Did you know that saving your geraniums and keeping them alive over winter is not only possible – it’s actually quite easy to do?
Geraniums are one of the most popular flowers of all for adding big color in the spring, summer and fall. With their long stems, bright green foliage and clustered petals they are certainly a showstopper wherever they grow. And can they ever grow anywhere!
Not only are geraniums excellent for directly planting into flowerbeds, they also perform incredibly well in hanging baskets, containers, raised beds, or anywhere you need a massive splash of color.
If there is one drawback to this beautiful flowering plant, it’s that in most cases, its life span never lasts beyond a single growing season. In fact, in most growing zones, geraniums are treated as an annual flower.
Much like with marigolds, begonias and other annual flowers, geraniums will die off with the first hard frost or freeze of the season. But here is the good news, winter’s arrival doesn’t have to spell the end of the line for geraniums.
Even though most treat flowering geraniums as an annual, they are actually a perennial. And one that with a little care can be overwintered indoors to grow again next year!
Understanding Geraniums – How To Save Geraniums Over Winter.
There are actually two distinct types of geraniums, hardy and non-hardy. Both, however, are indeed perennials. Hardy perennial geraniums can handle life outdoors year round and do it quite well without any additional help in growing zones three through eight.
Hardy geraniums, although beautiful, have smaller blooms that do not extend out from large stems. They are certainly a wondrous perennial, but do not have the big blooming power of the non-hardy perennial geraniums.
Today’s article is all about saving the non-hardy (Pelargonium hybrid) geraniums. Non-hardy geraniums are the variety commonly used for planting in containers, baskets and flowerbeds. These are the geraniums that have the big stems and flower sets that most gardeners think of when they think of geraniums.
Unfortunately, these are also the geraniums that all too often are simply allowed to die at the end of the growing season. But, as you will see below, with just a bit of extra effort, non-hardy geraniums are quite easy to keep alive.
With that in mind, here is a look at how to save your geraniums – and in the process, save a little on your gardening budget next year as well!
How To Save Geraniums – Keeping Geraniums Alive Over Winter
Taking Action Before It’s Too Late
Overwintering and saving non-hardy geraniums is very similar to the process of saving ferns (See: How To Save Ferns). And just like when saving ferns, success begins by taking action before your geraniums can be ruined by a hard frost or freeze.
First, it is important to realize that non-hardy geraniums are extremely fragile in cold weather. Their stems, foliage and blooms all contain high amounts of moisture. And if that water freezes, it can quickly spell the end of the line.
In order to save your geraniums, you will need to move them indoors before the threat of frost. The earlier the better to avoid any issues with the plant’s roots and stems suffering damage.
The Process – How To Save Geraniums
There are actually a couple of different methods for saving geraniums. Selecting the best method for you all depends on your available space, and whether or not your plants grew directly in flower beds, or in pots or hanging baskets. Let’s first take a look at saving potted geraniums.
Saving Potted Plants
Saving geraniums already growing in pots or baskets is perhaps the easiest of all. If you have plenty of space in a well-lit room, you can actually save them as a houseplant. In fact, in the right conditions, they will even continue to bloom!
Geraniums will grow well indoors as long as they have plenty of light and adequate warmth. Begin by trimming off any dead stems and flower stems. Place the plant in a southern facing window away from drafts or heat vents. Water as the soil dries out, being careful not to overwater.
If you do not want to grow your geraniums as a houseplant, you can also allow them to go dormant and store them out of sight in their container. To do this, begin by cutting the plant back to about 1/2 of its original size.
Locating Your Plants For Success
Next, you will need to find a suitable location for allowing your plant to go dormant but still stay safe. The best location of all is a cool, damp basement. Unheated but insulated garages can work too as long as the temperatures do not get near or below freezing.
Cover your plants with a brown paper bag. Do not use plastic or a sheet. The brown paper bag will allow the plant to still breathe but cut light. Make sure the soil is fairly dry when covering. If it is too wet, it can cause the plant to mold and die.
Check your geraniums every two to three weeks to make sure the leaves are not falling off or drying out too much. If they are too dry, slightly water the surface to give the plants just a bit of moisture. As spring rolls around, you can move plants back outdoors or in a protected location to begin to regrow once again.
Saving Bare Root Cuttings – How To Save Geraniums
There is a third option to save your geraniums that requires even less space. Even better, it allows you to save geraniums planted in pots or directly in the ground.
In early fall, simply dig up your geraniums or remove them from the pot. Next, brush off the soil to expose the bare roots. Cut the top of the plant down in size by 1/2 to 2/3rds, leaving all of the roots in tact.
Next, place the plants into a large brown paper bag (a cardboard box will work well too) and store in a cool, dark location. Again, the basement is usually the best place of all. When placing them in the bag or box, place the plants in upside down to keep the roots up.
Just before spring, you can pot up your bare root plants and place them in a sunny room or window sill. When potting, use a good quality potting soil to ensure the roots set and grow well. Applying a rooting hormone or booster to the roots is also a great idea as it can speed up growth. (Product Link : Rooting Hormone Powder)
Bringing Plants Back In The Spring – How To Save Geraniums
Water the plants so that they are slightly moist. You should begin to see new growth appear within a few weeks. As the weather turns warmer outside, you can replant directly in the ground or allow the plants to grow in the containers!
Here is to saving your geraniums this fall and keeping them alive over winter – and to saving a little more in your bank account next spring! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
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