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Overwintering Geraniums: 4 Simple Ways + How to Replant

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Overwintering geraniums is a cinch!  Besides being easy to do, you’ll get to save your plants from year to year, save some money along the way, and grow some beautiful, larger specimens. You can either keep your plants growing, or allow them to go dormant. The thick, succulent stems allow geraniums to easily survive long periods of dryness during winter storage.

Keep reading and I will describe 4 very different ways that you can easily overwinter your geraniums.

overwintering-geraniums

OVERWINTERING GERANIUMS

After enjoying your geraniums outdoors all summer and fall, it’s hard to watch all your beautiful plants and hard work go to waste! Here are 4 methods that you can use to overwinter:

  1. Bring your geraniums indoors and keep them growing in a sunny window.
  2. If you have potted geraniums, allow them to go dormant and store in the same pot.
  3. Dig up your geraniums and store them bare-root.
  4. Take cuttings and keep them growing over winter.

Let’s discuss each option in detail. Whatever method you choose, bring your plants in before frost. I usually like to bring mine in before minimum temperatures drop below 40F (4.4C).

overwintering-geraniums-in-pots
Geraniums on our old patio.

1. KEEP YOUR GERANIUMS GROWING INDOORS

If you don’t want to let your plants go dormant, you can simply choose to bring your geraniums indoors to a sunny window, or under grow lights, and keep them growing.

Before you bring them back indoors, here are some important tips:

  • Remove any brown leaves, dead flower stalks, and any flower petals that may have fallen on the leaves.
  • Check your plants for any insects, and regardless whether you see any, spray your plant with insecticidal soap (link to Amazon) as a precaution before you bring your plants back in.
  • If you have your plants in the ground and need to dig them up to place in a pot, dig your plants up, shake off any loose soil, and plant into a pot. Don’t fill the pot with garden soil as it is too heavy for container use. Use a good all purpose potting mix (3 parts Miracle Gro + 1 part perlite is a good mix).
  • You may wish to trim your geranium back up to about half.
  • When you bring your plants indoors, give your plant the sunniest window you can, or place them under a good grow light.
  • If you see that growth is weak during winter, increase the light exposure and you can also pinch the growing tips off to encourage branching and bushier growth.

2. LET YOUR POTTED GERANIUMS GO DORMANT AND STORE OVER WINTER

I have most of my geraniums growing in pots, so this is the method I use every year.

Once cold temperatures come, I simply move my geraniums to a cool, dark area over the winter time.

overwintering-geraniums
Some of my geraniums in pots that are ready for winter storage.

You can place them in a cool, dark basement or even a garage, and keep them there until spring temperatures start to warm up. They key is to have darkness and cool temperatures during dormancy. 45-55F (7-13C) is ideal. I would say no warmer than 60F if you can.

You’ll want to stop watering and allow the foliage to die. Don’t worry, your plant will not die. You’re simply allowing it to go dormant.

The thick, succulent geranium stems allow the plants to survive periods of drought.

Once the foliage dies and yellows, clean up your plants. You may also see your plants send out flowers. Although it’s tempting to leave them, cut them off so that you’re not wasting your plant’s energy.

Sometimes I just wait until the spring time to clean up the dead foliage.

Depending on your storage conditions, you may need to water your pots 2 or 3 times during the winter so that the canes don’t die and shrivel up.

You want your canes to stay nice and firm, so check on them periodically and water when needed to help keep the stems firm.

When Should I Bring Geraniums Out of Dormancy?

When outdoor temperatures stay consistently above 40F, I will start my geraniums back into growth.

Here are are a couple potted geraniums that had started into growth while in dormancy. This is not unusual.

overwintering-geraniums-in-pots

At this point, I cleaned up the dead leaves and flowers (you could also choose to do it earlier).

After cleaning up the plants, I like to place them in a sheltered area outdoors (again, make sure that temperatures are consistently above 40F).

overwintering-geraniums-in-pots

At this point, this is a good time to repot if your plant needs a larger pot. I also like to mix in some Osmocote fertilizer (link to Amazon) into the soil at this time.

Applying fertilizer at this time is especially important if you’re leaving your plant in the same pot that it was growing in the previous year. The plant will have exhausted most of the nutrients, so it’s important to replenish with a good container fertilizer like Osmocote.

As you can see in the photo above, the new growth a lighter color since the plants were just taken out of the storage. The new growth is is very tender, so make sure to not put your geraniums into any sun yet otherwise the foliage will burn.

The new growth needs to harden off for a bit in complete shade outdoors for several days, and then slowly increase sun exposure a little at a time.

3. DIG UP YOUR GERANIUMS AND STORE BARE-ROOT

Another way to store your geraniums is by digging them up out of the ground or even out of a pot, and storing the plant bare-root without any soil at all.

This method is especially useful if you’ve had your geraniums growing in the ground. Here are some easy steps:

  • Dig your plant up and shake off most/all of the soil.
  • Prune off any unhealthy or soft canes, as well as any brown leaves and all flowers.
  • Let your plant air dry in a sheltered location for 2-3 days.
  • At this point, you have a couple options. Place your plant in a brown paper bag, close the top with a clip, and place it in a cool, dark location as described in the previous methods. You can also simply hang the plants upside down.
  • A couple times during the winter, soak the roots in water for 1-2 hours. If you notice any soft stems, prune these off at this time. Remove any dead leaves at this time too.
  • Come late March or early April, go ahead and pot your plants back up so they can resume into growth.

One year, I actually dug up a bunch of geraniums out of the garden, shook off all the soil, and threw several of them in a big, empty pot and left them in the garage all winter. I completely forgot about them until the Spring, and many of them survived despite completely neglecting them.

4. TAKE CUTTINGS AND KEEP GERANIUMS GROWING

And finally, if you don’t want to conduct any of the above options, you can simply take some cuttings from your outdoor plants and grow them indoors in a sunny windowsill.

This is definitely the most space-conscious method and is great if you just don’t have the room to overwinter bigger plants.

Simply follow these steps:

  • Take tip-cuttings of your geraniums with a sterilized, sharp knife or pruning shears. Your cuttings should be about 3-4 inches long or so. Don’t take huge cuttings because the risk of failure is greater.
  • Remove any lower leaves (make sure the tip of your cuttings still have at least a couple leaves).
  • At this point you can either place your cutting in water to root or you can dip in rooting hormone and place directly in soil.
overwintering-geraniums-cuttings

If you choose water propagation, once your cuttings have roots that are about an inch long or so, go ahead and pot them up and place them in a sunny window or under a grow light.

For soil propagation, dip the cut-end of your cutting into rooting hormone first like in the photo below.

overwintering-geraniums-cuttings

Then pot them up in a small pot filled with potting mix and perlite (I like to use a half and half mixture for rooting cuttings).

Keep the soil moist while rooting is occurring. You may also want to place your rooting cuttings on top of a seedling heating mat to speed up the rooting process. The bottom heat works wonders!

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01/17/2022 06:36 am GMT

Another tip to help your cuttings along is to create a mini-greenhouse with a clear plastic bag over your cuttings to increase humidity. Prop the bag up with a couple small bamboo supports, or something similar, and make sure the foliage doesn’t touch the bag.

The increased humidity will lessen the stress on your cuttings while they are rooting.

Once your cuttings seem to have rooted and are growing, you can remove the plastic bag and allow your plants to grow until it is warm enough to bring them back outdoors.

Anytime you move plants from indoors to outdoors, make sure that you place them in shade first. Although geraniums like direct sun, you have to acclimate them slowly so that they don’t burn.

Place them in full shade for several days. Then gradually increase sun exposure a little at a time over the period of a couple weeks so that your plants don’t burn.

Have you used any of these methods to overwinter your geraniums? Comment below! I’d love to hear!

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Paulette Schwartz

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

I did winter my geranium and it came back beautiful, but I'm not getting flowers on it yet, do I have to do something special?

Raffaele

Tuesday 8th of June 2021

Hi Paulette! If you're giving it enough light, it should start to bloom soon. Mine took a bit to leaf out, and then started to form flower buds. Light is the most important factor, but I would also fertilize.

Patricia

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

I have a two year old banna tree that is taller than I am and I live in zone 5. Last year I kept it in the house all winter. This year it is to big for that and I am going to be away for 6 months. I would like to keep it, do you have any suggestions? windyhillks @yahoo.com

[email protected]

Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Hi Patricia! Do you have a cool location that you can leave it and let it go dormant during the winter? Maybe a cool, dark basement or garage? I would have someone water it lightly maybe once a month just so it doesn't completely dry up during the time you are gone.