Different this year

Besides taking cuttings as part of my yearly overwintering strategy, I also overwinter some grass divisions, mainly purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'). I did the same thing this year, but in a different way.


Normally I bring a potted plant in before first freeze, make a dozen divisions from it soon after, then grow them indoors all winter long. Although this gives me some lovely green (and purple) to look at during the winter, it becomes a problem around this time of year because the plants are too large and very rootbound in their small pots. This year I tried a different strategy.

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Rather than make all of the divisions in November or early December, I brought a potted grass into the garage as usual but then let it go semi-dormant like many of the other non-hardy plants. The plan was at some point in the winter I'd use that plant to make divisions, shaving two months off the time they'd need to be grown under the lights.

This weekend I did that. As you can see, the plant still has quite a bit of green in it. It's no thing of beauty but fine for divisions:


It's got a secondary clump growing here too:


Dumping it into the wheelbarrow in the garage, I then shook off all of the soil and examined the clumps:



Then it was just a matter of breaking this into smaller divisions -- my goal is to have a dozen plants to plant out in the spring.


Past experience has shown me that even a single stem will create a new plant:


I added quite a bit of fertilizer (Milorganite) to each pot, as I want these things to really take off quickly. Since there's less time than previous years, I'm hoping this will do it.

With them all potted up in the plastic storage trays...


...they're ready to bring under the lights indoors:


A good watering, warmth, and bright lights should get these going fast. It used to worry me when planting these small divisions: would they even grow? Now though I know that these grass divisions are quite tough and I should see signs of new growth in just a few days.

I'll probably look at them a few times each day until I see it though.

Like the clay pellets for rooting cuttings, I'm trying new techniques to hopefully make overwintering plants easier on me now and in the future. Hopefully this will leave me with more time for other indoor projects which will take a back seat once gardening season starts up.

I'll post an update on these grasses in a week or two.

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HELENE  – (February 4, 2013 at 10:55 AM)  

It's always satisfying to make your own plants, and the plants you get are so much more healthy and robust than the ones you buy commercially. Looking forward to seeing these babies when they grow up :-)

Gerhard Bock (Bamboo, Succulents and More)  – (February 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM)  

This is a great strategy! When are you going to plant them out?

Lisa  – (February 4, 2013 at 2:40 PM)  

I love this idea! I've avoided some of the annual grasses because they are so expensive, even though I love the textures and colors they add. I'm inspired!

Alan  – (February 4, 2013 at 5:38 PM)  

Gerhard: I can probably start bringing them outside in early April, but I probably won't put them into the ground until May. Or if I do like I did last year, some of them won't make it into the ground until August. :)

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