Protect tender plants from winter frosts | Love The Garden

Protect tender plants from winter frosts

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By Steve Dalton, Chief Gardener
Orange primrose plant covered in frost

Before the first frosts strike, dig up tender plants such as geraniums and fuchsias and store them in pots over winter. These can be planted out when the worst of the cold weather and the threat of frost have passed.

As these plants will be going into a semi-dormant stage where growth is not actively encouraged, long stems can be cut back and leaves showing signs of disease removed. Cutting plants back like this means they take up less space and can more easily be protected from frosts. I pot up in spent potting compost previously used in hanging baskets, pots and other containers. This previously used compost contains very little nutrients and will not encourage soft sappy growth, just provide a trickle of plant foods to keep the plant alive.

Dahlia tubers in particular need to be dug up and stored for winter after the first severe frosts.

The foliage of dahlias will turn black immediately after the first severe frost and then it’s time to store the tubers for next year’s flowering. First cut down the stems to about 15 cm (6in) above the ground and place the top growth on the compost heap. Lift the tubers carefully with a fork, starting well away from the stems to avoid damage. If you need to keep any order of colour, size or shape in your garden design, tie a label to the stem at this stage to indicate its colour and size. Clean off excess soil from between the fingers of the tubers and stand the roots upside down in a shed or garage so the stem can drain any water away and the roots can dry off completely before storage.

Check the tubers for rotten areas and cut these out completely before placing in boxes of dry peat or sand. Cover with several layers of newspaper and keep in a dry, frost-free place for the rest of the winter and check for new growth in early spring.


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