Many of today’s bedding plants are tender perennials or bulbs that can be overwintered. To save these perennials for next year requires some time and a bit of finesse, but has a big payoff come spring. If you have a favorite bedding plant it just may be worth your time to try overwintering it.

Many of today’s bedding plants are tender perennials or bulbs that can be overwintered. To save these perennials for next year requires some time and a bit of finesse, but has a big payoff come spring. If you have a favorite bedding plant it just may be worth your time to try overwintering it.
Impatients, rooted begonias, geranium, and coleus can be started from a cutting. Choose a stem that is young and fleshy that’s free of flowers. Cut six inches off, remove the bottom leaves, and put into a container of water in a sunny window. Change the water every few days while watching for roots. Once it’s rooted, plant in good potting soil. You may need to keep the plant in a plastic dome as it acclimatizes to the soil and new home. Overwintering this way has less chance of bringing in pest or disease with garden soil.
Some tender perennials can be held by forcing it into dormancy. Lantana, geraniums, brugmansia, angel’s trumpet, heliotrope, and tropical hibiscus have done best for me in a dormant condition. Bring the pots indoors, stop fertilizing and watering, and lower light. They will start to lose their leaves and gently go to sleep. Remember to very lightly water them throughout the winter.
I have used both cuttings and dormancy to save my ‘leaf scented and Martha Washington’ geraniums. I managed to keep rosemary, French tarragon, and oregano for several years by taking cuttings. Both tarragon and oregano are winter hardy, but I didn’t want to lose the flavorful plants. To save a special plant is the main reason I go to the extra effort to keep any plant.
Whether it’s called a bulb, corm, tuber, or rhizome; it’s the part saved from the bedding plants. For ease, I’ll refer to the rooted part of the plant as bulbs today.
The first plant most think of is dinnerplate dahlia. The true dinnerplate dahlia is a plant topped with one twelve-inch flower. Unlike the ‘Black Dahlia’, it’s real, but rarely seen in person. And there are so many show stopping dahlias besides the dinnerplate, it’s a shame to pine away time on an almost myth.
Still, you have that dinnerplate tuber and maybe an elephant ear, calla lily, canna, caladium, tuberous begonia, or gladiolus you really want to save.
You will notice the foliage starting to yellow as the nights get cooler. Now’s the time to get the bulbs ready for storage. Should a hard freeze hit before they are dug, remove them quickly before the bulbs are damaged.
Cut the foliage back to a few inches and carefully dig the bulb. Gently hand remove and rinse the soil from bulbs. Remove the old corm on gladiolus; found on the bottom of the new corm. Place in a protected place for a couple weeks to cure except for dahlia. Dahlias can be stored after two days of curing time. Once dry and cured, place in cardboard box with newspaper between all bulbs to prevent them from touching. Store in a darkened place with a temperature of 45°-60°. Label as you store the bulbs. Check monthly for rotten bulbs. Dampen the newspaper if drying or shriveling is noticed.

     Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.