Saving annual grasses in winter

charlesgMarch 16, 2006

Hi all

I am really keen on grasses especially the purple fountain grass but think it is a little too expensive to throw away after the season. Has anyone had any joy in potting them for indoor storage in winter or getting them to hibernate somehow?



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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

There are two kinds of "annuals", those which just can't take our cold, but would live for several or even many years in a warmer place, like geraniums or impatience.

Then there are those plants that live to produce seed, and once they've accomplished that, they die. These are true annuals, and there is no way to get them to live more than their normal two or three seasons. To the best of my knowledge, fountain grass and all annual grasses are true annuals. So, no go. On the other hand, annuals tend to be easy to raise from seeds, and fountain grass seeds are easily available. So buy yourself a packet and you should be good for several years, even without harvesting seeds.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2006 at 5:53PM
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Thanks Janet, I will buy some seeds. Is it obvious how to harvest the seeds from the grass in the fall? I have never noticed them before!

you mentioned geraniums - I have tried the "shake the soil off, cut them back and keep in a brown bag in the basement" method as well as the "hang them up in a cool dark place" but have not succeeded in either case. Am I doing somethign wrong or just wasting my time?

Lastly - I harvested a whole lot of impatiens seeds last year - when would be a good time to start planting them indoors?

Thanks for your help


    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 9:01AM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Grasses have the seed heads right at the top of the stalk. When they are brown and dry, they are ready to harvest.

Geraniums I normally just keep potted up. You can cut them back by about a third first. I've never tried the other methods, but I believe they do need a cool dark place to be successful. As for the impatiens, you could start them anytime now. I often find them growing in the potted plants I bring in for the winter, if they were sitting near an impatiens plant. Impatiens grow well inside, so the only real restriction is the space you have for growing them. If you've got lots of space, you could pot up the plants and bring them in for the whole winter and have flowers to boot.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 9:59AM
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I cut my Purple Fountain grass back to about 3 inches,split into 2 plants and potted them up last fall.Although everyone agreed that these would not overwinter,I just had to try and see for myself.They went into the dark basement and were only watered twice,until last month when I watered them well and put under lights.They have been sending up green shoots ever since.I find no matter what the experts say,you must try things for yourself.I have been plesantly surprised by a lot of my "experiments"

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 11:09AM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Very interesting, Molly! Please keep us posted! I've had plants that refused to follow the program in gardening books too, so I can appreciate where you're coming from. I recently killed a cyclamen that would bloom all year round by trying to put it into dormancy like the books said it was supposed to. Fortunately I saved some seed, which germinated easily for me (again, not what the books say), so the babies should take over. I will not try to persuade them to go dormant.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 2:25PM
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In regards to the geraniums, I posted here about how folks dealt with them and overwintered them. Got quite a few responses, and in the end decided to use the easiest - take out of the pot, shake the soil off the roots, let dry a couple of days, shake again, and just throw the whole thing without cutting into the basement in a dark area.

I have a closet for junk, and I placed them in there in an open box with their roots sticking up. This closet stays between 5C and 10C all winter, and humidity in our basement hovers around 60% (I know this because of the dehumidifier readouts). A couple of weeks ago I took them out and one was actually sending a blooming shoot out! I cut the stems and placed them in pots. I now have 29 cuttings growing on top of the fridge from those 4 plants!!

So don't do anything fancy to them next fall.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 2:52PM
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achnatherum(z4or3 Ontario)

If you had 'purple fountain grass' aka Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' it is definitely a perennial but hardy only to zone 9 & 10. The word is that this grass does not generally set viable seed - It is a bit fussy to keep over the winter but as Molly has demonstrated, it is possible. Holding over in a cold garage will definitely not work as temps below 0 are fatal.
If on the other hand you had some similarly coloured, but taller, grass called 'Purple Majesty' aka Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty'. This grass is an annual and you will have to save seeds or buy new to keep this grass in your garden.
Aren't grasses great?!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 11:30AM
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Wow what incredible feedback - I am glad that I found this site

Thanks everyone, I am looking forward to trying out all of the suggestions

Roll on spring!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2006 at 8:48AM
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