CORVALLIS - April is the time to prepare stored fuchsias, begonias and geraniums for the move outdoors.
First, prune the tops of potted fuchsias back to eight inches from the top of the pot, says Ross Penhallegon, horticulture agent with the Oregon State University Extension Service. Remove any parts of the plant that may be diseased or unhealthy looking. Find a place indoors where they will get a lot of sunshine and warm temperatures and put them there until outside temperatures are consistently above freezing, usually about May 1 in western Oregon and June 1 in the colder regions of the state.
Water the plants only when needed. Repot them if their roots are crowded.
Handle potted geraniums in the same way as fuchsias, but prune back the geranium tops to four inches from the top of the pot.
Check over stored begonia tubers and discard any that have become moldy or diseased. If the tubers look wilted, it may just need more water. Plant healthy-looking tubers in flats, in a mixture of equal parts of peat moss and coarse sand. Press the tubers into the mixture, making sure that the growing leaf bud on the tuber points upward.
Space the begonia tubers two to three inches apart in the flats. Keep them in a dark room at a temperature of 60-65 degrees. In six weeks, transplant the tubers to six-inch pots, or outdoors in a cool, lightly shaded area.
When planting begonia tubers, work one-fourth cup of bone meal or 5-10-10 fertilizer into the bottom of the planting hole. Then add several inches of soil over fertilizer before putting the tuber in place. Cover tubers with soil.
And don't let early warm spring days fool you. There can be freezing temperatures into May at the coast and in western valleys and until Memorial Day in higher regions of the state. Bring potted fuchsias, geraniums and begonias indoors if frost threatens. Cover shoots if they are planted out in the garden.
To learn more about how to store these tender plants year to year, download OSU Extension's fact sheet "Preparing Winter Storage for Fuchsias, Geraniums, and Tuberous Plants," (FS 1) from the WWW at: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/html/FS/FS1