Plant Care in Late Summer and Fall by Ron Kok


Ron Kok certainly gave us a timely as well as informative presentation.
We are so grateful to have such an experienced, knowledgeable member in our group!

Fall Garden Chores

Despite the unusually lovely October weather, Ron cautioned us that it was time to prepare our plants for winter.  Houseplants, lawns, vegetables, flowers, and other plants all need care at this time.   Houseplants could benefit from repotting. Lawns can be weeded, watered, aerated, and fertilized.   Keep a look out for invasive weeds and be sure to destroy them.  Fun fact: you may have heard of Purslane… it’s invasive and it’s also edible!

Once you have harvested those last vegetables, clean out the stalks and weeds.  Strawberry runners can be cut and potted up for next year.  Cover crops, such as fall Rye and peas, will add Nitrogen and organic material when dug in next spring.  A layer of compost enriches the soil.

Adding mulch to your flower beds before the winter is especially appreciated by roses.  Frost tender plants should be dug out and potted up in a protected area.  After the first frost, dig up the Dahlias and cut back your perennials.  If you are planning to take cuttings, it’s best to not to do it too late in the season. Ron reminded us to take cuttings in case you lose the plant!  September is still a good time, but bottom heat will be needed if you do it later.  Tip cuttings may be rooted in water or in clean media.  Bleach is a good disinfectant for your tools. You can also use hand sanitizer for pruning shears!

Geraniums are not stripped of their leaves when you bring them into a frost-free area.  You can pot them up and keep as a plant over the winter. There are also other techniques for geraniums such as encouraging dormancy by hanging the dry roots upside down.  You will need to experiment with the method that is best suited to your specific conditions.


Fuchsias can be dug out now.  Ron demonstrated pruning a Checkerboard Fuchsia. 

Prune back the stems only 1/3 or 1/2 (leaving several nodes) as you can prune them again in Spring.  Roots should be trimmed back.  The root ball should be kept moist over the winter. You may wish to leave them outside for a while longer to keep them cool.   After de-foliating and just before bringing the plants inside, use an insecticide on the bare stems and soil. (Never use a spray on leaves in the sun as it will burn.) Whiteflies, for example, can overwinter in your plants!  Pot in a one-gallon pot and keep frost free.  If you do put them in a garage, don’t put them directly on concrete as it is too cold. Once a month you can give a little water so that they do not get totally dry.  Other methods for overwintering include using sawdust (but not cedar!), peat, or leaves in a cardboard box or digging the plants into a trench and covering them. 



Although many house plants can be easily divided when plantlets grow to a substantial size, others, such as Streptocarpus, can be propagated by cuttings.


 Choose a healthy but mature leaf.  You want a light soil mix and can make your own or purchase propagation soil.  Perlite is often too coarse, so be sure to use a finer grade.  Vermiculite is not used as much anymore as there have been questions about it having cancer causing ingredients. Plastic fruit/veggie containers work quite well when they have waterproof bottoms and a snap lid with small holes for aeration! Ron showed us different ways of cutting the leaves with Streptocarpus.  If you cut across the main vein, be sure to sink the pieces with the “correct/top side” up.  If you are using the trenching method, the middle vein is completely removed.  African violets are easily propagated using the whole leaf and stem.  If you are propagating in water, don’t wait too long to plant it in soil.  Water roots don’t have the fine roots eventually needed. 


For pelargoniums (geraniums), tip cuttings are the easiest.  Leave the cutting in a cool dry spot before planting so that it forms a callous end.


Most cuttings will have rooted in about 4 to 6 weeks. Melanie showed us an example of a Rex begonia, where she had cut wedges from a leaf.  There was a proper little plant growing after only 2 months!

 If you are using grow lights, 12 hours of full spectrum led lights is best.  Ron has experimented with both blue and red lighting and has found the regular white lights to be the easiest to see and maintain proper watering.

Thank you so much, Ron, for a kick-start to our fall chores!  The best part of a presentation is always the live demonstrations and we certainly enjoyed yours!

Ron Kok (speaker bio. by Melanie G.) Ronald Kok received his horticultural training at College in the Netherlands. After college Ron worked at the Institute of Plant Genetics at the University of Amsterdam, in the Petunia breeding program. In 1974 Ron and wife Lidy immigrated to British Columbia, and Ron worked at the Agriculture Canada Research Station in Agassiz, doing non-soil media research for the Tomato and Cucumber industry. He progressed to the Agriculture Canada Research Station at UBC where Ron grew hundreds of plant species to supply the scientists with specimen for virus research. One of the technicians was cleaning up virus from Fuchsia stock by cultivating the meristem of popular Fuchsia varieties and heat treating the plantlets. This is where Ron’s interest in Fuchsias started. Later he worked for the Vancouver Parks Board Greenhouses, and the Bloedel Conservatory where he grew a wide variety of annuals and the Fuchsia trees for the city parks – Some Fuchsia tree specimen were 30 years old. At this time Ron and Lidy were thinking of starting their own greenhouse business and in 1979 they purchased a 5 acre parcel of land in Pitt Meadows where they build their home and first greenhouse. Over the years the business grew and greenhouses were added and the focus shifted from wholesale to retail. September 2017 Lidy and Ron transferred the business to their oldest son and daughter in law and Ron retired. (Ron proudly announced that their son recently received a Best Business Award!) Now Ron is busy renovating their new home and still grows a few houseplants. Lidy and Ron have been members of the BC Fuchsia and Begonia Society since 1997.

Related Links

Fall Garden Chores:

Overwintering fuchsias

Overwintering begonias

Overwintering geraniums

Streptocarpus  propagation