During the summer, many gardeners fill hanging baskets, planters and containers with annuals. These plants are typically inexpensive, easy to take care of and simply available at the local garden center but not many gardeners know that these same plants can be saved until next summer.
This misconception of annuals starts off with the definition. An annual is a plant that lasts one growing season. These plants do not go into a dormant state and in doing so are killed by a frost. This is much different when compared to a perennial that goes into a dormant state and is not killed by a frost. If annuals are brought indoors before a killing frost, they can be saved until next growing season. While this process seems simple there are a few important steps to follow.
The first step in the process of bringing any plant indoors is the inspection. Inspect the plant for any disease or damage. If the plant is going to be moved indoors in its original container, simply place in a bucket of water until the water level reaches the rim. This will force any ants out of the soil if they are present.
The next step in the process is to determine if the plant needs to be replanted. This is easily done by flipping over the container and looking to see if roots are coming out of the drainage hole. If there are roots showing, just replant the annual into another planter. If there are no roots showing, simply remove any additional plant material that you do not want in the planter.
Once the annual is in the container that you want and it has been debugged, it is time to move indoors but this has to be done gradually. The best approach is to place the plant in a shady location in your home for about one week before moving to a sunny location. This step will allow the plant a chance to become accustomed to the indoor environment, which in turn reduces plant stress.
Annuals that can Easily Move Indoors
The easiest annual plants to move indoors include begonia, geranium, impatiens, coleus, and sweet potato vine. Most of these plants can do double duty as a plant that can be moved directly back outdoors when weather permits but also a source for cuttings.
Begonias are an easy annual to grow indoors and out. The trick to raising healthy begonias is centered on the leaf color. If the leaf is a copper color, then it has a tan and can take direct sunlight. A begonia with a green leaf needs to be placed in a shady location or at least on a windowsill with filtered light.
Begonias typically will become spindly indoors but this can easily be handled by pinching off the top of the stems. If there is a lot of stem and very little leaves, break the stem down to the leaves but do not throw away the stem. These stems can be turned into more plants by merely dipping the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone or just placing the cut stem in a glass of water. Either technique will allow the stem to form roots and in doing so creating another plant.
Geraniums come in several different types. These include scented, regal, trailing and zonal. Depending on the type of geranium you have will determine how you bring it indoors. All three types can simply be brought indoors in a planter or hanging basket but regal and zonal geraniums can be saved in a different way.
This different way requires a paper bag and a plant. To start this process, simply dig up your geranium and shake off as much soil as possible from the roots. Reduce the height of the plant in half and place the whole plant inside a paper bag. Hang the bag in a cool room.
Check the plant once a month. While the vegetation of the plant should shrivel up and die the stem should not. If the stem is shriveling up, place the roots in a bucket of warm water and let soak for one hour. Remove the plant from the bucket, dry off and place back into the paper bag. Return the bag to the cool environment.
To prepare the plant for the summer planting requires counting back four to six weeks from the last frost date of your local area. Once you get this date, you will know when to replant your geranium for summer planting.
Stem cutting can also be taken from all types of geraniums. To do this, just take a cutting from the geranium stem at an angle. This angle is very important to prevent water from pooling up on the stem and causing it to rot.
Once the cutting has been taken, dip into water and then into rooting hormone or just place in water. Place the cutting in flat filled with sand or perlite until the cutting is rooted.
After the cutting has rooted, move to a container and place on a sunny windowsill.
Impatiens are another annual that is easily brought indoors. Since the plant is normally found in a hanging baskets it is easy to just bring the basket indoors and hang in shady location. Typically this plant will not bloom while it is indoors.
When spring comes, cutting can be easily taken from the plant as described previously.
The plant of many colors not only feels at home in the flower garden but also in a pot indoors. The trick to raising coleus indoors is to pinch the stems off. This will cause the plant to put more energy into leaf production and less on flowering. If flower stalks appear, pinch these off.
This plant can also be returned to the outdoor environment when the weather warms or cutting can be taken. Just remember when rooting cuttings, remove any leaves that are touching the soil or water. Depending on your rooting technique.
ORNAMENTAL SWEET POTATO VINE
Ornamental sweet potato vine is a beautiful plant anytime of the year and is a welcome addition to the indoor environment as a hanging plant or on a trellis. It can simply be returned to the outdoors when the temperatures warm or cutting can be taken from the plant. This process is a little different compared to the other cutting described above. To begin this process, simply remove the tips of the vine and place in water. Change the water often to prevent bacteria from building up in the water.
With a little planning, ones planting budget can be stretched by saving certain annuals from a killing frost. When this is done, the gardener not only has a plant to use next gardening season but also a source for cuttings. Utilizing both of these techniques can free up plant material that can be shared and traded, which can expand ones plant inventory without any additional cost.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.