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How to Keep Geraniums Over the Winter

Geraniums are one of the most popular annual flowers and one of the easiest to grow. Zonal Geraniums (pelargonium) are big and beautiful and can cost anywhere from $3 – $5 a piece for one 4” plant. If you buy a lot of them, that can really add up. I realize some of us have the budget and are okay with buying new plants every spring. I used to be one of those gardeners, but now I just really like to conserve my gardening budget where and when I can. Plus, I just get a charge out of growing plants and flowers. So, I want to share with you a couple of ways I’ve used to propagate and overwinter geraniums.

How to Overwinter Zonal Geraniums

A Little Education on Zonal Geraniums

Zonal Geraniums are considered annuals in gardening zones 3 – 8. In gardening zones 9 and 10, they are considered perennials, also referred to as tropical perennials. 

The word “Zonal” when referring to Geraniums comes from the stripes on the leaves (or zones).

The difference between seed geraniums and zonal geraniums is:

  • seed geraniums are grown from seed
  • zonal geraniums are propagated from stem cuttings

Seed geraniums are smaller plants than zonal geraniums and they have smaller flowers. I’m fairly certain seed geraniums cannot be overwintered with this method.

And not to confuse anyone, but zonal geraniums (Pelargonium) are altogether different from the perennial geraniums, also known as cranesbill.

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Winter Storage for Geraniums

I have a gardener friend that simply brings her pots of geraniums indoors in the fall and places them in a sunny window for the winter. They get rather leggy and pathetic looking, but it works for her. I just don’t have the room to do this, nor do I want the mess. Plus most of my geraniums are planted in the ground and I would have to pot them up. Anyway, I want to mention it in case you’d like to give it a try.

This is how I overwinter geraniums and it’s been working wonderfully for me several years now, and I’ve had very good success doing it this way.

  • I simply pull the geraniums (before we get a frost), shake as much dirt off the roots as I can and lay them out on a newspaper in the sun to dry a bit. Don’t leave the plants in the sun so long that they shrivel up. We want to leave them in the sun long enough that they are not damp when we store them, so they don’t grow mold.

Storing Geraniums Over the Winter

  • After they’ve dried, I simply gather up a bunch and put them in a paper grocery bag (roots in the bag) and hang the bag in my basement. I recently read where a gardener said she put the plants in the bag with the roots sticking up. I’m thinking perhaps I will try both ways this year and see which way works best. 
  • To overwinter geraniums so that they go dormant, they need to be stored in a dark area that stays around 50 – 60 degrees.
  • That is really all there is to it. I don’t check on them during the winter and I don’t spray the roots with water, as I’ve read in other tutorials. The geraniums really just take a nap and go dormant.

To help you remember all the steps to Overwinter Geraniums and bring them out of dormancy, I’ve created a handy checklist. You can print the checklist off and keep it in the paper bag with your geraniums, or you can add it to your Garden Journal. To gain instant access to the Free Printable How to Overwinter Geraniums Checklist and all the other free gardening printables in the Garden Resources Library, simply complete the subscription form below.

How to Bring Overwintered Geraniums Out of Dormancy

  • Somewhere around the middle of March, I pull my bags out of the basement. You can pot your overwintered geraniums up indoors to give them a jumpstart, or if you live in warmer zones, you can pot them up outside.

How to Bring Overwintered Geraniums Out of Dormancy

  • Next, I take the plants out of the paper bag(s) and cut them down to just a couple of inches. I go through the plants and toss out the ones that are totally brown and brittle. You’ll want to look for some with a bit of green in the stem. When the weather cooperates, I like to do this step outside, because it makes quite a mess with all the dried up leaves and such.
  • Then pot up the plants in a good potting mix. I typically will use a potting mix that doesn’t have fertilizer added. Use pots like this that have adequate drainage, with a saucer underneath to catch run off. Or, simply use clean recycled pots with a tray underneath like the picture below.

Potting Overwintered Geraniums

  • Place your plants in a sunny spot or under some grow lights and wait. Honestly, it will look like you’re trying to grow something from a dead stick, but just be patient. Within a few weeks you’ll start to see little bits of green popping out, and, then it will be time to get excited.

Geraniums Waking Up From Dormancy

  • If you start your overwintered geraniums indoors, be sure to acclimate them to the outdoors before you place them out permanently. That’s called “hardening off” and you can learn how to do that in the Seed Starting post.

How to Propagate Zonal Geraniums from Stem Cuttings

Propagating geraniums from stem cuttings is also a great way to add more geraniums to your collection. It’s another fun way to overwinter geraniums. Actually, stem cuttings can be taken anytime from geraniums and rooted.

First, simply cut a section of stem about 3 or 4 inches long at about a 45 degree angle just below a leaf node. Strip the leaves off of the bottom half of your cut stem.

Prepare small cups (yogurt cartons work great) with drainage holes in the bottom by adding seed starting mix to the cup to about a half inch from the top.

Next, dip the end of the stem in rooting hormone powder and then simply stick your stems in the soil cups. Gently tamping the soil in around the stems.

Water your cuttings slowly so as not to dislodge the cuttings.

Next, you just wait. It can take around 6 weeks for the cuttings to grow roots. In the meantime, make sure to keep the soil moist.

After about 8 weeks, it’s a good idea to transplant your little plants into larger pots and start fertilizing them with weak mix like the one suggested above.

I haven’t propagated new geraniums from cuttings for many years, so I don’t have pictures of the process. Pamela from Flower Patch Farmhouse has a very good tutorial, if you’d like to see pictures.

To remind you how to overwinter geraniums later, here’s a pin you can add to one of your favorite Gardening boards on Pinterest. Any of the pictures in this post can be pinned, and there are more pin collages at the bottom of the page. Thanks for Pinning!

How to Overwinter Geraniums

More Fall Gardening Goodness

There’s a whole slew of Fall Gardening Posts on Gingham Gardens. Here are a few I think you’ll enjoy:

Tips on Transitioning Container Gardens to Fall
Planting Bulbs in the Fall For Amazing Spring Flowers
All About Seed Collecting
Quick & Easy Steps for Fall Garden Cleanup
Tips for Keeping Potted Mums Looking Great

What do you think? Are you going to try overwintering your zonal geraniums, or propagate a few from cuttings? I know I’m a gardening geek, but it’s just so gratifying to see those first little bits of green popping out. Also, I have a several geraniums that are a couple of years old now and they seem to get bigger and bigger every year. Give it a try this year and see if it works for you.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by Gingham Gardens today. I hope you enjoyed learning about How to Overwinter Geraniums and my tips for propagating geraniums from cuttings. If you have a question about this tutorial, or other gardening questions, please leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can. I would love to hear from you.

Happy Gardening,

Follow Gingham Gardens on Pinterest for lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy. Gingham Gardens is also on Facebook – come say “hi.”

Late Summer / Early Fall is a GREAT time to buy tools and garden decor. Many gardening items are cheaper now! A few of my favorite gardening items:

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  1. I’m excited about your free printables – but I’ve yet to find them. I subscribed and got the password, entered it in, and was taken to the same pages as before I subscribed. What am I missing??
    Please advise~

    My geraniums are very big that in some cases only one will fit into a bag.. My first time over wintering so don’t want to fail for they were so beautiful this year. .
    Should I cut them back or can they lay on cardboard or can the lay on caredboard or newspaper in the crawl space.
    thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Barb, thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. I have some huge geraniums too. If you can’t fit your geranium into a paper bag, just stick it down in a cardboard box. I wouldn’t trim them now. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  3. I usually don’t do Geraniums but my daughter bought me 2 chartreuse leaved with bright orange flowers…
    The bags are what kind? Want to try to save. Is each plant just one plant and will I need to take cuttings to get more plants.,. I think I have several spots that might work. Excited to try.. Love the site… 💙

    1. Hi there, Margaret, so glad you stopped by Gingham Gardens today. I recommend using paper bags, just the ones you get from the grocery store. Yes, you can grow more geraniums from one plant by taking cuttings. Good luck and let me know how it goes (or grows), Joanna

  4. Joanna, when you are trimming up the geraniums to pot them up in the spring do you trim the roots at all? I might start on mine this week. I looked at them in their box and was surprised that they actually look like they are still alive :). Thank you!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom; i have found that you are the one I follow and you are helpful and reasonable. Thank you. I live in Georgia and will be trying this with my flowers.

  6. Hi I live in N.E. Wa. State and want to try to winter over my Zonal Geraniums. Our weather has turn drizzly and chilly. So my potted geraniums are in my living room because we got our first first
    last night😣 I am wondering if I can dry them out inside the warm house before putting them in to my dark cool basement? If I can, how and how long? No nice warm sun in our future until spring! Thank you so much!😁

    1. Just wait until they are dry enough that they won’t make a big mess and that you can shake the soil off of them and then follow the steps. Good luck and happy gardening (or dreaming), Joanna

  7. Hi Joanna,
    My son gave me a Pillar Geranium annual for Mother’s Day and I was wondering if I can over winter it in a large lawn bag out of the pot like I have been reading. I just don’t know if I would have to cut this pillar all the way down or what I can do. I do not have a sunny window to keep it in. I live in Minnesota so I need to bring it in soon. He paid almost a 100 dollars so I thought to give it a try. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sue – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you succeeded in overwintering your geranium. I have not had success at all overwintering geraniums in pots, so I recommend pulling it out of the pot and shaking as much of the soil off as you can. Then place it in a paper lawn bag and follow the rest of the directions. Don’t cut anything off the plant until spring and then give it a really good trim. No guarantees, but I think it’s your best chance at saving your geranium. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

      1. I would take a few cuttings before storing for winter. If one method doesn’t work, maybe the other one will! Or you have a few bonus plants. I I find things root better in a brown bottle(beer) that I purchase at bottle recycling center. Don’t know why but it works for me..

  8. Thank you Joanna for this post. It looks like it worked great for me. All of my geraniums are alive. I got even more plants by taking some cuttings. They started to grow in paper bag without soil.

    1. Hi MirkA, I’m so happy to hear this. I pulled all my overwintered geraniums out last weekend and they all looked pretty good. I got them all potted up and now I’m just waited for those little green sprouts. Take care and happy gardening! Joanna

  9. We are getting a heavy freeze tonight so I’ve pulled out my geraniums and am going to try overwintering them using your helpful hints. The sun didn’t shine today so I have my plants laid out on newspaper to dry out before putting them in paper sacks. Each year, my paternal grandmother would plant her geraniums in her flower boxes from the ones she had overwintered in her cellar. I’m hoping I inherited her green thumb. I am enjoying your suggestions, articles and hints. Thank you.

    1. Hi Marilyn – thanks for stopping by Gingham Gardens and taking the time to leave such a nice comment. I have 3 or 4 paper bags full of geraniums that need to be moved from the garage to the basement this week. I love the story about your grandmother. Good luck and happy fall, Joanna

  10. I have overwintered geraniums both in pots in our heated shed and bare roots in a large tub put in a storage area that doesn’t freeze. The bare rooted plants I plant right in the soil in the garden and they do great. The plants I keep in the pots don’t do so well and I end up putting them in the ground where they do so much better. My collection is growing every year with the help of my MIL giving me hers at the end of the season. I also go the cemetaries where we have placed plants in the spring and try to visit enough to keep the plants watered through the summer at the graves of our parents and grandparents and bring them home to save over winter.

    1. Hi Julie – it sounds like you’ve had very good luck overwintering geraniums. It’s gratifying to be able to overwinter plants, especially when they have sentimental value like yours do. Happy fall, Joanna

  11. If geraniums are left in containers, do you still water them? All the talk about roots of drying them out. What is the deal with the leaves? 1st time I’ve had a geranium. And on my email- gmail, it’s all small letters, couldn’t type small letters.

    1. Hi Kathleen – thanks for stopping by. If you bring geraniums inside in their pots and put them in a sunny window to keep them alive over the winter, yes you should water them. If you bring them in and put them in a cool dark place so they go dormant, no there’s no need to water them. Just know that I have had mixed results when I leave mine in pots, but several gardeners on Facebook have said that they do. I’m not sure what you meant by “And on my email- gmail, it’s all small letters, couldn’t type small letters.” Send me an email if you’re having problems getting into the Garden Resources Library. Good luck and happy gardening! Joanna

    1. Hi Sandy – thanks for stopping by. Ok, we need to get creative for you. Do you have a garage? If not what about a dark closet that stays fairly cold, perhaps on an outside wall? If you’re in a gardening zone (7 or above), try overwintering outdoors, simply by burying the plant with leaves. Good luck and happy gardening, Joanna

  12. I have kept my geraniums over the winter for many, many years in the basement. I try to put them in just before we get a hard frost and bring them out early spring. I trim them and have been successful with planting some of the cuttings which give me more plants the nest season. It is a challenge to see if they grow each year plus I enjoy seeing them grow into beautiful plants each year. Thank you for the info about pulling them out of the ground, drying them and storing them in paper bags..

    1. Hi Charlotte – It is very gratifying to succeed at overwintering plants. It’s also fun to experiment with different plants and different methods. Thanks for stopping by and come back soon! Joanna

  13. I have geranium cuttings from my grandmother’s mother plant (g.ma died in the early 70’s, so you know how old these are) and I have always brought them inside in their pots and took cuttings too. The thought of losing my old plants cause me to shudder, however I am going to try doing it your way with one of them this year. I too live in MN but our unheated garage stays around 40-45 degrees in the winter. Wish me luck!

  14. Thank you. I surely am going to try this. I so spend a lot of meh on large containers I am excited to think I might can salvage my geraniums. They were so pretty this year , exceptionally large and bloomed profusely The Alabama heat probably helped with that

    1. Hello Betty – thanks for stopping by. It’s worth it to definitely try. Others have stated that they overwinter there geraniums right in the pot, but I’ve not had good luck with that method. Good luck and happy gardening!

    1. Hi Nina – that’s a really good question. There are several different varieties of verbena and most are annuals here in my zone 4 garden. With most annuals they really aren’t made to overwinter. I grew verbena bonariensis (which is considered a tender perennial in zones 6 and lower) this year and I’m going to try overwintering it this year just like I do my zonal geraniums. A huge part of learning gardening is experimentation and it never hurts to try. So go ahead and try overwintering some verbena (whichever variety your have) and see what happens. You really have nothing to lose. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Happy gardening, Joanna

    1. Hi Suzzanne – I’ve never had success doing this, but I know other gardeners that have. I don’t have any zonal geraniums in pots this year, or I’d try again. If you have geraniums in pots and want to try to overwinter them, go ahead and try it. You have nothing to lose and it would be awesome if you succeeded. Thanks a bunch for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Come back soon. Happy Gardening, Joanna

  15. Hi Joanna,

    Thank you for this post! I love geraniums and I’m intrigued by this…so I may try it this fall. My one question, though is the 50-60 degrees to store them. My basement is warmer than that and I believe my garage is too, we keep it heated. So what’s better, to have it a little warmer than that or to possibly store them outside? Is there a way to store them outside and keep them a little warmer? I’ll probably try it and see what happens, I just wanted your opinion on it. I live in Colorado, 5b.
    Thanks! I love your blog and look forward to reading it!

    1. Hi Lisa – thanks for stopping by. I would try storing them on an outside wall of your heated garage. It just needs to be dark and cool. I store mine in the coldest part of my heated basement and it works fine. Just give it a try and see how they do. Happy gardening, Joanna

  16. Hi Joanna – I love love geraniums and I asked you a question about them in the beginning of summer and you answered me and it worked. Now I have another question, what is eating my flower buds on the geraniums before they have a chance to bloom. Whatever it is, the buds are eaten on the inside of the bud. If you could give another answer with your great knowledge, I would appreciate it very much. Thanks

    1. Hi Irene – japanese beetles like to eat geraniums and when they do it puts them to sleep and they fall off the plant. I’m wondering if that’s what’s eating your geraniums. Did you have japanese beetles on other plants in your gardens? If so, I would imagine that is the culprit. I don’t know of any other bug that likes to eat geraniums. Sorry, I don’t have a solid answer for you. Hopefully you won’t have the same problem next year. Good luck and happy fall

      1. Thanks Joanna – I’ve looked for bugs and I couldn’t see any but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. I will remember for next year and really look into the Japanese beetles. But my geraniums did very well with the green leaves this year. I hardly had to take off any. I’ve never had such luck as I did this year with your help. Thank you so much!!!

  17. Such a great post Joanna! I used to live in Minneapolis, and remember how difficult it was to keep anything over the winter! 😉 I’m in the lovely Zone 8b, so it’s not so bad now. I’m definitely going to try it on some and see if it helps – my geraniums don’t always overwinter well outside.Thanks so much – love your tips!

    1. Hi Barbara – thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such kind comments. I do love our Minnesota summers, but the very long winters – not so much! Geraniums are typically only hardy in zones 9 and 10, so try overwintering them this year. Happy gardening, Joanna

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