How to Keep Geraniums Over the Winter
Geraniums are one of the most popular annual flowers (tender perennials in some gardening zones) and some of the easiest to grow. Zonal Geraniums (pelargonium) are beautiful plants and can cost anywhere from $3 – $5 a piece for one 4” pot. 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 like to conserve my gardening budget when and where I can. Plus, geraniums just get bigger and better every year you overwinter them. Follow along as I share with you a couple of different ways I’ve used to propagate and overwinter geraniums.
A Little Education on Zonal Geraniums
Zonal Geraniums are considered annual plants 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 or hardy geraniums, also known as cranesbill.
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Easy Steps to Overwinter Geraniums
I have a gardener friend that simply brings her potted geraniums indoors in the fall and places them in a sunny location for the winter months. 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 in-ground plants and I would have to pot them up. Anyway, I want to mention it if you want to try it.
This is how I overwinter geraniums and it’s been working wonderfully for me for several years now, and I’ve had very good success doing it this way.
- Before the first frost, gently pull or dig the geraniums.
- Inspect the plants for signs of insects and rinse any off the plant.
- Shake as much excess soil off the roots as possible and lay them out on a newspaper in the sun to dry. Don’t leave the plants in the sun so long that they shrivel up. They only need to be left in the sun long enough that they are not damp when we store them, so they don’t grow mold.
- After they are dry, simply gather up the entire plant and put them in a brown paper bag (bare roots in the bag). A cardboard box works well too.
- Next, hang the bag or place the box in a cool, dark and dry place. I hang my paper grocery bags full of geraniums in the unfinished storage area of our basement.
- 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 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 just take a nap and go into a dormant state.
The great thing about this method is that it takes up less space and it’s the easiest way I’ve found to overwinter geraniums.
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
- The next spring, 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.
- Next, I go through the dormant geranium plants and toss out the ones that are brown and brittle. Look for some hints of green in the stem. Then cut the plant stems down to just a couple of inches. When the weather cooperates, I like to do this outside, because it makes quite a mess with all the dead leaves and such.
- Then pot up the plants in a fresh potting soil. 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 runoff. Or, simply use clean recycled plastic pots with a tray underneath like the picture below.
- Water your plants well (slow and until you see water draining into the saucer). I use water with just a little all-purpose water-soluble plant food added to it.
- Place your plants in direct sunlight (a sunny windowsill works) 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 couple weeks you’ll start to see new growth, and, then it’s time to get excited. Allow the newly resurrected plant to grow and when there’s lots of healthy green growth they can be moved outdoors.
- 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.
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 tamp the soil 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. Thanks for Pinning!
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.
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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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