Is it hard for you to toss your geraniums away after the growing season has ended? Well you don’t have to any longer! I will show you 4 easy options to choose from for overwintering your geraniums.
Geraniums (Pelargonium hybrids) are usually only grown as annuals, except in zones 10 and 11, where the climate is mild enough for them to bloom beautifully outdoors all year long.
One of my most favorite yearly gardening projects is to overwinter my geraniums. I feel like I am getting away with something REALLY BIG! I used to spend well over $300 on annual flowers each year for my window boxes, outdoor containers and barrels throughout the garden.
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I’ve listed 4 easy overwintering options you can use if you want to be able to grow your geraniums in the garden again next year.
- Growing in containers
- Dormant bare-root storage
- Propagating new plants from cuttings
- Storing them dormant until spring.
If your garden is like mine, and you have an abundance of geraniums (I have 178 plants this year), it’s probably 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 throughout the winter months.
However, if you only grow a few plants each year, buying new ones in the spring might be more cost-effective and less time-consuming.
METHODS FOR OVERWINTERING
1. Grow in Containers
This is the way I store my geraniums because I am able to keep them in my heated greenhouse 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.
When researching how to overwintering these plants, I’ve always gotten COMPLETELY DIFFERENT information, depending on who’s writing the article. Again, I am just sharing what has worked for me.
Transplanting the Geraniums
- Dig the plant out of the 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 without disease or pests, and has proper air flow before transplanting them into a container. Geraniums are susceptible to mold when overwintering.
- Use a potting mix made for containerized plants, instead of garden soil that is often 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 REALLY wet. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
- 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.
Caring for the Transplanted Geraniums
- Check on your plants 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 as Houseplants
A great option for overwintering your geraniums is to bring them into your house. They’ll need a sunny location, with temperatures at 55-65 degrees 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 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 plant from the outdoor container before the first hard freeze of the season, and gently shake the soil from the roots.
- Cut back the plant by about half, including any dead foliage, flower blooms, and anything that looks unhealthy.
- Choose a cool, dark location for the winter, such as an unheated basement, garage or shed. It’s important that the temperature does not fall below 45 degrees F.
- Either hang the plant, or place them in paper bags. If you opt for the bags, don’t seal them tightly, as you want some air to circulate. Geraniums are susceptible to mold when overwintering. The Spruce suggests making sure there is enough space between plants for air to circulate 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 Dormant Geraniums
- 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. Allow the plant to completely dry before returning it back to the paper bag. THIS IS CRUCIAL!
- 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 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 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 Plants
If you have limited indoor space, or you want to multiply the number of plants for next year, you should think about taking cuttings from a geranium plant as an option. They are easy to root as cuttings. The baby plants take up less space than bringing the mother plant indoors, and they’ll probably have more blooms next season.
For step-by-step instructions, see my blog post on How to Start Geranium Cuttings. The longer you keep your geraniums, the woodier the stems get and the less they will flower. It’s a great idea to start new cuttings from existing plants for this reason alone.
4. Overwintering Dormant Geraniums
Overwintering full-size, dormant geranium plants is like hibernating the plant for the winter, and then waking them back up for spring.
Steps to Overwintering Dormant Geraniums
- Transplant the geraniums into containers before the first frost, cutting 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 last expected frost, relocate your dormant geraniums to indirect light.
- Clean up the plants by cutting off any dead leaves, and cut stems back to a healthy green growth.
- Give the potted plants a thorough watering and a diluted dose of fertilizer.
Planting Outdoors in the Spring
- It’s important to harden off the geraniums before transplanting them outdoors, which is the process of exposing transplants or seedlings gradually to the environmental changes that occur once outside.
- Plant the geraniums outside again, only after all danger of frost has passed. May is usually when I transplant them in my PNW garden. I use a time-release fertilizer at that time.
What I love about this is the fact that almost any gardener can implement 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. I would love to hear from you! Leave me a comment below.
Learn more about preparing your garden for winter.