Geraniums are just too pretty to let die at the end of the year. This year I am determined to make my Zonal Geraniums last through the winter! If I can successfully overwinter them, I not only will feel a great sense of accomplishment, but I will also save money. Score one for the frugal gal!
According to my research there are 4 main ways you can overwinter Geraniums.
1. Storing as a Houseplant: Dig up your Geraniums and repot (or just move inside if potted) and cut back by about 1/3. Place the plants in a cool bright room. One that stays between 45 and 70 degrees and has a bright west or south facing window is best. Alternately you can use a grow light. Initially give them a good watering, but then only water them when the soil become dry (watch out for over watering-it can cause root rot!). You can feed them a half strength plant food about once a month. If the plant seems to be struggling, rather than chucking it, try moving to the next option.
2. Storing in the Dark: Cut your potted Geraniums back (by about half) and then let the soil dry out. Store them in the dark-a frost free basement or garage is great. If it isn’t completely dark consider putting a paper bag over the top of the plant. Check the soil periodically and water a little bit-you don’t want the soil to go bone/powder dry, but they don’t need a lot of water while dormant~again, root rot is the enemy.
3. Storing Bare Root: Dig the Geranium out of the ground or it’s pot, shake the dirt off the roots, cut the top back by 1/2 and hang the bare roots up in an unheated basement. If your basement is light, consider hanging them in loose paper bags. Take the roots down “every once in a while” (I just love specific directions, don’t you?) and either spray the roots or drop them in a bucket of water for an hour or so, then drain & rehang. You don’t want the roots to dry all the way out and shrivel.
4. Storing by Propagating/Cutting: Why not take that one plant and make a bunch of baby plants for next year? The cuttings are much smaller than the full sized plant, so they will take much less storage space. For a good article on how to plant/pot cuttings check out Make More Plants with Cuttings From Your Own House and Garden Plants.
What next? In the spring, about 6 weeks before the last frost (regardless of the storage method) you bring your plants back into the indirect light and water them well. You should feed them some half strength houseplant fertilizer/food, and then just let them do their thing and recover. Move outdoors after all threat of frost is gone.
(Of course if you used the bare root method you need to repot first-you may even want to soak those roots for a couple hours to rehydrate them.)
So what is the plan for my geraniums? Well I think I’m going to be quite experimental this time around and try a bit of everything to see what works.
1. The two big hanging ivy geraniums from the front porch I will attempt to use as houseplants. If that starts going south I’ll change them over to dark storage.
2. The 4 potted geraniums I had on the front porch I will split 50/50. Two I will hang bare root, and two I will just do the dark thing.
3. Meanwhile all the methods require me to cut back the plants, and since I still have my seed starting rig set up in the basement, I’ll just go ahead and use all that cut off plan material to start new cuttings and see if they grow enough to be good for me in the spring.
Keys to Success
Well, there is really only one key to success here-my Google Calendar. I have a separate calendar set up that I named “gardening”. I will make reminders for myself to check & water the various varieties of plants (and I’ve done the same for the ferns I’m overwintering). My mind is like a sieve, and if I don’t make those reminders so they pop up on my regular calendar I WILL forget to water the dang things, they will all die and then I’ll be very sad and embarrassed.
So have any of you ever overwintered Geraniums? What worked, and what didn’t? I’d love to hear your experiences.