How to overwinter tender plants or take cuttings

You can never quite predict how severe our winter will be, so in the absence of a crystal ball, it's best to have a contingency plan. Generally tender plants such as Pelargoniums are best removed from their pots and discarded, because they can harbour vine weevil, but don't worry you can take cuttings in October, so you can enjoy these plants again the following year. This is not hard, you just need a little bit of forward planning.

Fill small seed trays or pots with grit sand. Look for new, healthy growth and remove any buds, trim under the leaf joint or node, remove or trim any over-large leaves and then plunge your cuttings of pelargoniums, salvias, penstemons or pinks etc, into the sand - submerging two thirds of the cuttings. Keep them cool and damp, but frost-free, and they will begin to root very slowly and will not be ready to pot up until next spring.

In very cold weather, cover the trays or pots with fleece. Many tender plants can survive a little frost if fleeced. If you’re putting them in a greenhouse place them in the shadiest part, because you want them kept cool. A warm day might dry them out if they’re in full sun.

If you have something slightly tender in the garden such as a gladioli, dierama, alstroemeria or melianthus, improve their chances of survival with a top dressing of coarse grit. It will act as a warm mulch and percolate the water.

Slightly tender plants, such as penstemons, should be left intact over winter because the overhead stems offer protection. If you were to cut them down now they might send out new growth which would be zapped by winter. Leave them alone and cut them back in April, once lots of new growth has appeared at the base.