How to Overwinter Geraniums in the North
Geraniums are treated as an annual in most of the northern United States and anywhere there are freezing temperatures in the winter. However, these plants do not mind a little cold weather and are perennials in places with no killing frosts, growing as large as bushes. Insects don’t bother them and they look beautiful in planters. There is no need to buy new geraniums every spring. If you follow some simple steps, you can keep your geraniums year after year.
- Moderately Easy
Things You’ll Need
- A sharp knife
- Terra cotta pots
- Storage space that stays above 30 degrees F
- Give your geraniums a good watering and cut them back as the first frost nears. "Cutting them back" means shortening the stems that seem spindly, or have a long stem with few leaves. The object is to have full, leafy plants. Generally, you can cut them back almost by half. Save some 3- to 4-inch cuttings from tips.
- Bring potted plants indoors to a room or sheltered porch where the temperature won’t go below 30 degrees F. If your geraniums are planted in the ground, dig them up carefully and pot them in pots of a suitable size. Geraniums don’t mind being a little crowded in the pot especially during the winter months when they are dormant (not growing or flowering). If you are gardening in the north, you will find that it’s best to leave geraniums in their pots for the summer to avoid digging and re-potting them. They seem to thrive best in pots.
- Water very sparingly (once every two weeks or so) over the winter months and keep them in low sunlight.
- Plant the stems you have trimmed in a sand or vermiculite mixture.They can all be planted in one large pot or flat. Make sure to cut away any leaves that might touch the soil. Geraniums need to be kept almost dry to root, so water very sparingly. They will form roots in about a month. The temperature for rooting cuttings can vary from 65 to 75 degrees F. Once they are rooted, transplant them to 4-inch pots and treat them like the older geranium plants.
- As days grow longer–about April–begin moving them into a place that gets more sunshine and watering them thoroughly every week. If they have grown "leggy" over the winter, you can make more cuttings to root for summer pots. Re-pot those that need it, and, as they come back to life, you’ll be rewarded with cheerful blooms.
Tips & Warnings
Plant both mature geraniums and new cuttings so the roots are just covered where the root meets the stem. Geraniums like to be planted rather shallowly.
Your overwintering geraniums will not be a pretty sight, so choose a place that is hidden or rarely visited to store them. Even in full bloom, your geraniums won’t require as much water as many plants. Let them dry out completely in between waterings. When they come back to full bloom, feed them with an all-purpose fertilizer and keep this up monthly during their blooming period.