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Gardening-annuals propagation
Old 09-26-2019, 08:52 AM   #1
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Gardening-annuals propagation

One hobby I am considering for my upcoming retirement is growing my own annual flowers, either from seed or maybe somehow propagating from last years crop. Here in the northeast I love having annual geraniums, begonias, impatiens, etc., but it pains me to buy them new every year. Anybody here have experience with such an endeavor? Would appreciate thoughts on whether you have found the effort to be worth it. I can see where it could be frustrating and/or maddening.
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Old 09-26-2019, 11:54 AM   #2
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I gave up on growing delicate annuals from seed every year. If you have green thumb and enjoy it, give it a shot! I actually enjoy going around in early spring to buy 6 packs @ $2 for most of what I like. I have a large planting area but only budget ~$75/yr for annuals. I bring everything indoors (garage/basement) to overwinter and whatever survives goes back out following yr. Weíre having aphid infestation right now so itíll affect what comes into the house. Iím wanting to focus more on perennials going forward.
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Old 09-26-2019, 11:58 AM   #3
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Timely topic. Let me say in summary: it is more about personal gratification and happiness than it is cost savings...

I have done this off and on through the last 30 years. I found that the various systems to start in a peat medium work pretty well. Here is just one example of many:
https://parkseed.com/park-bio-dome-s...er/c/bio-dome/

However, it really depends on the species. For about 15 years, here in the South, I was EASILY rocking Impatiens using this system. It was very cost effective.

And then Armageddon hit. Downy Mildew arrived in the early 2010s.

I'm not joking, it is Armageddon. If this has not hit you up north, then go for it. But here, impatiens are a lost cause. I used to have mounds that would grow to 3 ft high and 3 ft wide from just a few plants. No more.

I switched to wax begonias. They are also fairly easy to start and I recommend them. Not as easy as impatiens, but they work OK. But you need a really early start.

Geraniums are a no-go here, so I have no experience. Can't comment.

I CAN comment on New Guinea Impatiens. They are super tricky. I found them almost impossible to start from seed. Maybe 1 in 10 worked for me? This is versus 100% for impatiens and begonias.

I also find coleus to be very, very easy to start by seed. Nice for shade.

I also have gone with a few species you can just scatter seed with. These are the sun loving marigolds and celosia.

Now, all that said... This year we were out of town in late winter, so I skipped it. I planted store bought begonias. Guess what? My compost was not hot enough over winter and it carried last years coleus and celosia with it. I had a nice raft of "volunteers" which I intentionally let grow and crowd out the begonias. I also picked off a few volunteer tomatoes and grew them for a "what the heck" factor. Turns out we got 100s of cherry tomatoes from that free crop.

Basically, don't forget your volunteers from last year's crop!

Here's a picture of my volunteers (celosia and coleus, crowding out my begonias). Just incredible. And free.
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Old 09-26-2019, 02:25 PM   #4
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I actually enjoy going around in early spring to buy 6 packs @ $2 for most of what I like. I have a large planting area but only budget ~$75/yr for annuals.
Yes, I like the shopping too. But with hanging baskets for the porch and several deck planters that I like to experiment with, plus my poor self control, my bill nearly always evokes head-shakes from my wife. I did make a sizable investment in perennials this year, so hopefully that will help curtail 2020 spending.
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Old 09-26-2019, 02:34 PM   #5
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The mildew hit the Impatiens here in the north as well. There were a few years with none available but now they are back and haven't had any issues last couple of years. I do pull tuberous begonias up and replant the tubers indoors in March. Usually get about a 70% survival rate and they do nicely when transplanted. Overwinter all of my Jasmine plants. I have had a couple of them for more than 10 years and getting quite large. Have also overwintered Gazanias which we discovered when we lived in UAE where they are a perennial groundcover.
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Old 09-26-2019, 02:46 PM   #6
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But here, impatiens are a lost cause. I used to have mounds that would grow to 3 ft high and 3 ft wide from just a few plants. No more.
They still grow great here in upstate NY, as long as you can get them past the very tender early stage, when they are candy for the rabbits.

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I switched to wax begonias. They are also fairly easy to start and I recommend them.
Will definitely give these a try because nothing bothers them here and they seem to thrive in both sun and shade.

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Basically, don't forget your volunteers from last year's crop! Here's a picture of my volunteers (celosia and coleus, crowding out my begonias). Just incredible. And free.
Beautiful! Now that is what I am after! Thanks for all the great tips.
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Old 09-27-2019, 02:19 PM   #7
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Jazz and 6miths, when you bring annuals in for the winter how do you store them? Do you just dig up the tuber and root balls and put them in a pot with soil? Do you try to get them going inside with a grow lamp before it is safe to put them in the ground?
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Old 09-27-2019, 06:40 PM   #8
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Jazz and 6miths, when you bring annuals in for the winter how do you store them? Do you just dig up the tuber and root balls and put them in a pot with soil? Do you try to get them going inside with a grow lamp before it is safe to put them in the ground?


I dig up a root ball or drag containers into the garage and basement. I treat with insecticidal soap before bringing in. I have some tropical and spike plants that get this treatment too. I water lightly once per week only. I havenít used a grow light so far but would consider using one on a timer if I have too many to crowd around the window. Iíll lose a lot this yr due to aphid infestation. Begonias grow pretty big after overwintering this way. I gave up on Verbena indoors. They do better healed into the ground.

My wife does most of the container and hanging basket arrangements. I donít have patience for that. I can see why the nurseries charge 75 and up for the large ones.
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Old 09-27-2019, 06:54 PM   #9
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I was just collecting seeds from my marigolds, four-o-clocks, liatris (Blazing Star), zinnia and cosmos to sprinkle where wanted and to save. I also collect seeds from perennials and biennials, including lupines and foxgloves.

The marigolds self-seed anyway, and the liatris and lupine keep spreading -some by seed and some underground. Foxgloves show up everywhere. I like flower madness, so I injudiciously grow everything I can. A new favorite, Verbena Bonariensis - tall, small clusters of purple flowers beloved by butterflies. They waft above the rest of the garden and make it look regal.

Geraniums can come inside in pots, and/or grow from cuttings in water overwintering. Euphorbia Diamond Frost, too.
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Old 09-27-2019, 09:23 PM   #10
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Jazz and 6miths, when you bring annuals in for the winter how do you store them? Do you just dig up the tuber and root balls and put them in a pot with soil? Do you try to get them going inside with a grow lamp before it is safe to put them in the ground?

My Jasmine I dig up and put in large pots. One stays in a pot year round. They are all over 6 feet tall. They go in the garage where it is quite cool but never below freezing. Water every 2 weeks or so.

For the Gazanias I do what Jazz describes minus the insecticidal soap as they go in the garage. On a plant stand by a window. Water once a week. They are quite hardy.

The begonias get dug up after first hard frost kill leaves. Dusted with antifungal and put in dry potting soil. Go in a cupboard in garage in the dark. In late Feb or early March I take them out and put them under grow lights by window and start to water. They are ready to go outside by first week of May. 70-80% of them grow and those that do generally do quite well once transplanted.
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Old 09-27-2019, 09:27 PM   #11
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Since one of the issues for the OP seems to be the cost of the plants, you might want to do what we do. Lowes and HD tend to do a pretty poor job of watering their annuals, and when they wilt they throw them on a cart at significant discounts, like $1 or $2 per flat. We buy them, take them home and plant them, water and fertilize them, and they are in good health just a day or two later. We buy lots of annuals every year, and don't really spend very much on them.

Since we're snowbirds we can't do much about saving or propagating from seed. But we love flowers, so this works out well for us.
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Old 09-30-2019, 06:50 PM   #12
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BTW, Iím in zone 7....probably significant for this thread. Iíve learned a new trick for overwintering begonia. Thanks! Iím with Harley re the distressed plants at Loweís.
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Old 10-01-2019, 05:57 AM   #13
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I'm going to try to save my begonias for next year too. I've never tried that. I've had a few make it naturally if they got covered with leaves and we had a mild winter.
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Old 10-01-2019, 12:21 PM   #14
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I just buy the plants every year at Walmart. They are reasonable and already in planters.
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Old 10-02-2019, 07:03 AM   #15
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There are a few annuals I like to grow from seed- zinnias are super easy around here, and I like cleome and cosmos as well. Haven't had the time for this in the last few years. Looking forward to doing this again soon!

It is immensely satisfying to watch seedlings come up and do a bit of weeding with a cup of coffee in my hand.
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Old 10-10-2019, 06:54 AM   #16
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I dug up my geraniums the other day and am trying this method of overwintering, which I found on an Iowa State University Horticulture webpage:

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Geraniums are unusual and unlike many annual flowers, they have the ability to survive for most of the winter without soil. If properly stored, they can resist extended dry periods due to their thick, succulent-like stems. To overwinter geraniums in dormant storage, dig up the entire plant before frost and gently shake the soil from the roots. Place the plants inside open paper bags or hang them upside-down from the rafters in a cool, dark location for the winter. Ideally the temperature should be between 45-50 F. Two or three times during the winter, take the plants out the bags or down from the rafters and soak the roots in water for 1 or 2 hours. At this time, inspect the stems. While many of the leaves will die and fall off, the stems should remain firm and solid. Discard any geraniums with shriveled stems, since those plants will most likely die. Pot up healthy dormant geraniums in containers in late March or early April. Water plants thoroughly and cut back the dead stem tips. Place potted plants in a sunny window to initiate new growth. It often takes several weeks for plants to initiate growth after dormant storage.
My basement storage room now looks like a torture-chamber for plants. Will report back in the spring.
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Old 10-10-2019, 07:28 AM   #17
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The same site has instructions for begonias which is similar, but a bit different:
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Carefully dig up the tuberous begonias within a few days of a killing frost. Leave a small amount of soil around each tuber. Cut off the stems about 1 inch above the tubers. Place the tubers in a cool, dry area to cure for 2 to 3 weeks. After curing, shake off the remaining soil. Place a layer of peat moss, vermiculite, or sawdust in a small cardboard box. Lay the tubers on the storage medium, then cover the tubers with additional peat, vermiculite, or sawdust. Store the tubers in an area with a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not allow the tubers to freeze.
I'm going to try this. One mild winter here in NC, I had a few survive on their own when they got covered with leaves. So I can see this working pretty easily.
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Old 10-10-2019, 08:58 AM   #18
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I dug up my geraniums the other day and am trying this method of overwintering, which I found on an Iowa State University Horticulture webpage:



My basement storage room now looks like a torture-chamber for plants. Will report back in the spring.
Hilarious! Looking forward to trying this sort of thing myself next winter.
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Old 10-11-2019, 02:11 PM   #19
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The same site has instructions for begonias which is similar, but a bit different:


I'm going to try this. One mild winter here in NC, I had a few survive on their own when they got covered with leaves. So I can see this working pretty easily.


Iím going to try it also along with my normal routine. I was just about to post that begonias seem to have especially hardy roots. In my experience overwintering them in a garage or basement it is not uncommon for the tops to appear ďdeadĒ but the roots remain viable. Also kinda ticked off because the deer have ravaged every begonia in sight so all I have are roots in some cases. After having ignored the begonia all summer the deer are in fall feeding frenzy mode so theyíll eat just about anything even if they donít like it.
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Old 03-28-2020, 02:49 PM   #20
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Geraniums are out of hibernation, denuded and back in dirt. Was surprised to see that new shoots had begun even while they were hanging upside down in the dark.
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