Alaska is the land of hanging baskets. Here’s how to store yours in winter.

Alaska is the hanging basket capital of the world. Between our Mann Leiser Memorial Greenhouse and the thousands of yardeners who have them, what city can compare? Some Alaskans have been displaying the same fuchsia and tuber begonia plants for 10, 20, 30 years or more.

This is the time of year when those with hanging baskets make plans for keeping them over the winter. Many pay local greenhouses to store theirs. Others take care of the chore at home.

I understand one local nursery that in the past has stored thousands of baskets every winter is not going to offer the service anymore. I have received a great deal of email about the matter. Some folks are simply panicked.

No need for that! Too many of us forget that we are gardeners and don’t need anyone to charge us good money to do a simple, simple job. Alaskan gardeners should be a bit more resilient.

The biggest concern is overwintering fuchsias, be they standards — tree forms — or just the common hanging basket varieties. These are not frost hardy. You think such lovely plants need a lot of care to carry them over. Isn’t this why you paid good money to a commercial greenhouse?

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Listen to the “Teaming with Microbes” podcast with Jeff Lowenfels and Jonathan White:

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Wrong. All you needed was someplace dark — or with very low light — that maintains a cool, 45-55 degree temperature all fall and winter. Surely most Alaskan dwellings have someplace that fits this bill: a garage, unheated mudroom, crawlspace, unheated closet or very cool spare room.


It is so easy. Bring the plants indoors and store them in that special dark, cool spot. Withhold water and just let the leaves die and fall off. Once they do, water lightly every three or four weeks. Do not cut back limbs and branches, which I have suggested in years past. Doing so causes a phytohormone change that results in new branching. Wait until spring.

That is it until early March when the last frost is a month or so away. Take your winter-stored plants out and expose them to light. This is when you shape limbs and branches and get them growing again.

Next of concern are tuberous begonias. Again, it is so easy. Just leave them in their container, let the leaves and stem die back and give them the same cold, dark treatment as fuchsias. Or, dig tubers out of their soil and store them in sawdust, again in the cool location.

That leaves geraniums, really pelargoniums. Most nurseries toss them when you bring in baskets because they get fungal funky and it is easier to just replace them with new ones in the late winter. You can do the same.

We like to pot ours up and grow them over the winter under lights. They bloom under natural light in February, too. By the time spring comes, we’ve taken cuttings and both mothers and daughters are big and bushy and ready for summer.

You can also dig up pelargoniums and store them, each one to its own paper bag stored in your cool spot. Or, you can hang them upside down, in or out of bags, in a dark cool spot. These are retrieved in the spring.

That leaves you with the annuals packaged with your hanging baskets. Replacing them next spring could be your only expense when it comes to baskets next spring. All it takes is a cool, dark spot to save a lot of money that would have gone to a nursery, year in and year out.

Jeff’s Garden Calendar:

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join. There are lots of fall and winter activities. Visit

Mowing: Mow up debris from the winds. It is great microbe food.

Amaryllis: Time to start the dormancy process by withholding water and leaving them in the dark.

Lights: If you garden here, you need supplemental lights, or at least your plants do. This is a good time to set up an area as a “plant camp” where you can take plants this winter and where you can grow a few things of interest.

Gladiola corms and dahlia tubers: Let the first frost cause dieback and then dig them. Store corms in egg cartons or sawdust. Cut dahlia stems to one inch and store the tubers in the clump in sawdust or at the bottom of paper bags.

Jeff Lowenfels

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He is the author of a series of books on organic gardening available at Amazon and elsewhere. He co-hosts the "Teaming With Microbes" podcast.