put the plants in paper bags. I did not, so it is up to you on this one. My plants were a wet mess. They weren’t going to make it two minutes before they ripped a hole in paper bags. So I decided to put them in plastic for now. Once they have less leaves and such, therefore not retaining so much moisture, they may make the move. Also, my research said to hang the plants upside down. Easily done in a plastic bag. Not so easy in a paper bag.

6. Hang ’em high (you hang ’em low, hang ’em low – Bonus points to whoever can name that song reference). Hang the plants upside down in a dark, cook room, like a basement. See how brilliantly it works with the plastic bags. Hopefully that’s not too important. Also, a few sources didn’t even say to use bags, but with all the leaves falling off, I didn’t want that mess. (Ahh! This is a first look into our basement. Let’s make this a no-judgement zone! I have plans to organize it…one day.)

7. Maintenance. The roots need to stay moist. Soak the roots in water about once a month, recover with wet newspaper, and rehang. eventually the plant will lose all its flowers, leaves and limbs, but the roots should still be alive.

8. Revive! Come about March it’s time to plant those babies! I plan to start mine indoors for about a month and then move outside when the weather is more reliable in April.

Anyone else out there who has winterized plants? Any tips or secrets? Anything I did wrong? Crossing fingers and toes in the hope that these last! Yikes, what a wait for before and after pictures!

PS – I don’t know if this works for other plants. I just decided to save the geraniums and saw a lot of success with it!