University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Charlie Nardozzi, Senior Horticulturist
National Gardening Association, and
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Checking stored summer bulbs and potted bulbs for forcing, repotting houseplants, and sowing alliums are some of the gardening tips for this month.

Check the calendar to see if your forced bulbs have received their recommended amount of cold treatment (12 to 16 weeks). If so, move them into a 50-degree (F) spot out of direct sun until the flower shoots are about two inches tall, then move the pots to a sunny, 68 degree location. The warmer the temperature, the shorter the flowering stems will be and the faster the bulbs will flower and fade.

Now is a good time to repot any houseplants with roots coming out of the drainage holes. Choose a pot one size larger than the current pot, remove the plant, trim any errant roots, and repot using fresh potting soil.

Now that the days are getting longer, your houseplants will be resuming vigorous growth, so begin fertilizing with a soluble fertilizer. A seaweed/fish emulsion blend is a good choice -- but look for one labeled as "no odor" to avoid the usual pungent smell. You can fertilize monthly at the label recommended dilution rate, or fertilize every time you water using a quarter-strength mix.

Check seed packets for recommendations, then plot out planting times for seeds you'll be starting indoors. Don't try to get a jump on the season by planting earlier; larger plants are more easily stunted than smaller ones and won't necessarily grow faster once they're transplanted outdoors.

Long-season alliums, such as leeks and onions, should be started from seed now. Unlike fast-growing broccoli and tomatoes, onions need 10 to 12 weeks of growth indoors before they go in the garden. Sprinkle the seed on top of seed-starting mix, keep it moist, and as soon as the seedlings emerge, place the flats under grow lights so they grow strong.

Houseplants such as hibiscus and annual geraniums are often attacked by whiteflies. The adults are tiny, white, mothlike insects that will rise in a flutter when a plant is moved. The immature forms live on the undersides of leaves and suck the plant's juices. If left unchecked, they can cause leaf dieback. Spray plants with insecticidal soap to control them.

Other gardening tips for this month include starting pansy and begonia seeds indoors, planting tuberous begonias, and sprouting beans for a winter salad. Visit the National Gardening Associationís web site ( for more information on gardening and regional reports.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles