Time for your floral preseason workout

GARDENINGFebruary 8, 2012 

Enough snow. There isn't anything else to say about it, except "enough." Not even a remark about all the nitrogen that it contains and how good the deluge will be for our lawns this spring. Who cares? Enough snow.

It is amazing, however, that it hasn't stopped people from reminding me that it is February and that means it is time to get ready for spring. Really. I call this the preseason workout. Not everyone is ready and not everyone has to go through the chores.

To start: Sometime this month you might want to start bringing those fuchsia, dahlias and tuberous begonias down in the crawl space into the light and get them sprouting.

Begin with the fuchsia (yes, "FEWK-see-ah"). These are in pots or containers and all you need to do with haul them out and give them some warm water. Soak them for 15 minutes in a sink or bathtub. Just nice, warm water. Then expose them to light, preferably artificial, but if you only have windows, give them the best and turn them every few days to keep things even. They will sprout and after that you can pinch and shape your plants appropriately.

Tuberous begonias can be treated in the same fashion. Before you water, "blow" out the soil that has accumulated in the concave portion of the tuber. Be careful, tiny pink growth buds may already be growing. Then water and expose to light. Try not to water inside the tuber. The roots form on the outside only.

If you just have tubers, then place them in a shallow container or flat filled with great soil or compost. Push them in, actually, but only up to the rim of the tuber and keep soil out of the concave side. Then water and give light. You can develop bigger flowers on upright begonias by limiting the number of stems that will develop. Do not over-water as the tubers are already full of water. Just don't let them dry out. Once a week should do it.

Many gardeners just bring begonia tubers out to the light and skip the watering part. They start when the pink growth buds develop. Some claim this makes a better plant during the summer months.

It is a bit early to start dahlia tubers, but it is not too early to give them some light so that they develop eyes. Just get them out and lay them on newspaper and leave them be. You can mist them twice a week if you want.

Finally, there is the question of pelargoniums. If you have live ones, it is time to take cuttings if you want or to just cut back what you have to shape them. Then let them grow. Cuttings should callous over for a few days and then be planted in damp sand

Some store theirs upside down in paper bags. It is time to retrieve these and see how you did. Start at the tips and cut back down the stems until you "hit" green. Don't touch the root system. Pot up the plant and clean it up. If you don't "hit" green, your plant(s) didn't make it. Usually this is because it got too cold or way too hot while the plants were in storage.

Finally, if you are lacking any of these plants, you can get them at local nurseries. Why not give your favorites a visit this weekend? The seed racks are out, too. Forget about the snow.


Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at teamingwithmicrobes.com.

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