Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
October, 2011
Regional Report

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Apricot angel's trumpet is a large flowered species, with sweetly fragrant pendant flowers, aging from white to apricot-peach.

Prolonging the Life of Favorite Annuals

I love growing annuals and tender perennials in containers on my back patio. Fuchsias and coleus are my favorites, but there's a special place in my heart for angel's trumpet. These tender plants must be replanted each year or taken indoors or into a greenhouse to overwinter.

Because they grow so large, moving them would be a daunting task. Aside from being so large, many of the plants are simply too heavy to move. And where would I put them? To solve the problem, I take cuttings, root them in water, and overwinter them near windows or in a spare room.

Simple Propagation
My quick-and-easy propagating method was born of desperation the first year I grew an 'Apricot' angel's trumpet. I am charmed by this plant with its exquisitely creased and folded pink-colored silken trumpets. By day, the blossoms hang beneath the leafy canopy, but at dusk, they flare upward and outward, releasing a sweet sultry perfume.

I didn't want to lose this plant so I decided to take cuttings and hope for the best. I cut 6-inch shoots and stuck them into a glass of water, then set them on a windowsill in the kitchen. Within a few days roots began to emerge from the stems.

I was so encouraged with the outcome that I began rooting other soft-stemmed plants in water, including fuchsias, geraniums, and coleus. I cut the stems just below a pair of leaves, removed the lower leaves and put the cuttings in glasses or bottles. The roots usually appear at the leaf nodes. After filling the containers with water to below the remaining leaves, I set them in a windowsill, away from direct sunlight. North-facing windowsills work well. Coleus roots in about a week and most others within two weeks. After several roots emerge, I transfer them to 4- or 6-inch pots partially filled with commercial potting soil. I add potting soil to within half an inch of the top, and water thoroughly.

A Winter Home
To accommodate the cuttings, we turned our guest room into a plant room. It has two south-facing and two north-facing windows. We turn the heat down and the temperatures approximate those of a cool greenhouse (55 degrees F at night and 65 degrees F during the day). A glassed-in porch where the temperature doesn't drop below 40 degrees F would also work.

If your growing space doesn't have enough light for sun-loving plants like angel's trumpets, you can improve the situation by installing fluorescent lights. I've found that shop-light fixtures with full-spectrum fluorescent tubes, suspended on chains so they can be raised or lowered, work well. Plant leaves should be at least 10 inches from the lights.

Tips to Ensure Success
Plants need good air circulation so be careful not to over-crowd, and be sure to choose the right plants for the exposure you can provide. Eastern, western, and southern exposures are best for flowering plants, while foliage plants do best in a north-facing window.

In general, I think temperature is less critical than light. The coleus, which needs less light and warmer temperatures than the room provides, suffers through winter. It barely survives, but rebounds when I take it outdoors in the spring. Many other plants prefer it cool, and when the outdoor temperature goes above 40 degrees F, I open the window at the opposite end of the room. Plants like fresh air.

By early spring, my cuttings are strapping plants, and the sooner I can get them outside, the better. In April, and sometimes as early as March, I start putting the most cold-tolerant plants, like angel's trumpet and fuchsia, outside on the north side of the house. They get some early-morning sun, but it isn't hot enough to damage their tender leaves. At night, I bring them all in.

The indoor-outdoor regimen can be labor-intensive, but it's worth the effort. You have to introduce these housebound plants to the outdoors gradually. Even sun-lovers must be exposed only to early-morning sun at first. That's why the north side of the house is a perfect spot, because they get morning sun in increasing doses as the season progresses.

If all this sounds like a lot of trouble, it really isn't. During the cold months, I usually visit the plant room daily just to make myself feel better. There's not much to do, except pick off a dead leaf or two. In the spring, my garden gets a big head start; I've saved a bit of money, and I've had the pleasure of enjoying my favorite tender plants all year long.

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