Is it hard for you to toss your geraniums away after the growing season has ended, knowing that the many hard frosts of winter will kill them off? What if I told you your annual geraniums could live through the winter and be back in your garden in the summer? These 4 easy options for overwintering your geraniums are the solution you’ve been looking for.
Geraniums (Pelargonium hybrids) are usually grown as annuals, except in zones 10 and 11, where the climate is mild enough for them to bloom beautifully outdoors all year long as perennial plants.
One of the most effective ways to ensure your geraniums survive through the winter is to overwinter them in a dormant state.
This is one of my favorite yearly gardening projects because I’m saving my geranium plant’s lives.
I feel like I’m getting away with something. I used to spend well over $300 on annual flowers each year for my window boxes, outdoor containers, and barrels throughout the garden.
Before the first frost, I dig up every geranium in the garden and transplant them into individual pots.
The greenhouse is where my annual geraniums will stay, tucked in from the harsh winter weather.
But the real beauty is that you don’t have to have a greenhouse to overwinter your geraniums. There are plenty of other options you can choose from. And trust me, there’s a perfect method here just for you!
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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that worked for me along the way.
Table of Contents
- 1. Grow Geraniums in Containers Throughout the Winter
- 2. Dormant Bare Root Storage
- 3. Take Cuttings from Outdoor Geranium Plants
- 4. Overwintering Dormant Geraniums
- Tips for Planting Geraniums Back Outdoors Next Spring
I’m sharing 4 easy overwintering options you can use to be able to grow your geraniums in the garden again next year.
- Growing geraniums in containers – both in a greenhouse/cold frame or as houseplants
- Dormant bare-root storage
- Propagating new plants from cuttings
- Storing dormant geraniums until spring.
If your garden is like mine, and you have an abundance of geraniums (I have 178 plants this year), it’s most likely worth it to overwinter your plants. How many plants you can actually overwinter will really depend on how much space you have, and if that space will stay warmer than 45 degrees F throughout the winter months.
However, if you only grow a few plants each year, buying new geraniums in the spring might be more cost-effective and less time-consuming.
The great part is that you can overwinter geraniums during the cold weather even if you don’t have a greenhouse. Here are 4 different methods to choose from.
1. Grow Geraniums in Containers Throughout the Winter
This is the way I store my geraniums because I’m able to keep them in my heated greenhouse (no less than 45°F) all snug and safe for the winter. I’ve had very good luck with this method for 3 years now.
I know I always tell you this, but it’s worth noting that I am not a Master Gardener. I just try new things and share the ones that work for me. And this is one of them.
Transplanting the Geraniums Into a Greenhouse or Cold Frame
- Dig the geranium plant out of its outdoor container before the first hard freeze of the season, and gently shake the soil from the roots.
- Cut off any dead leaves and stems, flower blooms, and any part of the plant that looks unhealthy.
- Make sure the plant is healthy and without disease or pests. There must be proper air circulation in the space you are using for winter storage before transplanting them into a container. Geraniums are susceptible to mold when overwintering.
- Choose plastic pots or containers with drainage holes for the geranium plants you’re transplanting.
- Use a fresh potting mix instead of garden soil that is usually compacted, and drains poorly in containers. Fill the container almost to the top, leaving an inch or so for watering.
- Water the plant heavily, immediately after transplanting. The strategy is to get the plant saturated. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
- Store the geranium containers in a space with direct sun. Label your plants by color, either by storing them in color groupings, or placing tags in or on the container.
How to Care for the Transplanted Geraniums
Check on your plants at least once a month during the winter season, and pinch shoot tips. This will prevent any weak growth and will promote branching. Check the soil, and water if needed.
How Geraniums Can Overwinter as Houseplants
Another great option for overwintering your geraniums is to bring them into your house. They’ll need a sunny location, with temperatures at 55-65° F. They should be dug up out of the ground and transplanted into containers about 6 weeks before the first frost of the season. Trim back any excessively long roots.
Use a potting soil mix for container planting. Cut back 1″-3″ to half of the plant, and remove any dead or diseased parts of the plant. Check for pests, and apply an insecticide spray specifically for plants that are being transitioned indoors. Keep your plants moist, and pinch back any shoots. Fertilize lightly in the spring.
2. Dormant Bare Root Storage
Geraniums are very different from most annual flowers because of their ability to survive for most of the winter without soil.
If the geraniums are stored properly to prevent disease, they can survive extended periods of dryness due to their thick, succulent-like stems.
How to Store Geraniums
- Dig the geranium plant from the outdoor container before the first hard freeze of the season, and gently shake the soil from the bare roots.
- Cut back the plant by about half, including any dead foliage, flower blooms, and anything that looks unhealthy.
- Choose a cool, dark area for the winter, such as an unheated basement, garage, or shed. It’s important that the temperature does not fall below 45° F.
- Either hang the plant or place it in a brown paper bag. You want air to circulate in the bag so make sure you are not sealing it tightly. Geraniums are susceptible to mold when overwintering so make sure there’s enough space between the plants for good air circulation around them when hanging.
- Label your plants by color either by storing them in color groupings, or placing tags (loosely) around their roots.
Care for the Geraniums in the Dormant State
- Take the plants out of the bags and soak the roots in warm water for 1-2 hours. I have seen some experts recommend doing this once a month, while others suggest a couple of times during the winter months. It is so important to allow the plant to completely dry before returning it back to the paper bag.
- Inspect the geranium stems every couple of weeks, making sure they are firm, even if the leaves are dying. If any of the plants have shriveled stems, you should toss them right away. Remove anything that has mold growing on it.
Reviving Geraniums After Dormancy
- Cut back the dead stem tips, and remove any excessively long roots.
- Bare-root plants can be soaked in water for several hours before potting to rehydrate the roots.
- Plant geraniums 6 weeks before the last threat of frost.
- Use moist potting soil when planting, burying the plant two leaf nodes deep to form roots.
- Water them thoroughly.
- Place the newly planted geraniums in a sunny window to re-introduce light and initiate new growth. It will most likely take 2-4 weeks for the plants to initiate growth after dormant storage.
3. Take Cuttings from Outdoor Geranium Plants
If you have limited indoor space, or you want to multiply the number of plants to grow for next year, taking stem cuttings from a geranium plant can be another great option.
Geraniums are extremely easy to root as cuttings, even without a rooting hormone. The baby plants take up less space than bringing the mother plant indoors, and the new plant will probably have even more blooms next season.
To learn more about starting new plants from stem cuttings, my blog post How to Start Geranium Cuttings will give you step-by-step instructions. This is one of the easiest ways to overwinter geranium plants.
The longer you keep your geranium plants, the woodier the stems get and the less they will flower. It’s a good idea to start new cuttings from existing plants for this reason alone.
4. Overwintering Dormant Geraniums
Overwintering full-size, dormant geranium plants are like hibernating the plant for the winter and then waking them back up for spring.
Steps to Overwintering Dormant Geraniums
- Transplant the geraniums from the garden into plastic pots or other containers before the first frost, and cut the plant back by about half. Allow the soil in the pot to dry out.
- Place an overturned paper bag on top of each plant.
- Store the dormant plant containers in a cool, unheated, slightly damp basement or garage.
- Check the geraniums every few weeks to make sure the leaves and stems are not shriveling. If they show signs of drying, spray them with water or slightly water the roots. Then, allow the plant to dry completely before placing them back in the paper bag.
Reviving Dormant Geraniums
- About 6-8 weeks before the average last frost date, relocate your dormant geraniums to indirect light.
- Clean up the plants by cutting off any dead leaves, and cut stems back to healthy green growth.
- Give the potted plants a thorough watering and a diluted dose of fertilizer.
Tips for Planting Geraniums Back Outdoors Next Spring
- It’s important to harden off the geraniums before transplanting them outdoors. This is the process of gradually exposing transplants or seedlings to the environmental changes that occur once they’re outside.
- Plant the geraniums in the garden again, only after all danger of frost has passed. May is usually when I transplant them in my PNW garden (hardiness zone 8b). I use a time-release fertilizer when I’m transplanting the geraniums.
By overwintering your geraniums, you will give your plants the best chance of survival during the cold winter months. With a little bit of planning and the proper care, your geraniums will be sure to come back healthy and blooming in the spring.
What I love about this is the fact that almost any level of a gardener can implement at least one of these easy options to make overwintering geraniums work for their own circumstances.
I hope this has given you the inspiration to try to overwinter your geraniums or even just a few of them. Out of the different ways of overwintering, which is your favorite method? I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below.
Until next time,
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