Move some of your garden plants inside once the growing season ends

  • Article by: DIGGING IN DEB BROWN
  • Updated: August 16, 2009 - 10:36 AM

You can move some of your favorite garden plants inside once the growing season ends.

Now that the nights are cooler, it's time to think about bringing a few flowering annuals indoors for all or part of the winter.

Overwintering plants that we normally grow as annuals is a way to get a few more months of flowers or to save the plants to use outdoors next summer.

There are a couple of tricks to it, though. Before you bring any plant indoors, make sure to clean the foliage by swishing the plant upside-down in a tub of lukewarm water mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid. That should help get rid of insects that may hitchhike a ride inside. (You don't need to treat plants with an insecticide unless you see an infestation. And then it's probably not a good idea to bring that plant indoors. Those pests could easily spread to other plants.)

Once inside, the plants need lots of light, even though they may have thrived in light shade in your garden. Because we have fewer hours of daylight in fall and winter, you need to pack more light into that limited time.

Here are some tips for getting a few popular annuals to survive inside:

OVERWINTERING COLEUS

Q I have an exceptional coleus growing on my deck. Can I keep it over the winter?

A Yes. Coleus overwinters best near a sunny window in a cool room. The brighter the light, the more compact the plant will remain. If there's too little light, the stems will become spindly.

If your coleus blooms indoors, nip off the flowers as soon as they appear. They're neither attractive nor showy and will detract from the colorful foliage.

In spring, trim back the stems and take the plants outside once the threat of frost has passed. New growth that develops outdoors will be more robust.

MILDEW-FREE BEGONIAS

Q I'd like to save some of my wax begonias over winter, but I've tried it before and they've developed mildew. How can I keep them healthy indoors?

A It's quite common for wax begonias (also known as fibrous-rooted begonias) to develop powdery mildew when they're transferred indoors in fall. Because powdery mildew thrives under the same conditions most people prefer in their home (warm and dry), there's no way to guarantee that begonias will remain disease-free. But here are some things you can do:

• Bring them indoors earlier. Don't wait until frost threatens.

• Choose only healthy-looking plants and remove any damaged portions.

• Wash both stems and leaves, which can harbor mildew spores.

• Place begonias in a bright, sunny window.

• Don't crowd the plants. Allow air to circulate around them.

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