Three super easy geranium care tricks for the cold winter months
One of the reasons geraniums (Pelargonium) are so popular is because they flower all the time with such little effort on our part. But, another more important reason, is because they are so forgiving.
You can beat them up a bit and they come right back. They are of course considered a perennial, but in many cold winter areas they are treated as an annual, or they are grown indoors.
Geraniums for all their beauty can only endure light frosts in the winter. If a hard freeze comes along, they will die.
The good news is that they can be overwintered (some call it "wintering"), quite easily, so you can keep your plants, in one form or another, year-round.
In fact, there are three different ways you can keep your plants until the spring, when you can then return them outdoors to thrive and flower once again.
So let's take a look at three easy, and proven, ways to keep your geranium plants going until the weather warms up.
Bare Root Plants
This is the easiest of the three methods, and the most popular, because the results are almost guaranteed.
- Dig the geraniums up and carefully shake all the soil from their roots.
- Then hang the plants upside down in a cool 45-50°: F (7.2-10 C), dry place.
- An alternate method is to place 1 or 2 plants in a large paper sack.
Note: The paper sack method is much cleaner than the hanging method, you'll see why in a few steps.
- Once a month during the winter, soak the roots of each plant in water for 1 to 2 hours.
- Most of the leaves will eventually fall off. (Here is where the paper sack is cleaner!)
- In the spring, when all chance of frost has past, prune or cut back each plant.
- Remove all shriveled, dead material.
- Healthy, live stems will be firm and solid.
- After pruning, pot up, or plant out the Geraniums and water in thoroughly.
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Six pots of overwintered geraniums
Same six pots in full flower
a few months later
Move plants indoors
This is a very easy way to keep your geraniums alive until spring as well, but be careful that you give them enough light.
- Prune the geraniums back to 1/2 to 1/3 of their original height, and then carefully dig up each plant.
- Place in a 6 to 8-inch (15.2-20.3 cm) pot.
- Water them in well, then place the geraniums in a bright, sunny window or under artificial lighting.
- Geraniums prefer cool indoor temperatures with daytime temperatures near 65° F (18.3 C) and night temperatures around 55° F (12.7 C).
- Geraniums become tall and spindly when grown in warm, poorly lit areas.
- During their stay indoors, water the plants only when the soil becomes dry.
- Occasionally pinch the geraniums to produce stocky, well- branched plants.
Geraniums moved indoors
Geraniums moved indoors
Taking cuttings from geraniums is one of the easiest things to do, plus they root very easily. This method has a few more steps involved, but again, you will have great success in keeping your geraniums until spring.
- Using a sharp knife or pruners, take 3 to 4-inch (7.6-10.2 cm) stem cuttings from the ends of the shoots.
- Pinch off the lower leaves, then dip the base of each cutting in a rooting hormone.
- Stick the cuttings in a rooting medium of coarse sand or a mixture of coarse sand and sphagnum peat moss.
- Clay or plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom are best.
- Put the cuttings into the medium just far enough to be self-supporting, then water in well.
- After the medium is allowed to drain, place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container to prevent wilting.
- Place the cuttings in bright light, but not direct sunlight.
- The cuttings should root in 6 to 8 weeks.
- When the cuttings have good root systems, remove them from the rooting medium and plant each rooted cutting in its own pot or outside when the weather is warm enough.
Geranium Cutting Dipped in Rooting Hormone
Geranium Cutting Covered in Clear Plastic Bag
Geranium Cuttings Finished and Potted Up
The above three methods are the easiest ways to overwinter your geraniums; and because they are such tough and accommodating plants, unless you do something drastically wrong, they will pull through for you every time.
So if you live in a very cold winter area, there is no reason you need to worry about your beautiful geraniums surviving the harsh weather ever again!
Hilary Rinaldi is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, a nationally published writer, and a certified organic grower. She regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics, with an emphasis on making gardening a successful and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to learn. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine concentrates of giving detailed gardening tips and gardening advice to all levels of gardeners.
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