Overwinter those Geraniums
Geranium Care and Growth
If you’re like me then you have some geraniums,, either potted or planted in your beds. Geraniums are one of the most popular container and garden plants. You just can’t beat their bright colors and sturdy, well-shaped foliage. At the garden center, geraniums tend to come in larger sizes, which make them more expensive than other summer annuals.
Geranium is a diverse group containing types that grow in a range of conditions, from full sun to shade. Flower colors include pink, blue, white, and purple. Most geraniums blooms in midsummer, although some species will bloom in spring and fall.
Unlike many of their peers, geraniums can easily be stored over the winter and enjoyed again next year. So if you hate to see your lovely geraniums killed by frost this fall, here’s how to go about overwintering them indoors.
There are three ways to make geraniums last through the winter:
- Overwinter inside as potted plants
- Store the dormant, bare roots.
- Propagate cuttings to make new plants.
Geraniums as Indoor Potted Plants
The easiest way to keep your geraniums over the winter is simply to bring them inside. Here’s how to go about it:
In the Fall before the first frost, carefully dig up your geraniums and pot them in 6”- 8” diameter containers, with lightweight potting soil. If yours are already in containers, you get to save a step! Don’t bother keeping any that look unhealthy or diseased. Cut the plants back by a third to a half. Save the cuttings and root them to make more geraniums! Water the pots thoroughly. Place the pots in a bright, cool spot. Geraniums overwinter best in a sunny window with temperatures around 60° F. They don’t do well in dark or overheated rooms.
Over the winter pinch back the tips of new shoots to help them branch out.
Water the cuttings whenever the soil becomes dry.
Overwintering Bare-Root Geraniums
Geraniums have nice thick roots and stems that allow them to survive winter dormancy if kept above freezing. You can also allow geraniums to go dormant and store them as bare roots. Follow these steps:
In the fall before the first frost, carefully dig up your geraniums, and shake all the dirt off the roots. Put them in unsealed paper bags, or hang them upside down, and store in a cool, dry place around 50° F (a garage is perfect).
During the winter, every month or so, pull your geraniums out and soak the roots in water for a couple of hours.
Allow them to dry before storing again.
The leaves will eventually all fall off, but the stems should stay firm. If the stems shrivel up too, the plant is likely a goner!
In the fall using a sharp knife or shears, cut pieces about 3”- 4” long from the ends of the branches. The best cuttings come from the terminal end (the very tip end of the stem), rather than a side branch. Pinch off the leaves from the bottom third of the cutting, and remove any flower buds. Dip the bottom of each cutting in rooting hormone, making sure to dust the wounds where you removed the leaves. Plant the bottom third of each cutting in peat moss, sand, or perlite. You can use individual pots or plant them together in a tray (plastic planting trays are available with a clear cover to hold in moisture). Place the pots on a drainage tray and water thoroughly, ideally from the bottom up (fill the tray with water and allow it to soak to keep from washing away the rooting hormone). Cover your pots with clear plastic, or use the cover that came with the tray. Place in a bright window out of direct sun. Your cuttings need light, but they can’t handle the direct sunshine.
During the winter keep the planting medium moist by soaking in the drainage tray, or removing the plastic cover and lightly misting the plants and soil.
With the rainbow of flower and leaf colors, it is hard to watch beautiful and costly geraniums die from a hard frost. Try these tips from APLNJ and enjoy your geraniums for years to come.
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