09 March 2014

Time To Wake Up

For the past three years or so, I have saved a few plants from the annual winter kill in order to replant in the spring. This is done either by keeping the plants going, or putting them into hibernation. I try out a new technique or two each year in the hope of having a better preservation success rate. The new tricks I am testing this year follow.

Here's how they roll. About three Pretoria canna tubers are planted in the garden in the spring. They easily grow and multiply during the summer, (not large enough to bloom until July) loving the hot humid weather we are noted for. The three turn into about a dozen. They are lifted after the first frost and those tubers large enough to save are stored until the spring. I end up losing all but two or three over the winter to rot or desiccation. The remaining are planted in the ground again after the soil warms, about two weeks after the last front date.

I began dusting the tubers with copper dust before storing them, maybe preventing the rot. This past fall, I bagged them in peat moss, hoping for a better save success rate. They all dried out except for about five. I'll take that as an improvement.

Canna Experiment #2 - try to get them growing before putting them in the ground. They are now in moist peat/soil, barely below the surface. And, they have begun to swell with some pink coloration on the tubers, a clear sign that they are beginning to wake up and maybe have a head start this year (although there are no roots.)

I read about doing this to the Persian Shield. In the fall, I take cuttings of the freshest stem tips. After about a month in water, they root. These are planted in yogurt cups and placed on an eastern facing window sill in a cool unused bedroom for the winter. They are watered, and (at this time) start to produce flowers.

This has worked well for the past four years, and all plants make it through to be planted in the spring. Although not growing much in the winter, they stay green (they are purple in the hot summer) until ready to resume their lives out in the wild. This year, as with the cannas, I am giving some a head start by transplanting to larger pots before going outdoors, in hopes they will be large.

I first saw these plants at the Atlanta Botanical Garden at a whopping 5-6 feet (1.5 m) tall. There was probably a greenhouse involved in this somewhere.

This is my first experience with these beauties. A friend asked me how to overwinter them, because after digging them up, his all rot in winter. I explained my procedure with the cannas and suggested peat moss storage. He was overjoyed that about all of his Colocasia came through the winter, and thanked me with five plants, and some bulbs I will write about in the coming months.

I dug them up, dusted them, and placed them in peat. But they did not fare well, and most shriveled up. I will attribute this to their small underdeveloped size in the fall. Three were solid, so they were cleaned and wet. In a few days, all grew one or two clear, protruding gelatinous wormy things about 1/8-inch long (3 mm). I am hoping these are the beginning roots and not a fungus. I placed them in a damp peat medium, so stay tuned.

The Red Cordyline is the center of a pot on the deck, and has been brought indoors, pot and all, for three winters. It is placed at an east-facing french door, and watered less frequently through winter. It looks great now, and is beginning to develop a stem/trunk as the lower leaves are shed through the years.

Let's hear what you keep over the winter, and the methods you use.


Les said...
Have you ever tried to over-winter the cannas in the ground with a good layer of mulch? I would think they would normally have a chance of making it through the winter, though this one would have been a real test.
Swimray said...
Les, I left some canna in over winter by accident one year, and it grew the following spring. The next year, I left all the cannas in and they all died.