Proctor: Rejuvenating scraggly plants

11:09 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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Year round houseplants that tolerate lower light levels probably look fine, but the patio plants you may have saved from last summer may be stretched out and scraggly.

Mine are a mess too. With the days beginning to lengthen, they will benefit from pruning.

Novice gardeners hesitate to prune back these unkempt geraniums, coleus, bloodleaf, gaura, or begonias. A radical haircut will do them wonders. It will force them to regain a tight, bushy growth habit. In addition, the cuttings can be rooted to make new free plants for your summer patio.

How much you should cut back depends on the plant and how spindly it has become. A good rule of thumb is to cut a geranium or coleus back so that its stems are about 8 to 12 inches long. Shrubby plants such as flowering maples, fuchsia or phygelius can be trimmed more conservatively, cutting back just to the point of the weak winter growth.

Just plunge in and do it. You can't hurt the plant and you're actually doing it a favor.

As spring returns, the growth rate will increase and new leaves will also be bigger. A bit of pinching will help keep the plant compact. Just use your thumb and forefinger to pinch out about a half inch of new growth at the top of each stem. As May approaches, begin to fertilize for even stronger growth and renewed flower production. Your plants will show their appreciation with a fine summer show.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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