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Robert E. Thomas
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008
Mary Kroening, 573-882-9633
COLUMBIA, Mo. - Fall is a good time to clean up your garden and plant trees and shrubs, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.
"The key factor in plant establishment is root growth, and the faster the roots grow into the back-fill area of a new plant, the more successfully the plant will become established," said Mary Kroening.
Unlike the aboveground parts of a plant, roots never go completely dormant. In the fall, soil temperatures stay warm and there is usually ample soil moisture with fall rains, Kroening said.
"This gives new plants a great head start on root growth before hitting the stressful summer drought and heat the following year, versus planting in the spring, in which roots have only a short period of time to establish," she said.
In the spring, the plant is putting energy into foliage and flowers. If planted in the fall, plants can concentrate more energy into root development, she said.
Another fall task is preparing to move hardy non-winter plants indoors. If indoor space is limited, it may be best to discard some of your annuals and purchase new plants next year.
Cannas are fairly easy to overwinter. Dig them up after the first frost and cut off the tops. Do not divide the rhizomes at this point. Fresh cuttings may rot through the winter. Store the rhizomes in peat, vermiculite or sand in a cool, dry location with temperatures around 40 degrees.
In spring, cut the rhizomes into pieces with several growing points each and start them as you would new rhizomes.
Tuberous begonias and caladium are also easy to store over the winter. If grown in containers, these plants can be brought inside for winter enjoyment and treated as houseplants.
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