Geranium Winter Care: How To Save Geraniums Over The Winter

Geranium Winter Care: How To Save Geraniums Over The Winter

By: Heather Rhoades

Geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) are grown as annuals in most parts of the United States, but they are actually tender perennials. Even better is the fact that learning how to keep geraniums over winter is easy.

Saving geraniums for the winter can be done in of three ways. Let’s look at these different ways.

How to Save Geraniums Over the Winter in Pots

When saving geraniums for the winter in pots, dig up your geraniums and place them in a pot that can comfortably fit their rootball. Prune the geranium back by one-third. Water the pot thoroughly and place in a cool but well lit part of your house.

If the cool area you have in mind does not have enough light, place a lamp or light with a fluorescent bulb very close to the plant. Keep this light on 24 hours. This will provide enough light for getting geraniums to last over winter indoors, though the plant may get a little leggy.

How to Winter Geraniums by Making Them Go Dormant

The nice thing about geraniums is that they will go into dormancy easily, meaning you can store them in a similar fashion to storing tender bulbs. Saving geraniums for the winter using this method means that you will dig the plant up in the fall and gently remove the soil from the roots. The roots should not be clean, but rather free from clods of dirt.

Hang the plants upside down in either your basement or garage, someplace where the temperature stays around 50 F. (10 C.). Once a month, soak the roots of the geranium plant in water for an hour, then re-hang the plant. The geranium will lose all of its leaves, but the stems will remain alive. In the spring, replant the dormant geraniums in the ground and they will spring back to life.

How to Save Geraniums Over the Winter Using Cuttings

While taking cuttings is not technically how to keep geraniums over winter, it is how to make sure you have inexpensive geraniums for next year.

Start by taking 3- to 4-inch (7.5 – 10 cm.) cuttings from the green (still soft, not woody) part of the plant. Strip off any leaves on the bottom half of the cutting. Dip the cutting into rooting hormone, if you so choose. Stick the cutting into a pot filled with vermiculite. Make sure the pot has excellent drainage.

Place the pot with the cuttings into a plastic bag to keep the air around the cutting humid. The cuttings will root in six to eight weeks. Once the cuttings are rooted, repot them in potting soil. Keep them in a cool, sunny spot till they can go back outside again.

Now that you know how to winter geraniums three different ways, you can choose the way that you think will work best for you. Getting geraniums to last over winter will reward you with large lush geranium plants long before your neighbors have bought theirs.

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How to Overwinter Ivy Geraniums

This hardy plant is one of the most likely of all the geraniums to overwinter successfully, blooming again in the springtime. Ivy geraniums make wonderful plants for hanging baskets and window boxes because of how they cascade over the edges trailing anywhere from 2-4 feet and showcasing lovely, small flowers in shades of pink. lavender and scarlet.

Bring in your ivy geranium before the first frost which is the key to successfully overwintering your plant. Choose a location that is cool and dimly lit to store the plant during the winter such as a cool garage, shed or basement. Cut the plant back to about 6 inches and remove any dead leaves or flowers.

Hang your ivy geranium in a cool garage, shed or basement in the hanging basket it was growing in or carry the plant inside if it was in a non-hanging container that can easily be brought indoors. You may need to re-pot your plant it was growing in a container that is not movable such as a window box. To re-pot your plant, carefully dig around the roots of the plant, gently lifting the plant out of the container so as not to disturb the roots, and place in another container for storing inside. Use an all purpose potting soil that is well draining.

  • This hardy plant is one of the most likely of all the geraniums to overwinter successfully, blooming again in the springtime.
  • To re-pot your plant, carefully dig around the roots of the plant, gently lifting the plant out of the container so as not to disturb the roots, and place in another container for storing inside.

Water only one time a month during the winter just so the soil is slightly damp. Ivy geraniums prefer to stay relatively dry compared to other plants. Be sure the container it is stored in has drainage holes in the bottom so when watered the soil is not water logged.

Towards the end of winter, in February or beginning of March, begin introducing your plant to a sunny location to get it acclimated for going back outside in the spring. Give it indirect sunlight or place under fluorescent lighting for at least four to six hours daily.

Feed your plant one time monthly with an all purpose liquid fertilizer beginning in February before introducing your plant back outside in the spring. Apply the fertilizer when watering once a month.

  • Water only one time a month during the winter just so the soil is slightly damp.
  • Feed your plant one time monthly with an all purpose liquid fertilizer beginning in February before introducing your plant back outside in the spring.

Re-pot your geranium if necessary before placing back outside. Use an all purpose potting soil to fill your containers. If you brought in a hanging basket inside or outside container, simply put them outside again once the chance of frost has passed.

Do not leave your ivy geranium outside during the first frost or it will kill it. Do not over water during the winter or the roots will rot.

If you live in a warm climate, your chief worry may be high temperatures, not minimum temperatures. Geraniums typically need six or more hours of direct sun each day, but if you live in an area that gets over 90 F you should grow them in partial shade. While Martha Washington geranium (P. x domesticum), one of four most commonly grown geranium species, will thrive as a perennial in USDA zone 10a, it does not like high temperatures nurseries sell often it in the winter as indoor flowering pots.

The ideal temperature for growing geraniums indoors is 65 to 70 F during the day and 55 F at night. University of California horticulturalists say scented geraniums need only four hours of sunlight a day. If you can’t give them this, mount a fluorescent light a few inches above the plants. If you bring your pots indoors after the temperature drops below 45 F, the warmth may shock them, turning their leaves yellow and causing them to drop. To avoid this, bring the plant indoors for a period of time before the weather grows cold, preferably at night. Gradually extend the time each day. This will help acclimate the plant and prevent serious stress. If the plant still shows signs of shock, give it extra attention and make sure it receives proper water, light exposure and pruning until it recovers.

3. Pot up overwintered geraniums in spring

It's time to pot your geraniums 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost date in your area. Pull the geraniums out of the bag or box it's been sitting in for the past few months and tidy up the plants — snip off any extra-long roots, and cut the stems back to healthy green growth, as you see in the inset. This one was only about 4 in. long by the time it had been cleaned up. Then fill a container with premoistened potting mix and tuck the stem deep enough that two leaf nodes are below the mix — that's where new roots will emerge.

How to keep geraniums from year to year

If you could take a sunny disposition, contentment, and good old-fashioned reliability and create a flower, it would be the geranium. They’ve been gracing our homes since pioneer days and are an ever-popular staple in outdoor pots, planters and flower beds. Geraniums are also the most popular plant for bringing indoors in fall and keeping over winter so they can go outside again next spring.

There are different ways to keep geraniums from year to year. Some gardeners move their potted geraniums to a cool spot in the basement, where they remain partially dormant during winter with minimal watering, and are brought back into active growth in spring. A few people follow the old-time practice of storing geraniums bare-root in a root cellar-type atmosphere. Several well-experienced gardeners have told me their geraniums have cycled outdoors and indoors for over 30 years.

My wife, Mary, and I bring 100 geranium plants or cuttings indoors each fall to keep for next spring’s outdoor containers. It doesn’t require as much room as it sounds, using a successful method that saves space, rejuvenates older plants and is easy.

Here’s the recipe for wintering a quantity of geraniums that will rival greenhouse-quality plants by next spring:

  • Before they’re injured by fall frost, remove geraniums from outdoor planters or flower beds by gently digging or lifting out the plant and its roots.

  • Geraniums often become large over summer. Instead of trying to overwinter large geraniums, I prefer to cut each plant back to 3 inches above soil level. This removes most of the tops, leaving only stems and a few lower leaves. More plants fit in a limited space, and they quickly sprout new healthy, compact growth.
  • The goal is to produce compact, well-branched plants in 4- or 5-inch pots, similar to what we’d buy at a greenhouse in spring.

  • Pot the pruned geraniums into individual 4- or 5-inch diameter pots using top-quality soil like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix, or a mix recommended by your locally owned garden center. Geraniums grow best indoors if there’s one plant per pot, instead of multiples in a large pot.
  • Geraniums enjoy being “pot-bound” so don’t use large pots indoors.

  • Place in a window where the plants will receive direct sunshine. South windows are best, followed by east and west.
  • If a large, sunny window is lacking, geraniums grow very well under fluorescent or LED lights, with automatic timers set for 16 hours on and 8 hours off. We grow ours in a corner of the basement under shop-type fluorescent hanging fixtures containing one warm and one cool tube. Locate plants so the lights are within an inch or two of the geranium tops.

  • Fertilize once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer.
  • Allow the geranium soil to dry out very well between waterings. If a finger inserted to the first joint feels any moisture at the fingertip, don’t water. If in doubt, wait a day and then check again. Geraniums easily rot if kept too moist. If in question, err on the dry side.
  • Continue to grow the plants during winter as you would houseplants, enjoying the blossoms that arise by midwinter. About March 1, pinch back any winter growth that became spindly, and remove blossoms and flower buds. Begin water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks. The geraniums will branch beautifully and will be in prime conditions for planting outdoors in May.

Besides overwintering the original plants, I like to start some fresh geranium cuttings each fall from the tips of plants I cut back. When rooted, they provide new plants to replenish any that are old and woody. Geranium cuttings, about 3 inches long, produce roots in two to three weeks in a mixture of half sand, half peat moss. When roots are about 2 inches long, plant into potting mix in 4-inch diameter pots, and grow as directed above.


A: I actually really enjoy these questions and get a kick out of reading them. Many years ago I wrote a column on leaving dead perennials uncut during the winter. The snow and ice hanging on the dead plants looked very aesthetically appealing in the garden setting. I don’t see any difference with your question and situation.

I do like the look of white birch and it can be pleasing to the eye even without the leaves. Now, having said this, if the tree is very tall and is close to where it could fall and hurt someone then the opinion would be to take it down. If it is in a safe location I would leave it up. How’s that for sitting on the fence?

One final comment: Birch are notorious for having shallow root systems. If you are losing so many of them the chances are very good that they were not getting enough water. You might want to think about getting more moisture to them somehow. Good luck and happy gardening!

Watch the video: How to Propagate Geraniums from Cuttings