I need help with storing geraniums over the winter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

kevinbumper(5 WI)January 12, 2005


I live in Wisconsin and for the first time I decided to bring in my geraniums in for the winter to see if I could get them to grow next year. Not only did I save my plants but also those of several neighbors and relatives.

The flowing are the steps I took so far.

  1. Before the frost I dug up the plants.

2) Next, I cut off all of the leaves only leaving the

stems and roots.

3) Next, I put them in 2 to 4 inch pots and used ground

from my garden.

4) Next, I put them on a table in my basement in a sunny


5) Next, I water them. In about two weeks they started

growing leaves again and some even are shooting out

flowers. However the leaves dont seem to be as full

as what they were before I cut off the original


6) Usually I water them again when they seem to be dry.

When watering them, I water them from the top and the

leaves get wet too.

7) I have not added any fertilizer to them. Can I use

Miracle Grow? How often?

a) Can you tell me if IÂm on the right track or what else

I can do?

b) Should I cut back the leaves since the growing season

is not for another 5 to 6 months?

c) Should I cut the stems back? If yes, where and what

does this do to the plant?

d) Should I be fertilizing them? If yes, how often and

how much both for the indoor and outdoor period?

Thank you


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I will interject in how you have brought these plants to continue as though summer has continued.......but it hasn't, plants go into dormancy and yours would have been better had they done so.

Not to say you cant keep a geranium going after they have given their all thru the flowering season....but

May I point out a couple of things you should not have done.
First, you should never use outside soil for houseplants...there is just too many things in that soil that can do a plant harm.
Potting soil is the much preferred medium.....that and the addition of sand and/or peat moss.

Also, your plants are not doing their best because what sun you gave them in the summer, isn't the sun that's out there now. So they cant possibly do what summer can.

Fertilizer. You should only fertilize a growing plant...it is in the growth the plant uses the food. No growth....no food should be given. Water only to keep them alive..the roots are alive, they need water.

2 to 4 inch pots. That's pretty small for a geranium that usually fills a pot of 6", 8" 10" and beyond.
The small pots does not really give the plant a chance to branch out its roots and very little soil to provide nourishment.

I think too you have the misconception of just when the growing season is....you say 5 or 6 months.
On the contrary....5 or 6 weeks should see your geraniums begin to grow back to what they used to be.

If they are not in the best sun you can possibly give them at this time, they are not doing much. What leaves and flowers you say they have cannot be much either.
At this time of season, the sun values are at their lowest...and only by mid February does the sun begin to go back where we all would like to see it.

Should you cut it back? I'd say YES.....but not right now.
This will be done in mid February...cut them back well by 1/2 ....1/3...as you see fit.
Take them out of the garden soil you have them in. Gather some 6" or 8" clay pots...plastic if you have to...they need less water--add some shards or gravel or stones ...anything that can act as a means to keep the roots above the bottom of the pot where drainage must be allowed. Use FRESH potting soil...if you like mix into the soil some builder's sand and/or some peat moss to aid drainage.

Make a hole, put the cut-back plant into it, firm it up..and take it to the sunniest window you have....east, west or south is ideal. Water until drainage is seen in the saucer below...allow full drainage...then dump the excess. Never leave the plant sitting in that drainage water for any extended time.

Wait. Until new growth commences, do not feed the plant.
When new leaves begin, you can begin feeding it a liquid fertilizer at half-rate...every 3rd or 4th watering.
Always water until drainage is seen...then allow the plant to dry down about 1/2" ..1" below the surface.

In about 4 to 6 weeks you should see new growth well coming.
Increase the fertilizer as growth of foliage increases.
In about 8 to 10 weeks, you may see the beginnings of buds.
About the time you normally set out your annuals is the time to put out into the sunshine your geraniums.

But before that time, you might give your plants an introduction to the sun as the days get warmer. Put them out during the day...bring them in at night...out the next day in the sun. Only when there is no hint of frost still in the air, should you leave them out.

They will proceed to come back just as good as they once were. But, I suggest a different way of keeping them over next season.
This is rather a long post so I'll leave it there and if you feel you wish to see what way I speak of keeping them over, please come back and I'll be pleased to offer you a much safer way-----if you have a cool, dry, dark place you can place your geraniums.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2005 at 9:03PM
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To put in my 2 cents worth (although I am also fairly new at this) -

I think that geraniums are fairly tough. I suspect that they will probably do OK. Gardening is always a learning process, and there are many ways to do things.

I added some comments on the other thread about overwintering geraniums - you might also check that & see if it's helpful.

If you want to experiment, you could just stop watering one of your geraniums, except about once or twice a month; then start it up again in april in fresh soil. I do agree that potting soils are nice to work with, but I dont know what your garden soil is like. Again, you could experiment by putting some in potting soil and some in garden soil and see what works for you.

I dont know yet if my dormant geraniums will survive the winter. Last year, I overwintered one in a window and a couple of others in flower pots in the basement, with basically no watering. They looked sad during the winter but looked great once fully awakened (and I like the gnarled appearance of an older geranium).

Good luck. Geep us posted on how they do!

    Bookmark   January 15, 2005 at 1:43PM
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Kevin, I must comment further.....NEVER, never, never, never...by choice, use garden soil for houseplants.
There is bugs in there and possibly disease. On tender growth, it will take no time at all to render those plants useless.

And you have many plants....those of your neighbors.
I implore you, I beg of you.....change the soil over to potting soil and see to its proper drainage.
Don't do this half-stage.....some in potting soil, some in garden soil........get potting soil in all of them.

When you un-pot, try to remove what garden soil you can....a dip, if its possible, into a water bucket (make the water tepid) should do. Don't do this if you feel it might cause the roots harm.

The best sun is upstairs...in the warmth of your home...south or west is preferred...east if you have to....north will not do.

Its the sun that will make the difference and they are not doing their best now because the sun is of low intensity.
We've just past the winter solstace...the sun is just now recovering from its lowest point in the year.

You must try to give the plants the most sun you can....and that means south, west....or east...and right up to the window without touching it.

Hopefully your plants in 2, 3, 4 weeks will show improvement. At that time, you can decide whether you wish to do further cutting back. Cutting back will prompt new growth...but you have already done that...so any further cutting may not be the best thing to do......you be the judge.

As the plant begins recovery, any flower buds that from, pinch them off. Flowering takes much energy out of plants....you want the energy to go into making leaves and strong stems......not flowers.
As the plant further recvoers, you can begin feeding 20/20/20 at half-rate every 3rd watering......and always water til drainage is seen in the saucer and then dump the excess. This method is your assurance the plant is fully watered. Then allow the surface to dry down before watering again......and again, always until drainage is seen.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2005 at 9:58PM
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Hi Kevin!
I just wanted to let you know that I've over wintered geraniums for a few years and it's really not very complicated.

I dig them up. Put them in new potting soil.
Stick them in the basement (little light - they need to sleep). Water them once in a while. I stick them in a sunny window around mid-feb and start watering them more often. The new growth may be weak so cut it down a little. By the time spring comes they perk-up and when it gets warmer I put them out during the day under a bench so the sun isn't too stong for them. I plant them back in my boxes in late spring.

They take a little longer to flower than the nursery plants but they do fine by the time summer comes and it's cheaper than buying new plants every year.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 2:04PM
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I'll agree with Marlee except on giving them water...they are hopefully in darkness and remain dry...so the watering is for ???

the overwintering geraniums can then be the last geranium you will ever have to buy. Mine are now ..coming this spring 8 years old.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 5:25PM
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witsend22(6Pa Bedford Co)

Decided this year to keep them going and growing. After digging from the yard I potted them up. They are thick and full of leaves and I have allowed them to keep a couple of blooms on each one through the winter.

I placed them in the basement under flourescent light. continued to water but not until the surface was dry. I did not add any fertilizer until late January. At the beginning of February I began rotating them upstairs to a sunny window. Each week I return them to the basement and bring others up. When planting time comes I will top them off and root the cuttings. I plan to bring in the plants started from cuttings this year to over winter in the same manner.

Sounds simple but I must admit this is the first year I have overwintered healthy growing/blooming geraniums this way and had this degree of success. Aways tended to overwater them.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 8:44PM
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I brought mine in - cut them down - shook off all the soil- hung them in the basement window. Last week brought them up from the basement, put them into flower pots with fresh soil & now I'm waiting for them to do something....

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 4:45PM
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Susan, have patience, your geraniums, if they have been allowed to go completely dry, will come back better than ever.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2005 at 4:06PM
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lizabug(Zone 5 IL.)

It tried (for the first time) last year bringing in my geraniums. I had read, on one of these post, where you take them out of the soil, do not cut back, hang them upside down,and place them in a paper bag,stored in a cool area of your basement that does not freez. When you are ready to plant, then you cut them back and pot them up. I did exactly this and you know what? It works!! I took them out of storage the last week of January, and I have blooms already. There was a few that did not survive but that's o.k. Now I won't have to spend extra money on Geraniums for this year. Works like a charm! ~Liz~

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 12:09AM
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aphrodite(z4 Wisconsin)

I do pretty much the same thing. Before the first hard frost (when I don't want to cover them anymore), I pull them up, shake them off and put them in a brown paper sack in a dark cool corner of my basement. The first week in March or so I take them out of their bags and they are always starting to get little pale green leaves. I cut them 2/3 back, pot them up, water and put in my sunroom. They do great every year. I have had some for 8 years. These plants get about 2 feet tall. Rarely loose any.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 4:59PM
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evidentjoy(z6 PA)

What's causing my geraniums' leaves to turn magenta? This just started in the past week. They are in potting soil, some are in plastic some are in clay pots. They are getting filtered eastern light through 5 mil plastic which keeps the window draft off them. Temps range from 40-60 deg.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2005 at 10:11PM
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mutts_fan(z5 toronto)

Thanks to this thread, I saved my pelargoniums from last year (no soil, in a large paper bag in a cold cellar). I remembered them last week and thought,oh well, if they're dead I'll just compost them.... lo and behold, many had little white shoots and little leaves!!! No water. no light, no soil. Its made a believer outta me. Now I hope I can revive them and not over water them ; ) Thanks again.
Mary Anne

    Bookmark   April 6, 2005 at 5:50PM
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When is the best time to put winterized Geraniums outside? I just put them in my flowers boxes this week because the 10 day forecast looked awesome, but I am worried of a late frost. Are Geraniums hardy?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2005 at 10:52PM
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cantstopgardening(Zone 4/5 WI)

The plant called geraniums that is grown as a bedding annual is actually a pelargonium. There was a mix-up back when old Linnaeus was running around naming things, and the name stuck ;-)

Pelargoniums are annuals in the north, as a hard freeze will kill them. I keep some old blankets and sheets around, and just watch the forecasts. 'Pellies' aren't sissies about the cold though, they will do fine through a light frost with a blanket. I extend the season in the fall with blankets too. They just grow much slower when it is chilly. They also don't like it too hot either, by the way. Mine suffer a bit when it gets in the mid-high nineties.

True geraniums are hardy perennials, many are native to North America. There is some similarities to the leaves, and the flower shape between the two species. But, pelargoniums are native to Africa, where they are perennials, and succulents at that. Both are great plants. Both get discussed on this forum. It is a bit confusing at first.

If you overwintered yours in the house, you have pelargoniums. :-) The FAQs on this forum has a better explanation of the name mix-up than I gave.

I can hardly wait to put my pellies outside for the year. :-) Oh, and I'm just a gardener out to learn. More knowledgeable posters, please correct anything that I was incorrect about.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2005 at 11:04PM
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I store mine in a cool greenhouse where they continue to bloom all winter. Almost feel sorry for them when I take them out in the spring and expect them to go on doing the same, which they do with the help of a little fertilizer. What more can you get from a flowering plant! Geraniums are terrific!!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2005 at 7:51PM
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dirtdufus(z5 OH)

I am by no means very knowledgeable about this subject but I have successfully overwintered ger(er pelargonims)for several years now. I tried the paper bag method once, unsuccessfully. Since then, I've used a method (also frought with benign neglect) that has worked without fail, so far. I've a few that are now 5 years old and have been adding a few each year from a neighbor. Before the first frost, I repot them in plastic pots (because they're light in weight & don't let the plants dry out so badly). I, shamelessly use garden soil and I'll admit that I sometime lose a stalk or two from some plants; and this problem may be due to the soil. I then hang them near the ceiling of my unheated but attached garage (joins house on two sides & ceiling & outside wall are insulated). I don't pay any attention to them till spring, when then begin to grow new folage- the old has dried up completely long before this. Not till then do I begin to water them. I expect the spring growth is partly stirred by the window light from a side door to the garage. PS I leave in Dayton, OH where we get some pretty cold winters but I don't know that it reaches freezing for any extended period near the garage ceiling.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2005 at 9:14PM
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