The end of the summer doesn’t mean that cold-winter gardeners have to say goodbye to tropical plants and tender perennials. Even better, with this trick you won’t need to rearrange your whole house to accommodate large tropicals for the winter.
The easiest way to keep your tropical plants and tender perennials for next year’s garden is to plan to propagate them by rooting stem cuttings. This way you don’t need to dig up and pot a plant that’s been growing in the garden, or find space inside for plants that are in large garden containers. All you need to do is snip a length of leafy stem and insert it into a small pot of damp potting mix. You can even root several stems in one pot.
Fresh growth will take root easily, so encourage some new stems a few weeks before the expected first frost in your area. To do this, just give the plant an all-over haircut, trimming it back by two-thirds or so. This will spur the tender perennial or tropical plant to put out fresh growth. Within several weeks, these new stems will be long enough for you to snip and pot up.
Keep the soil in your cuttings’ pots damp, but not soggy. You can keep the pots enclosed in plastic bags to help conserve the moisture. You’ll know the cuttings have taken root when they resist a gentle tug. Then you can remove the bag and tend to these tropicals and tender perennials as you would any houseplant, with regular watering and good light.
Your cuttings can go back into your garden in two ways next spring:
- You can transplant them as you would any young tender perennial or tropical you bought at the nursery (harden them off first).
- Or if they’ve become leggy, you can take a fresh round of cuttings from these plants themselves. In late winter, cut them back to encourage fresh growth, as described above. Then take and root cuttings of that fresh growth. Plant those newly rooted young cuttings into the garden or your garden containers.
Good candidates for this treatment include the following tender perennials and tropical plants:
- Florist geranium (Pelargonium)
- African blue basil (Ocimum ‘African Blue’)