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4 Easy Options for Overwintering Your Geraniums

What if I told you that your annual geraniums could live through the winter and be back in your garden in time for summer? In this post, I’ll help you do just that by sharing 4 easy options for overwintering your geraniums.

Geraniums (Pelargonium hybrids) are usually grown as annuals, except where the climate is mild enough for them to bloom outdoors all year long as perennial plants in zones 10-11.

If left outdoors after the first hard frost of the season they will die. But geraniums are actually tender perennials that tolerate temperatures of 45°F or higher, and temperatures between 55°-65°F are ideal when growing geraniums indoors.

pink geraniums in a greenhouse

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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.

inside the greenhouse

A Guide to Understanding Geranium’s Grow Cycle

Geranium blooms can steal the show in your garden, but there are some essential things to know to keep them happy, especially as the colder months approach.

Understanding Your Geranium’s Climate Zone

It’s crucial to know your garden’s climate zone. Geraniums are quite adaptable, but knowing your zone helps you plan better. These plants typically thrive in USDA hardiness zones 10-11.

Check here for your USDA hardiness zone.

How Long Can Geraniums Stay in the Garden?

Geraniums can grow in your garden from late spring through to the first frost. They just need plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil, and water to keep them happy.

When to Start the Overwintering Process

When the days start getting shorter, and the temperature starts cooling down, it’s time to start thinking about overwintering your geraniums. Depending on your climate, this can begin anywhere from late summer to early fall. As a general rule of thumb, you want to bring your geraniums inside before the first frost arrives.

Overwintering Geraniums is Cost Effective

Geraniums are one of my favorite flowers to grow in containers and window boxes. They are so easy to care for and give you the perfect pop of color in your garden throughout late spring and summer.

I used to spend well over $300 on annual flowers in the garden each year. But by overwintering my geraniums, I’m saving a great deal of money.

Not only am I able to save my geraniums for the next growing season, but I’m also starting new plants from the cuttings of my older plants.

seedlings and geraniums in a greenhouse

How to Winterize Geraniums: 4 Easy Methods

If your garden is like mine, and you have an abundance of geraniums (I’ll be overwintering 178 plants this year), it’s most likely worth it to overwinter your plants.

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.

How many plants you can actually overwinter will depend on how much space you have, and if that space will stay warmer than 45°F throughout the winter months.

Here are the four overwintering options I’ll be sharing with you in this post:

  • Growing Geraniums Indoors: in a Greenhouse/Cold Frame or as Houseplants
  • Dormant Bare-Root Storage
  • Propagating New Plants from Cuttings and Storing
  • Storing Dormant Geraniums Until Spring
geraniums in a container

1. Overwintering Geraniums in Pots

This is the way I store my geraniums because I’m able to keep them in my heated greenhouse (no cooler than 45°F) all snug and safe for the winter. I’ve had very good luck with this method for 3 years now.

But the good news is you don’t have to have a greenhouse. You can keep your geraniums as houseplants or keep them in a cold frame as well.

  • 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, stems, flower blooms, and any part of the plant that looks unhealthy.
  • Make sure the plant is healthy and without disease or pests.
  • Proper air circulation in the space is key as 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 geraniums heavily, immediately after transplanting to saturate the plant. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature and give them a bit of water when they need it.
  • Store the geranium containers in a space with direct sunlight. Label your plants by color, either by storing them in color groupings, or placing tags in or on the container.

Overwintering Geraniums in Unheated Greenhouse

You can overwinter geraniums in an unheated greenhouse, and it can be an effective way to protect them from the harsh winter weather while providing some insulation from the cold.

This method provides them with a more controlled and sheltered environment compared to leaving them outdoors, increasing their chances of surviving the winter and thriving when spring returns but the plants will need extra protection in instances of extreme cold.

If extremely cold temperatures are expected, you can add some additional protection. Covering the pots with frost cloth or blankets during very cold nights can help retain some warmth.

geraniums overwintering in a greenhouse
overwintering geraniums in the greenhouse

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.

geraniums hardening off for spring

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 your potted geraniums. 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.

overwintering your geraniums: hanging geraniums upside down

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.

  • Dig the geranium plant from the outdoor container before the freezing temperatures, and gently shake the soil from the bare roots.
  • Prune the plant back by about one-half, including any dead foliage, flower blooms, and anything that looks unhealthy.
  • Choose a cool, dark, and dry location for winter storage, such as an unheated basement, garage, or shed. It’s important that the temperature does not fall below 45° F.
  • Either hang the plant upside down or place it in a brown paper bag. Geraniums are susceptible to mold when overwintering. Make sure there’s enough space between the plants for good air circulation around them when hanging, and don’t seal the bag tightly.
  • 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. Some gardening experts recommend doing this once a month, while others suggest a couple of times during the winter months. 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.
overwintering your geraniums:

How to Revive 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 in pots 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 new growth after dormant storage.
geranium cuttings

3. Take Cuttings from Outdoor Geranium Plants

A geranium “cutting” refers to a portion of a geranium plant, typically a stem or a branch, that is removed from the parent plant to grow a new, independent geranium plant from it. These cuttings are often used for propagation, allowing gardeners to create multiple geranium plants from a single parent plant.

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 is a 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.

Take some cuttings from your existing plants and put them in water or a special soil mix to let their roots develop. Once they’re ready, move them to small pots or containers. Keep them in a place where they can get sunlight, and don’t forget to keep an eye on their humidity levels.

taking cuttings from a geranium plant

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.

overwintering your geraniums: paper bag over geraniums for overwintering

4. Overwintering Dormant Geraniums

Overwintering full-size, dormant geranium plants is like hibernating the plant for the winter and then waking it 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, dark, 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.
  • Allow the plants to dry completely before placing them back in the paper bag.
greenhouse with flower containers

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.
geraniums hardening off outdoors

Tips for Replanting Geraniums after Winter Storage

  • 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 Pacific Northwest garden (hardiness zone 8b). I use a time-release fertilizer when I’m transplanting the geraniums.
geraniums planted in a vintage container

Common Questions Avout Overwintering Geraniums

Can I Leave Geraniums Outside Over Winter?

Whether you can leave geraniums outside over winter largely depends on the climate in your region and the specific type of geranium you have. Geraniums are not frost-tolerant plants, so they can be damaged or killed by freezing temperatures. However, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Climate Zone: Geraniums are typically hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, which have mild winters. In these zones, you can often leave geraniums outside year-round.
  • Annual vs. Perennial Geraniums: Geraniums are commonly divided into two categories: annual and perennial. Annual geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) are not cold-hardy and will not survive freezing temperatures. Perennial geraniums (sometimes called hardy geraniums) are more cold-tolerant and can endure frost and light freezes, especially in cooler climates.
  • Protection: If you live in an area with cold winters and want to keep your geraniums outside, you can provide some protection. Consider covering them with frost blankets or bringing them close to a building where they can benefit from some heat radiating off the walls.
  • Container Plants: Geraniums grown in containers can be moved to a sheltered location, like a garage or a shed, during the winter months to protect them from freezing temperatures. Make sure the plants receive some indirect sunlight during this time.
  • Mulching: For perennial geraniums planted in the ground, you can add a layer of mulch around the base of the plants in late fall. This helps insulate the roots and protect them from extreme cold.
  • Indoors: Many gardeners choose to overwinter their geraniums indoors to ensure their survival. This involves bringing potted geraniums inside before the first frost, trimming them back, and caring for them as indoor plants until spring returns.

Can I Overwinter Geraniums in Garage?

Yes, you can overwinter geraniums in a garage, and it can be a good option for protecting them from freezing temperatures during the winter months.

  • Before the first frost, carefully dig up your geranium plants from the garden if they are planted in the ground and shake off excess soil. Do not wash the roots. If your geraniums are in pots, you can simply move the pots into the garage.
  • Trim back the geraniums to about one-third of their original size to reduce the demand for water and nutrients during their dormancy period.
  • If your geraniums were in the ground, transplant them into pots with drainage holes and well-draining potting mix.
  • Place the potted geraniums in the garage in a location where they’ll receive indirect sunlight, such as near a window. If natural light is limited, you can also use fluorescent or grow lights.
  • Temperatures in the garage can be cool but above freezing, around 45-50°F.
  • Geraniums in a garage need less water than during the growing season so only water when the soil is dry to the touch, but not bone dry.
  • Check on your overwintering geranium plants periodically throughout the winter, looking for signs of pests or diseases. Remove any affected leaves or stems promptly.
  • If extremely cold temperatures are expected, add additional protection such as frost cloths or blankets to help retain warmth.

Can You Bring Geraniums Indors for the Winter and They’ll Still Grow?

Yes, you can bring geraniums indoors for the winter, and with proper care, they can continue to grow and thrive as indoor houseplants.

  • The best time to bring your geraniums indoors is before the first frost so they can adjust to indoor conditions before the weather turns cold.
  • Trim your geraniums back by about one-third to one-half of their size for bushier growth indoors and reduce the demand for nutrients.
  • If your geraniums are in the ground, carefully dig them up, preserving as much of the root ball as possible. Repot them into containers with drainage holes and with well-draining potting soil.
  • Place your potted geraniums near a sunny window to receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily or use fluorescent grow lights.
  • Geraniums prefer temperatures between 60-70°F (15-24°C) during the day and slightly cooler temperatures at night. Avoid placing them near heating vents or radiators.
  • Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, but don’t overwater as geraniums are susceptible to root rot.
  • Fertilize your geraniums with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the winter. Follow the package instructions for the correct dilution rate.
  • Geraniums prefer moderately humid conditions. You can increase humidity around the plants by using a humidity tray or lightly misting them occasionally.
  • Continue to trim off dead or yellowing leaves and spent flowers to encourage new growth.

How Long Do Geraniums Live Indoors?

Geraniums can live indoors for several years if they receive proper care. With the right conditions and attention to their needs, indoor geraniums can remain healthy and continue to thrive for an extended period.

How Often Should You Water Indoor Geraniums?

  • The frequency of watering indoor geraniums depends on several factors, including the environmental conditions, the size of the pot, the type of potting mix used, and the specific needs of the plant.
  • Always check the moisture level of the soil before watering by sticking your finger about an inch (2.5 cm) into the soil near the edge of the pot. If it feels dry at this depth, it’s time to water. If it still feels slightly moist, hold off on watering.
  • Indoor geraniums typically need watering every 7 to 10 days during the growing season (spring to early fall).
  • Water thoroughly but avoid soaking the soil. Add water until you see it start to drain out of the bottom of the pot. This helps ensure that the entire root ball gets hydrated.
  • Ensure that the pots have adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Proper drainage helps prevent waterlogged soil and root rot.
  • During the winter months, when geraniums tend to slow down their growth, reduce the frequency of watering. You may only need to water once every 2-4 weeks or when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • If the indoor environment is particularly dry, you may need to water more often. Additionally, using a humidity tray or misting the area around the plants can help maintain a more favorable humidity level.

Comparing the Options for Overwintering Geraniums

Winter doesn’t have to mean the end for your geraniums. By choosing one of these four simple methods, you can ensure their survival and prepare them for a healthy new year.

Each option has its pros and cons. Bringing geraniums indoors gives you complete control over the overwintering process while creating new plants can give you less woody options and more blooms.

Storing geraniums in a greenhouse offers a balance of protection and natural conditions. Your choice will depend on what suits your space, climate, and preferences.

overwintering your geraniums: in the greenhouse

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,

Happy Gardening!

4 easy options for overwintering geraniums

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19 Comments

  1. I tried overwintering by keeping them in garden bags in my garage just outside of Boston, MA. They did not come back at all! I am going to try keeping them in their pot this winter inside. So I should cut them down by half. Then water as needed. I’m a litter nervous.

  2. Hi Kim, I was excited to find you recently on IG and looking forward to reading your blog. I decided to try to save money and save most my Geraniums for next spring so this blog came just at the time I needed it. I plan to leave them in the pots/hanging baskets. So I have trimmed them back and placed them in the guest room by the windows. And closed off the heat to that room so it will stay cooler. Do I need to water at all and should I put a paper bag over them? I might try some clippings too.

  3. This is so timely! I am digging up my geraniums today. I plan to take a bunch of cuttings and get them going over winter. I’ve never heard of the bare root storage option before. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Kim, I love this post! Every year we take our huge geranium pots and transport them to our mountain cabin over the summer. The heat in Phoenix kills the geraniums and the love the cooler mountain air. Then in October we drive them back down to Phoenix for the winter. However this is a big chore as we have many big pots. I’ve thought about overwintering them but it gets too cold in the mountains. Also I have fond memories of my mother creating new plants from cuttings. Really informative post! Now I have to think about what to do.

    1. That’s a lot of work! You must love geraniums as much as I do! I love taking the cuttings not only to start new plants but also because the mother plant eventually stops blooming and gets way too leggy. Thank you so much for your feedback, Mary.

  5. Kim, your property, gardens and home are breathtakingly beautiful! Do you do any “in person” tours? I’m getting ready to prepare my geraniums for storing and will be pulling up my dahlia tubers when it’s time. I actually live on the KP also, have just retired and have been reading your posts for the last hour. Thank you for sharing such great information.
    Terry Fandel

    1. Hi Terry! Thank you for being here. There won’t be much to see in a few weeks. I usually don’t do tours because of the security issues that come with it. But I always love meeting KP neighbors so I’m sure we could work something out.

  6. Kim these are such helpful tips! How warm do you keep your greenhouse over the winter?
    This is my first year growing geraniums and I have about 10 scented geraniums that I want to save. Perfect timing for your blog post!

    1. I’m so glad Jen! I have a heated greenhouse that is temperature controlled so I’m lucky. But I am doing some research and finding some interesting ideas, one of them is using bubble wrap.

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