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Nurture your annuals (and yourself!)

By Guest Blogger, Lisa Brokken

At this time of year, the leaves are changing, daytime temperatures can drop to single digits or rise to feel like a decent summer day, and early frost warnings at night are a risk. Home gardeners are left wondering what do I do to transition from fall to winter?’.  Landscape Ontario has an easy to follow Fall Gardening Checklist to prepare perennials, shrubs and trees for the winter.  But what about annuals?

There’s more that you can be doing! 

Many of the annuals and tender-bulbs you’ve spent your hard-earned money on at the garden centre can be brought inside and nurtured until warm weather comes again in spring.  Don’t think of your annuals as throw away items.  Let’s face it… most mass producing garden centres want you to throw away your annuals, it’s a big business!  According to IBIS World, the Canadian plant and flower market drives $2 Billion in revenue per year.

Instead, reap the fruits of your labour

You’ve kept those annuals alive through that hot, dry summer, and now you can continue into the winter, too! 

Here are just some of the benefits of over-wintering your annuals:
  • Save money by avoiding buying annuals year after year
  • It’s good for the soul and gives your greenthumb something to do over the winter
  • Enjoy their beauty longer
  • Keep a meaningful annual alive that you were given as a gift
  • Many cultivars fall in and out of fashion; there’s no guarantee it’ll be available again next spring
  • Reduce waste of plastic plant containers

[See Note below: garden centre reuse and recycling programs]

I’m ready but which plants and what do I need to do?

Some common annuals that are pretty easy to bring inside and really just require a sunny window are impatiens, begonias, Streptocarpella, sweet potato vine, coleus, and geranium.  Plus, don’t forget your tender-bulbs like Canna and Pineapple Lillies. But of course you can try to bring any plant inside and see what happens!  I’m going to bring my Mandevilla in soon and store it in a dormant state until the spring.

But quick, start before it gets too ccccold

Even if some annuals live and some don’t, just trying to keep them alive will give you the satisfaction of knowing you did your best!  Tip!  I always like to keep a diary of what I did and then next year tweak the process if it didn’t work out.

Follow these steps to winterize your common annuals. 
  • Select healthy plants to bring in before frost
  • Dunk the whole plant in diluted Sol U Mel Cleaner and Deodorizer  to remove debris and kill insects with
  • Clean and sanitize your pots with Sol U Guard Botanical Disinfectant  before you repot
  • Use a high quality potting soil
  • Find a nice sunny window to place the plants until Spring
  • Use an app like Planta to help you remember how much and when to water
Follow these steps to winterize your tender-bulbs
  • Carefully dig out bulbs once the foliage has died back
  • Let them dry a couple of days, then remove dry dirt and cut back foliage from bulbs
  • Label your bulbs!
  • Store your bulbs in dry peat moss or vermiculite in paper bags or a box covered with newspapers
  • Store in a cool, dark locations until the weather is above 15C

As Jenny Uglow says, ‘We may think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us’. 


Note:  Large garden centres like Sheridan Nurseries  and Home Depot  have recycling programs, where they reuse and recycle the plastic pots that hold flowers, plants, bushes and trees.  Check for Covid-19 suspensions before you bring back your pots.

Connect with Lisa at:


Instagram: @dutch_dame_garden_design

Facebook: @dutchdamegardendesign

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