QUESTION: I would like to know how to “winter over” geraniums.
By now, anything you want to save from frost should be indoors. So, now that they’re already inside, here are general guidelines for keeping geraniums happy. These tips are from garden author Barbara Pleasant’s book The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual:
Ideally, you would have moved your geraniums to a shady spot outdoors in later summer, to begin to acclimate them to reduced light. Even when you do that, they lose many of their leaves inside, so don’t be surprised when they begin to look very bare. Clean up the leaves, and prune off up to half of the long branches.
They do well as houseplants in bright light from a south or west window, in rooms of cool to average temperature, and in good potting soil. Pleasant suggests feeding them every two weeks with a balanced houseplant food. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings but don’t let them get so dry that the plants wilt. Blooming should resume after a few weeks, she says.
QUESTION: Is there a successful way to save Boston ferns over the winter without bringing them into the house? (Too messy!)
Most information sources say that the best way to save Boston ferns over the winter is to treat them as house plants, but even Barbara Pleasant (see above) says that keeping them healthy through winter can be a challenge. They need bright light and high humidity, so you should plan on frequent misting. Southern Living Garden Book advises to cut back all the side fronds to the rim of the pot and leave the top growth about 10 inches high. Place the pot next to the brightest window you can find, and keep the soil moist. Even with that, fronds will break, leaves will turn brown, and a mess will be made, so keep the broom handy, and send the fern back outdoors after the last frost in early spring.
Time to hang up the tools? For some, maybe, but a gardener can always find a reason to be
outdoors, even in winter. To help you plan, check out the four-month, Fall & Winter Landscape & Garden Calendar in Saturday’s Tennessean. A short list of garden classes and events in the coming months is at Tennessean.com.