How to overwinter Pelargoniums? (Annual Geraniums)

tiffy_z5_6_can(5/6)September 29, 2005

How do you do it?

Last year I got a small plant which was being tossed out by gardeners cleaning a flower bed in downtown Halifax. Throughout the winter I kept it in a pot and come February took cuttings and started them up for this summer.

It's a beautiful pink which goes well with the blue wedgewood trims on our log home and I'd like to keep all the nice luscious plants which I now have.

Unfortunately, there is very limited window space in our home. I'm wondering if anyone has any tricks they could share about keeping pelargoniums through the winter.

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mutts_fan(z5 toronto)

Hi Tiffy
I read about overwintering in a cool(unheated yet never frozen) basement. No soil, no water, no leaves - in a well ventilated paper bag! I didn't believe it, so I tried some. What the heck - I couldn't keep them all indoors, I would have to throw them out otherwise. Not all survived but more than 50% of them did. I also tried keeping one as an indoor plant and it was so infested by little white flies that I had to throw it out - it got so weak and yucky :( I will try the dry bag method again this year. Beats throwing them out. Try googling "overwintering pelargoniums". Or search GW.
Hope this helps.

Mary Anne

    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 9:59PM
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SueG(5a Canada)

My father did the paper bag method for years. I don't believe he did anything for ventilation though. Just took the dirt off the plant, cut it down a fair amount then put in in a bag and folded the top down to close. Stuck them in a box in the basement and waited for spring!


    Bookmark   September 29, 2005 at 10:09PM
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Well, I just might try the paper bag/box. I have a basement which goes down to 5C in the winter, so I hope that's OK.

Mary Anne - When do you put yours in pots to start them up again?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 9:19AM
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mutts_fan(z5 toronto)

I forgot about them until April. I peeked at the bag and was disappointed that they all looked dead. Thought, oh well, time to throw them in the composter. But then, I noticed a few swellings at the nodes(if thats the correct term?). So I potted them back up, watered them and kept them near a window. Quite a few sprouted leaves in no time although a few developed some sort of mold and I managed to get rid of it by treating them with camomile tea. I probably over watered them in my overzealousness.
This year I would tag them by colour.
Try it - its a nice surprise in the Spring!

Mary Anne

    Bookmark   October 1, 2005 at 8:10PM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

One year my Mom tried digging them out of the garden, shaking the soil off, piling them all into a container and filling in and around the roots with soil. Put in a cold room (+5C). I think you are suppose to keep the leaves on. In spring a few had survived. Some that looked dead had a "live" portion of stem so she just cut that part and stuck it in soil.

I really don't have a cold room, so I just dig out the plant, repot it and keep it on the windowsill. I really trim off a lot of growth, however, but am sure to leave a few stems.

While growing outside in the garden, sometimes geraniums might develop many stems. Sometimes the stems touch the soil or grow just below the soil and root. If a stem has it's own root on it, I cut it away from the Mother plant and pot it up on it's own. Some people just take bare stems and make cuttings as well.

My thinking is, just save the main plant, even if you have to give it a good trim. It will grow inside and get lots of new shoots in spring, you can then make stem cuttings.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 10:46AM
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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

I've been overwintering scented geraniums (really pelargoniums) for about 15 years, and more recently a 'Martha Washington' type. I've read about the paper bag method, but was always afraid to try it. If I had lots of plants and a good basement I might give it a go.

Mine are all in individual pots to begin with, so I don't have to do any digging up. I give the plants a big haircut, and a good spraying with bug spray (I prefer neem oil) a couple of times. I then bring them inside and place them near a window (but not anywhere near a radiator!)- they don't get the best window spots, my other plants get those, but they do get some light. They only get watered once or twice a month if they're in a big pot, maybe a bit more often if the pot is small. They get really gangly growth starting around February, but I just leave it be until late March. Then if I want to take cuttings, I cut off the very tips of the gangly stuff, root it, and throw the rest out. I find sometimes there's a fairly high rate of failure with these weak tip cuttings (25-50%), so I take lots, just in case.


    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 2:04PM
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Glen, That is exactly what I did last year - grew the main plant and in February started some cuttings. I still have the main plant. This summer it grew into a monster! :)

Out of 5 cuttings, three of them are now nice sized plants.

The big one is going to have to come out of the pot that it's in. It's actually a 1/2 barrel and it's about to fall apart. There's no way I can bring the whole thing inside.

So I might try bagging that one, and keeping the others in their pots in our cool basement...

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 6:42PM
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Here's what I do. I get about 75% of my plants back.

I remove the geraniums from the pots/ground, shake off as much of the dirt as possible and lay the plants on newspapers in a covered are for a few hours or overnight to dry the roots. Damp soil will really reduce your survival rate, since the plants will rot if the roots are damp.

I remove nothing from the plant, leaving all the leaves and flowers intact. Wrap each plant in newspaper without breaking the stems. You may need lots of papers for some of the more awkwardly shaped plants.

Place the wrapped plants in a cardboard box - I sometimes use a paper leaf bag if I can't find a decent sized box.
Don't use plastic containers - they keep the moisture in.

About 6 weeks before "planting out time", unwrap the plants, and put them all in water, washing off as much dirt as you can. Hopefully not much will still be attached to the plants.

I use buckets in the basement, but you have to change the water daily or it will start to smell really bad. Remove dead leaves that are loose and make sure that they don't stay in the water. It will soon be obvious that some of the plants didn't make it, but you will see little green leaves starting here and there. I prune out the dead branches and soon I have enough for my containers.

Once the plants are rooting and growing, I plant them in pots and move them outside as soon as I can.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2005 at 9:30PM
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cangrow(Z7 BC Canada)

When do you start any of these processes? We expect our first frost around November 5 (average). Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2005 at 12:50AM
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I'm doing mine this weekend.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2005 at 9:26PM
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sharont(z5 can)

We have always crowded them into the cold basement in pots under shop lights.
In January cuttings are put into soilless mix.
The older plants bloom their heads off in March so I find cutting back necessary after the leaves have adjusted to the new light in November.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2005 at 3:17AM
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Well, I thought I would keep everyone updated on how my pelargoniums are doing.

First, I'll admit I did not treat them nicely. :) I took them out of their pots, shook them off, and forgot them outside for a couple of days. One of those evening we had a hard frost - OOPS!

But they still looked OK, so I put them in a Chiquita banana box and threw them in a closet in the basement. No cover - no nothing. Figured I'd get back to them later. Then I totally forgot about them.

Tonight, DH went to put the totes containing the Xmas decors back into THE closet, and asked about 'those plants growing in there"... OOPS!!

They are alive and well, roots exposed, no covering, etc. There's little leaves showing at the nodules.

So in the closet they will stay, but there has been an amendment to the plan. There is now a big reminder on the fridge that the Pelarganiums are still alive and well in the basement!! (Otherwise they may be there 'til next Christmas! LOL!)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 9:39PM
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rosco_p(z6a ont.canada)

Tiffy: Thankyou for the update on your pelargonium situation.I have been using a couple of the methods described in this post with a reasonable amount of success for a number of years now, but it is reassuring to see with which method the majority are having the greatest success with. Thanks again. Ross.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 4:25PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

I usually leave them in the big pot, let it get reallly dry, then just put the whole thing in the basement (using a dolly). I forget about it until spring, then put it back outside. Everything looks dead all winter, then it comes back to life after watering. The "Dusty Miller" in the pot come always comes back, as well.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 7:34AM
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bonniepunch(USDAz4 AgCanz5a)

Hey! sheryl - long time no see!

One of my Martha Washington geraniums is about to bloom! I was pulling dead leaves off it and noticed several flower buds ready to pop! That one has been kept in a window though. The ones out of the light still look deader than a doornail. But most of them should revive in a month or two when I bring them out and start watering them.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 5:04PM
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I would have done that, but the pot they were in is an old 1/2 barrel that would fall apart if I even attempted to move it. LOL!! But I'll remember that should I plant in sturdier pots this year. Don't you get bugs coming in with the pot? I have so many pillbugs/rollie-pollies/potatoe bugs in and around my pots...

So, BP, you start yours' up in early March?

I checked mine again today, and they are doing great - stems are still green and there's little green leaves still there.

When I'm ready to pot them, should I start stem cuttings or can I just put these babies back in pots? Can I do both? I'd like many more. It is such a nice pink.

Since I have limited window sill space, I was thiking I could keep them on top of the kitchen cupboards. There's lots of space there, and the skylight provides am sun and good indirect light for the rest of the day. Only problem is that it's warmer and quite dry.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2006 at 9:32PM
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I just happened to find this forum and thought I would tell you my story. Mother used to shake the dirt off, drop them, leaves and all, into a open large plastic pail, leaving them in the garage all winter. In the spring, the stocks would start to change into a sort of translucent green or you would see little red nodules on the older stocks, signaling the time to replant. She would clean up all the dead leaves and cut off the dead portions of the stocks, put them into soil and start to lightly water. Outside they would go when it warmed up enough.

She gave me some a number of years ago and while I have good success using her method, I've managed to keep some very old pelargoniums year after year but in a different way. I have three that I leave in pots. Stopping all watering as the outside temp gets colder, I bring them into the house when it starts dropping to about 40 - 45 degrees F. The coolest room in the house is best but I have kept them in rooms with the daytime temp as high a 65 F. Of course you want to keep them away from any heat source. I water, but very little and only when I see the plant asking for a sip. Trust me, you'll know. A fair number of the leaves will yellow through the winter season and I just pick them off when they appear. I pick off any flower buds and even do some pinching. As long as you keep them clean of dead leaves, they don't look too bad! I get them outside as soon as possible, when the days get longer and hotter. I won't put them out too early because the cold will slow the growth. I continue to pinch off the flower buds as this seems to trick the plants into growing more they can form more flowers...that I continue to pick off. I'm watering more often now and fertilizing. When I think the plants are "green" enough, I let them flower. And they flower. My pride is a pelargonium "bush" that I estimate to be about 9 years old. It's almost 5 feet tall with a main stock that's two inches in diameter.

Happy gardening everybody!

    Bookmark   December 8, 2006 at 11:34PM
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shirl36(Zone 5b West Central Illinois)

Another Overwintering geraniums thread.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 7:53PM
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    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 10:51PM
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I do the same as love2grow4fun does except I keep mine in the garage, no lights, minimal heat, about 10C. When I dig mine up, I prune not only the top but the roots. Then I repot and put them in the garage. I water about once a month or so, just to keep the plants alive. I also hang sticky yellow cards because I know they will get white flies! After Xmas, I start to water regularly and when I see new growth I start to fertilize. In spring I have beautiful plants to put outside. Marg

    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 7:35AM
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last year I took in my terracotta geraniums and left them in the laundry room in the basement (probably 15-17 degrees c) they died back and I watered slightly if they looked really dry. Come spring they started putting out new growth so I stuck them under plant lights. I had a Dahlia that kept over the same way and the tubers were much better come spring than the ones that I stored through the regular methods.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 6:06AM
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Some members of the pelargonium society who are short of space will take cuttings in August and save them over winter. If you have room and right conditions by all means bring the mature plants indoors. Cut them back, keep them cool, water sparingly and if there is light they will bloom. Blooming geraniums in the winter is like medicine for the soul. Scented geraniums in the winter are even better.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 8:05PM
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I have never had good luck with overwintering pelargoniums. Will give it a try once again this year
Thanks all

Johnnyman that was good to hear about your long living geranium. Keep up the good work

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 5:24AM
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