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Gladioli, dahlias, begonias: It’s time to consider packing them up for winter

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: September 19, 2019
  • Published September 19, 2019

It is the middle of September, almost equinox, and while we have had mid-30s temperatures, as of this writing there is no frost in sight. Still, methinks I am tempting fate, so here goes: what to do when a frost is predicted.

Let’s start with fuchsia. You can check with local nurseries to see if they have room to store yours. If you store at home, you will need a dark, 40- to 50-degree place. I like to bring fall plants into a garage or cool room and let the foliage “die back.” Then I trim each plant into a pyramid and store them. I check them every month or so to make sure their soil has not completely dried out.

Next: pelargoniums. You can keep yours growing indoors, especially if you have lights. They love cool rooms. To store them instead, prune the leggy ones and make sure they are not carrying hitchhiking pests. To store them, I gently pull them from their pots, shake off — but not wash — as much soil as will come off, pull off any flowers and then put each plant upside down in a paper bag. Store at 40 to 50 degrees.

Tuberous begonias do best if just left in their containers in storage. Allow the plant to dry out and keep in that dark spot with the others at 40 to 50 degrees. If you don’t have the room, you can carefully lift each one from its soil, but let the plants die back first so the nutrients in the green parts of the plant go back into the tuber for next year.

Don’t forget those small, fiery, orange and red begonias, which develop tubers. These can be kept over, too. Regular, fibrous begonias and coleus can be dug up and potted into individual containers and brought inside. You can also keep over tomatoes if you give them great light.

Gladioli can take some frost, so if yours have not finished flowering, just leave them. Otherwise, pull the plants and put them, leaves and all, into a paper bag and store in a cool spot. Next spring you can separate the new bulb from the old and start over.

Dahlias multiply during the summer so be careful digging yours. What was one tuber will now be many and resemble a clump of bananas instead of the just one tuber you planted. So, carefully dig around the plant and bring it into the garage. Let the foliage die back and then shake off excess soil. Cut the stem, leaving an inch or so, which will make it easier to divide the tubers next spring. Store in sawdust if you can, or put each clump into its own paper bag. Put bags the dark cool spot you put your other plants.

Rhodochiton can be stored like fuchsia in their pots. Collect seeds before you store yours. Keep these in the dark in a tightly sealed jar.

Cannabis will start flowering when nights are longer than days. They won’t make it to harvest, probably, due to frost, so consider moving inside. Next year, use autoflowering cannabis, a new bud in town and the subject of my next book — out Oct. 22.

If I have left anything off this list, just dig it up, pot it up and look it up on your favorite search engine to see what it needs this winter. Last suggestion, make sure to label everything so you know exactly what you have next spring when you get these things going again.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Garlic! 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23. $5 tastings, $10 bulb purchases with $1 cloves if available. There will be a garlic workshop with the fabulous Will Criner, ABG garden manager, at 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept 24. $45-$55. Register at

Moose repellent: Time to buy and apply Plantskydd. If you have some left over from previous years, it is fine to use.