question on bare root dormant geraniums

mashell(z3 MT)February 11, 2011

Last fall I pulled up my geraniums, knocked the dirt off, cut back stems, placed in paper bags and stored in cool moist basement. I got them out today to check on them and there are four different things I found. One which I know is still alive and well has two totally white stems coming out of the base of the old stem. Secondly, some the stems are totally hollow. Third some have stems with just a touch of green still on them where I cut them back and the stem is firm. Fourth some have full firm stems but no green coloring at all. Question is if there is any way of knowing which ones are still good and will actually grow or do I just plant them all and say my prayers?

Thank you

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It cant hurt can it. Paper bags, in a cool damp basment.
The geraniums had two things going against them....the paper bags if they were closed--they should stay open to rid themselves of moisture---and the damp basement...they should be put where it is dry...very dry, cool and dark.
See, in dormancy they need no moisture, nor light, nor temperture that would initiate growth. That's what happened with one of them evidently.

Now, take them to a dry place you cover a table with newspaper. Cut them back to about 4"....clean them up, remove all old stems, leaves, hanging on bloom if any.
Clean pot...clay works good, put something between the soil and the drainage holes, then fresh potting soil, put the plant in, firm up and water to drainage. Then no more water until new leaves form. Into the sunniest window you have...but north really is not the ideal exposure, choose west, south or east. Turn the plant every other day to ensure all parts get sunlight. The sun is returning could wait until next month --the ides of March are upon you. As the leaves come--it will take a week or so to show --then each day more will come. As the foliage comes fertilize at quarter rate until full out foliage, then increase fertilizer to match.
A 10/10/10 is fine until it blooms then switch to a 15/30/15..(Miracle Gro).
If the plants are viable, they should show what they can do in a week, ten days. If nothing shows, then you may have lost it/them.
Next fall, to save them, don't let frost touch them...into the DRY BASEMENT...leave them alone, no watering, no light, no heat...just cool. Geraniums come back as good or better than ever. I have 7 plants...5 from 8 years ago, two from 2 years ago.

When you water, water always to drainage. Then wait for it to drain fully, then dump the excess...don`t let the plant sit in the drainage more than 10 minutes. If it does, it will just suck up what it just got rid of...with the salts that it got rid of.
Until full foliage, it is OK to keep it on the damp side...but never wet...then let it dry down a bit between waterings.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 8:22PM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

I am currently attempting to overwinter bare-root geraniums for the first time. I'm pretty much following instructions I got from an Iowa State University extenstion website. What I'm doing is storing six plants upside down in an open box in a 45-50 degree dark basement. Also, every six weeks I'm removing the plants and soaking their roots in water for an hour or so. Then I let them dry and put them back in the box. Tomorrow is the last root-soak before I try to start growing them again on April 1st. I think the plants are still alive and well because if I scrape the stems with my fingernail they are still very green just below the brown surface.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 10:14PM
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Hawkeye, I wont argue your method but I must ask...what is the soaking of the roots supposed to do.
You already have them in a dark place...
You have them in the basement... I suppose its where they can be left out of sight....but evidently, not out of mind.
We hang them upside down because that's the easy way to put string around them to hang up.
Let go completely dry, they'll drop an amount of dead material.

We know that moisture in a closed space can initiate mildew and mold....and the moisturizing the geraniums sounds like the ideal way to bring that about.
I don't understand the directions given by the Extension service because it just seems to me to be not conducive to good care.

Geraniums, along with a few other annuals, are able to be brought back from past glory from year to year to year.
The putting them into an open paper bag is good because it lets the plant rid itself of moisture; it lets it get completely dry, free of moisture that could start the process of deterioration.

But it is difficult to go against an agency designed to help agriculture so if you will, let us know how your watering method turns out.

I notice you do yours April Fool's Day...I start mine on
March 15....the ides of March; you know, when Julius got his comeupance. The sun is beginning its long travel north.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 12:10PM
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I would question the assumption that plants in dormancy need no water. Dessication of the roots at ANY time of year is harmful -- overwintered containerized perennials, shrubs or trees should all be monitored closely to ensure the soil doesn't dry out completely. The same with container-planted spring blooming bulbs -- even tubers like dahlias or cannas require some moisture, usually just enough to be obtained by packing in slightly moist peatmoss or sawdust or by wrapping in dampened newspapers. The root soaking described above is doing exactly the same thing - making sure the plant is properly hydrated. Plants still need water, even when dormant, just in much smaller amounts. Only true bulbs should be completely dry in storage during their dormant period. And depending on bulb type, that is not necessarily during winter.

Anything that has some succulence to it would indicate it is still alive - the dried and hollow portions would indicate dead tissue. White looking stems are just a symptom of low/no light, called etiolation, and will green up when sufficient light is provided. Go ahead and pot them up whenever you are ready, water well and put on a windowsill or similar in bright light until warm enough to be transitioned outdoors. When brought back up to normal household temperatures, whatever is alive will promptly begin new growth.

And geraniums - pelargoniums - are not annuals but tender perennials. If provided sufficiently warm temperatures, they will grow all year round. They are even moderately frost hardy but will not survive prolonged periods below freezing. You can very successfully overwinter pellies as houseplants and they will often produce blooms in winter when grown this way.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 2:11PM
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Gardengal, normally plants should not be allowed to go without some moisture---you listed trees, shrubs among them.
In autumn we are encouraged to water the trees, especially evergreens so they can go into winter with their roots well moisturized.
But....a geranium is not a tree, its a plant that can be allowed to go completely dry as you can visualize....and it will come back as good, or better than ever.
Moisture is a killer to plants in storage. Why give moisture to a plant that is not any stage.
Why give light to a plant in storage when we wish it to not grow. Why give warmth to a plant that is not growing and where warmth can initiate such growth. Warmth in storage, along with moisture can bring about mildew and mold...killers of plants.

Yes, while pelargonium is indeed a perennial, the use of them in this way, is as an annual.
Perennials stay in the ground and go dormant while winter proceeds then come back up when conditions tells them to do so. Try that with a geranium. Let frost hit a pelargonium, its as good as worthless.

Any plant can be made to keep growing, keep blooming, as long as it is able to do so. But sooner or later, it is unable to bloom since the sunlight required to make it happen, is not there. Most times, we are happy to keep the foliage going as long as possible and then we cut it back with the hope it will re-grow anew. Most times, this is a successful way; but not always.
Its the sun that dictates whether it can or not.

The method above --letting the plant go completely dry doesn't waste energy--it just sits waiting for the optimum time...increased sunlight, when it can be given water and use it; when it can be given food ..and use it.
We don't bring it out of storage in December, or January.
We wait until the sun begins its long travel north as each day it gets more intense, and that begins in February when the sun has reached sufficient intensity to begin new growth.

Most times suggestions of how to do anything comes from experience and I can attest to this method as a, not a good way, but a great way, to bring back a geranium.

Many times too, of course, such cool storage cannot be given. We don't have basements cool enough, we don't have rooms that can be given to the plant to stay cool and dark.
In that case then, either taking cuttings or cutting the plant back and keeping it going, as any houseplant, is the only way.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 12:07PM
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When talking about overwintering geraniums, there is often mention of dormancy. Geraniums (pelargoniums) are not perennials and do not have or need a dormant season. I am not arguing that it cannot be done, but it is more a testament to what tough plants they are as they technically do not have a dormant period.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:35AM
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goren - I beg to differ. Few, if ANY, plants can be allowed to completely dry out. It makes no difference if it is a tree, a shrub, a perennial or annual. Like other living beings, they need oxygen and water to survive. You have already remarked on the advice provided by the extension service - why would you presume to think that was incorrect or inaccurate? And the same advice can be found in numerous other sources regarding overwintering pellies in cold climates. Water requirements may be reduced at different times of year responding to growth patterns but the plants still require moisture to transpire and survive.

Pelargoniums are indeed perennials - any plant that has a potential lifespan exceeding 2 years is considered to be a perennial. And in appropriate climate zones (9 and above) they are also evergreen and do not experience dormancy as do plants originating from more temperate areas. However, the same conditions that dictate that this plant is often labeled and sold as an annual here will also often induce a dormant period. It is not fully winter hardy in most of the US. That is what is behind all those instructions on how to overwinter zonal geraniums and other forms of cold-sensitive pellies.

But regardless of whether or not one chooses - because of their personal climate conditions and hardiness zones - to overwinter them as indoor house plants or to induce dormancy by bare rooting and storing in a cool dark location, the plants will need some water. Not a great deal and certainly not enough to encourage rot but the roots cannot be allowed to dry out completely. Period! That is virtually guaranteed to kill them.

btw, whether or not a plant has a dormant period has nothing to do with how 'tough' they are but rather where they originated from. Plants from the temperate areas of the globe - most of the northern hemisphere - evergreen or not, go though a period of dormancy or statis. To deny them this rest period indefinitely shortens their lifespan. Plants from tropical or semitropical areas of the world or where there is no real defined cold period (frost-free locations) do not have a similar genetic need for this dormant period. This is why 99% of the plants we grow as houseplants have their origin from these areas. Most of the pellies we grow here in the US had their origins in South Africa.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 12:50PM
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Your points are well made Gardengal, but we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Even in Zone 9 +, where pelargoniums are supposedly perennial, they will not survive a heavy frost.
You also say that whether a plant has a dormant period or not is no sign of its toughness and I think that supports my point. Pelargoniums cannot and do not have a dormant period, so putting them in boxes or bags with no soil or light or moisture is completely a testament to their toughness. They are not being put into dormancy, they are being pushed to the edge of death and then yanked back in the spring!
In any case, all of this discussion makes for some good thoughts of what is to come here in Zone 5 in eight or ten weeks, when our actual spring arrives. Nothing says warm weather like blooming geraniums!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 3:20PM
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I am NOT an expert, but I have overwintered a few geraniums for a couple years in zone 5. So I am gaining some experience. They have done fairly good. This year one is slow to come back but I think it will make it.

I stick the pots, plant and all, in the back corner of the garage. I cover them, trying not to touch the plant, with burlap. This is for dark and to prevent cold blasts from open garage door from hitting them. If you have a bail of straw or something, set it in front of them for more insulation.

I check and may add a small amount of water about once a month. About Feb 1st (coldest month of the year) I move inside to a south facing sliding glass door. And the growing season starts. This helps avoid frost damage when it is most likely. And it gets me through the winter blues!

By the time of last frost, I have great looking plants in bloom. And since they are older, they are usually larger that what you can buy in the garden shop. So far I haven't lost one, but then I'm just a beginner.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 7:07AM
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You can "agree to disagree" all you want but it doesn't change the facts. In their natural environment or other, frost-free locations, pellies often don't go dormant (some do, some don't, some species are dormant in summer), but the overwintering method the OP describes is forcing the plant into dormancy by depriving it of light, removing foliage and maintaining cold (not freezing) temperatures. While the plant will continue to transpire - hence the continued need for moisture - it enters a no-growth period of quiescense determined by those conditions. Forced or induced dormancy is rather common in the process of overwintering cold-sensitive or tender perennials - zonal geraniums are just one instance. We also do the same thing with fuchsias, which become large woody shrubs under their natural conditions.

The alternative to induced dormancy, such as the OP describes, is maintaining the plant in active growth as a houseplant. In either case, it will still need water

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 2:54PM
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All right, then, let's talk facts. Please tell me what varieties of pelargoniums are dormant in the summer and in what climate? I would appreciate knowing that as I am quite familiar with pelargoniums and have never run into one that is dormant in the summer. Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 4:30PM
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gardengal48, I now see you are a professional. You are obviously correct. I personally see this as a issue of trade-offs. It starts out like this. Don't buy out of zone plants or do. Don't toss them out at the end of the season or do. Plant enthusiasts breeze though these two choices fast.

Then it comes down to spending maybe $20,000 on a 4-seasons heated green house for a $20 plant or not. It would be nice! I guess the question is "how does one minimize stress on plants like these in a very hostile environment"? This is where your experience may come in.

As a beginner, I just had some luck not pulling the plants out of the ground and not loosing 1/2 the root mass and not de-hydrating the things. So far, they seem to tolerate the other abuse I give them so that I end up with a flowering plants in the spring. And that makes me happy. Maybe there is a better way (like moving it from outside to inside without stopping in the garage for several months first). Hum... Thanks, and please keep us thinking!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 10:20AM
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schmoe - too many to list! You do realize that there are in excess of 230 species of pellies, not to mention countless hybrids, so unless you are very familiar with pellies, chances are you haven't encountered them -- many are grown only by collectors and specialists. And they will be summer dormant in climates where they are able to grow happily - typically a frost-free Mediterranean environment very similar to their origins, like southern California. It would be easier to list those species that go dormant in winter:
P. caffrum
P. bowkeri
P. lobatum
P. pulverulenta
P. luridum
P. woodii
P. worcesterae
P. endlicherianum
P. quercetorum

There could be more - that was just a fast listing. And the last two are the only two species to originate from temperate areas within the northern hemisphere.

claydirt, the simpliest answer to your question "how does one minimize stress on plants like these in a very hostile environment"? is to bring the plants indoors for the winter and grow as a houseplant. Keep them in a relatively cool location in bright but indirect light (like a windowsill) and keep soil just moist (not wet). They can get a little leggy so pinch back as necessary. They can be easily transitioned back outdoors after last frost by taking outdoors for a few days and bringing back in at night and gradually exending the time until they remain outdoors around the clock. You can time this by when the zonals and other garden geraniums are available in the garden center. If it's too cold, the leaves will redden - a sure indicator you need to wait a bit :-)

Unless it is a pretty unique or hard-to-come-by variety or one of the scenteds, I tend not to bother overwintering garden pellies -- they are just too inexpensive not to purchase fresh each season and the fresh ones from the grower's greenhouses always looks so much better than those wintered over.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 3:35PM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

This evening I pruned and potted up my six mostly-bare-root geraniums. I had to prune back to within a couple inches of the base of the stem to reach green. One of the plants, the biggest, has the most green and even has a couple greenish shoots that have grown while in the 45 degree darkness all winter. There is also one plant that has very little green even at only one inch above the base so it doesn't look promising.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 11:15PM
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Forget the issue of 'dormancy'. Its a question that can be taken up later--if the issue means something.
With pelargoniums it has no bearing. Pels are not like other plants--(with few exceptions, these plants can be given storage--and left alone--totally alone.
I wont go into the water, light, cool temperatue thing again, just believe that a plant, once it has given its all....can be put somewhere where it can be left to dry out...completely, yet when the time is right, can come back like its old self.
In such state, water is its worst enemy, as is light, as is warmth. Leave that until the sunlight can make the difference.
And it is the sun that decides this matter. All plants need sunlight to the extent the genes have stipulated.
Without sunlight...what is the intention of the grower to give a plant NO LIGHT. The pel in the garage, protected from the environment, is much better if not given that touch of moisture--which is designed for what keep it alive..its already alive and doesn't need moisture...not yet, not until the sun decides to bring this plant back; then water, then light, then temperature makes a difference.

As far as suggesting the Extension service not knowing about this method....such agency is made up of, for the most part, students of agriculture, or amateurs who try to help where they can, or an individual who has not experienced the method I encourage.
Usually when you read about how to promote a geranium returning year after year, they say to cut it up, take cuttings and promote them that way.
Which is fine and dandy as far as it goes...but to maintain the toal plant, the one you put in storage, it can be left HIGH AND DRY...especially dry, and return to the world in as good, or better shape than it used to be.

There's enough people who have multiple plants and can give my method a try...but if you do, don't change one thing...NO WATER, NO LIGHT, NO TEMPERATURE ABOVE 45� temperature below 32�.
The ides of March is as good a time to bring them out, cut back, given fresh potting soil, water to drainage, and the best sun you can provide...but south, west or east is preferred. The north sun is just not there and it can hold the geranium back from doing its best.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2011 at 2:42PM
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I'll just add one other comment to cement the idea that plants do not need water until the sun comes into the picture.
In far off Africa, the Kalihari Desert gets hotter than Hades and the animals and plants can live in such extremes by withdrawing the normal processes of living.
Animals slow down their breathing, not requiring normal oxygen levels and their blood system gets along famously for it.
Plants go into a long, hot, dry dormancy....for years even.
Then a drop of water is felt on the leaf structure above....and WHAAAMMMMM, up it comes, flowering as though nothing happened in the intermittent years.
Now don't suggest a plant in such extremes needs water to live. Look all around you, there's a lot more evidence that nature looks after itself.

One such plant that gets along without water---the geranium.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 9:52AM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

Ten days after potting up, two of my six geraniums are showing growth. I'm confident two of the other four will soon follow.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 9:58AM
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garden_grammie(SE Pa.)

Pull out in October before frost. Shake off the dirt on roots. Put in cardboard box. Stick the box in the basement where in is cool and dark. Cut back dead looking things in February.Water then. Sunny window--6weeks later--viable plants.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 8:58AM
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I'm just going to make one last comment on this subject for those that seem to have difficulty grasping this concept.

You CANNOT make valid comparisons for plants growing naturally under their native conditions and those - heavily hybridized like zonal geraniums - that do not even exist in nature and are most commonly grown in a cultivated, temperate climate garden. The conditions are simply NOT the same. Under what circumstances are these plants pulled out of their soil and left with roots exposed for months on end?

And it is extremely disingenuous to make the assumption that extension services are staffed only by 'students' and have no experience actually growing the plants. Most of the publications issued by the extension services are written by the horticulturists/botanists/agronomists that are the educators in the land grant universities that comprise the cooperative extension system. Not only do they write and publish these informational articles, they are also actively engaged in plant research.

With ANY bare rooted plant, roots exposed to the air will dry out. Dry roots = dead roots and dead roots result in dead plants. Pelargoniums - zonal geraniums - do have somewhat succulent stems that will hold extra moisture that will maintain the plant temporarily. But virtually EVERY source you can locate, extension service publication or not, will recommend soaking the roots of bare rooted over wintering geraniums periodically during this dormant period to rehydrate the plant and prevent excessive dessication and plant death.

Or maybe everyone else is wrong and goren is right? But I think not.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 10:36AM
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garden_grammie(SE Pa.)

Gardengal-Believe it when we say not to soak the roots. Whether you like the truth we told you or not, it works and has been working for me for about five years. Try it next year. You will be amazed. And yes, Goren is right and you are wrong. Sorry, but that is the way it is.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 7:26AM
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Oh great, now we have a majority of two!! Wonderful! So the rest of the population that thinks otherwise is chopped liver??

Sorry, but while YOU may have had success holding over your geraniums without water, it is NOT a recommended method.......regardless of what you (or goren) may think. It has nothing to do with me and my opinion - it is simply a fact of plant morphology......withold water for too long, especially when roots are exposed to open air, and the plant dies.

From the University of Illinois extension service: "The bare root approach is by far the easiest but also the least successful, Robson said. It involves digging the geraniums up, shaking most of the soil from the roots, and hanging upside down in a cool basement or dry crawl space where temperatures hover around 45 to 50 degrees F.

âÂÂOnce a month, soak the roots for an hour or two in warm water,â he said. âÂÂExpect that leaves will probably turn brown, dry up and fall off. If all goes well, though, stems should remain green." Written by David J. Robson, UI extension specialist and educator (BA Horticulture, Masters in Education).......IOW, NOT a student!!

Interesting that you decide you are right and I am wrong when the vast majority of sources (just one above of several dozens listed) published on overwintering zonal geraniums recommend watering several times through dormancy as well. So like I said previously, I guess everybody else is wrong as well. It's nice to be so secure in your 'knowledge' that you can blow off the rest of the population as being wrong also. Good luck with that :-)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 10:53AM
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garden_grammie(SE Pa.)

Gardengal- give it up it works whether you or anyone else thinks it is the way to go. It worked for me as well as my grandmother 40 years ago. I have 15 healthy plants just waiting to be planted in my flower boxes. No water since October, planted them in pots is February and they are huge viable plants with buds. Give it up already. You are incorrect as well as the gurus you quote.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Grammie - what may have worked for you is not necessarily the best nor the recommended way. It is most certainly no more "correct" than any other method nor is it likely to produce equally as successful results for anyone else.

Why you have decided you know better or more than trained professionals and horticultural educators is a bit egregious and self-serving in my opinion and your manner of presentation of your supposed "facts" and what's "correct" or "incorrect" is offensive. Would I be inclined to give your opinion much validity in light of all the other, much more research-based-sources that recommend otherwise much weight?? I think not!

Get over yourself. What kind of authority are you?? Just some simple home gardener who lucked out on holding over a few geranium plants. No more "right" or "correct" than anyone else.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 1:13PM
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garden_grammie(SE Pa.)

Well gardengal it seems you like to disagree with alot of simple home gardeners. Quite by accident I saw a post from 2009 where you were spouting off again. Book learning and teaching are great, but don't be so closed minded and tell us we are lucky that we have success. Happy gardening! I'm out to plant my lucky geraniums!!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:47AM
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Grammie - here's the deal. I am a gardener as well as being a horticultural professional, in fact I've been gardening for most of my life and have been there, done that, including overwintering zonal geraniums. I disagree with a lot of home gardeners (as well as a few professionals) who are narrow minded enough to think that just because they have "always done it that way", that is necessarily the right way and any other way is wrong. There are well-researched, preferred methods of nearly any gardening activity that have science behind them as opposed to the "always done it this way therefore it must be right" methodology that is really just the result of happenstance. Yes, you are lucky your plants survived, as the bare root winter storage of 'annual' geraniums is very much a hit or miss situation even when following recommended procedures. And who knows what your overwintering conditions are, how much humidity is in the air, etc.

If you are happy with your method, fine, continue to use it. But don't be so presumptuous to assume that merely because it has worked for you, it is the only right way to do things. Talk about being closed minded!!

And yes, I've been an active GW participant for over a decade and I "spout off" a lot. My comments and advice will show up all over the place. I am an educator and not the slightest bit embarrassed by it. Generally my spouting off, as you put it, is directed to those who make blatantly incorrect statements, speak in absolute terms (there are few, if any, absolutes when it comes to gardening) or otherwise mislead or misinform. You just happened to hit all three :-)

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 2:14PM
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garden_grammie(SE Pa.)

LOL. Read some of your posts. I think you will find some absolutes there. See ya. You are too much.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 9:29AM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

Well, it has been four weeks since I potted up my six bare-root geraniums. Only three of the six are growing. I'm assuming the other three are dead. One of those three appeared to be the second best plant when I potted it so that one is an unpleasant surprise. Of the three that are growing, two of them are really going nuts now with multiple leafing stems growing out of the old green stem and more new stems beginning grow out from the roots. I'm considering giving the third one(pretty far behind the others two) a quarter strength dose of fertilizer to give it a boost.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 9:50PM
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jroot(5A Ont. Canada (near Guelph))

I have not had as much success with bare root dormant geraniums, as I have with what I normally do. In the fall, before a heavy frost, I pull my pelargonium ( geranium ) plants. I then trim off any large roots, leaving only the nice fine roots. I then cut off the top of the plants to about 4 inches. Then the cropped plants, I pot up, and place under florescent lamps. I have geraniums blooming most of the winter in my basement office. The tops of the plants I root for making of new plants next year.

These are just a few of the hundred plus geranium plants I have.

These can be acclimatized slowly in the spring, and then planted in the garden or larger pots.

I've been doing this for well over 40 years, and I get my best success this way.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 6:00PM
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This seems like a silly debate... it's a fact that always remains if the plant tissue completely dessicates and becomes bone-dry inside and out, it dies; this is true for any plant. It's also true for most plants that if it becomes too wet and moisture pools on the surface or the water causes the stem/roots to lose contact with air, it rots. And in the meantime, plants are variously adapted to maintain a mostly-constant water content inside themselves despite the variance in surrounding moisture.

So a number of different methods will work for maintaining the appropriate amount of moisture inside the fleshy stem, also depending on your particular climate and the environment in which they are stored.

So the big question is, how much humidity is in the air in your climate and specifically, in the location where you are storing the plants. In very dry climates, soaking a dormant stem, bulb, root or tuber in water periodically may replenish lost moisture. In very humid climates, soaking it in water may very will kill the plant tissue with mold if the water does not evaporate or if the tissues can't get oxygen, but in those climates it is unnecessary to soak the plants because water loss is very slow.

I would suggest in this case you try the same methods you use storing plants like cannas and dahlias. You can completely control the environment by burying it in a pile of barely-moistened peat moss - just moist enough that the peat does not turn to dust if you blow on it, but not any more - in an OPEN grocery bag and setting that in a closed cardboard box, then putting it in a cool (but not freezing) garage. Then no matter what happens to your air humidity, the peat only very slowly loses moisture through the winter.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 10:45PM
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I know this is an old thread, but WOW....I must say Give it up gardengal. First you said that there is no way they could survive, then once others attested to the dry method you changed and said ''it's not the right way" blaa blaa blaaahh.

I believe in the dry method!!! It sounds a lot easier too...set it and forget it!

gardengal= fail.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:08PM
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the dry method id a traditional one, not relying on greenhouses or large window sills. A great way o save energy................................................
but I think details matter, it didn't work in a basement in my parents house, new, concrete all over, super insulation, they withered and were dead
there is a "point of no return" with drying up plant cells, after which plasmolysis sets in (if the plant cell gets water after that, it is so damaged that it can't rehydrate).
......................... So unless you happen to be lucky and have the right humidity in your basement you will loos your plants without giving them some moisture.
Bye, Lin (with 2 happy flowering Pel. zonale hybrids flowering on the window sill)

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 1:26AM
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I am a new member and I have a question. I will not join in the fray of potted or bare-root or water or no water. I have seen my grandmothers do bare-root, no water successfully for years, my mom did potted,water,sunny window. I "inherited" almost 50 geraniums last fall, I grew out a dozen in pots, under lights all winter, their fine. The remainder I did bare-root, open paper bag, cool crawl-space, soak once monthly method. They look fine. My question is (finally) now that it is time to re-pot the bare-root, can I safely, selectively prune the roots to get them into 4" pots or should I get larger pots? Today is the "ides of March" so I have to get moving on this.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 12:37PM
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hawkeye_wx(z5 east-central IA)

I prune the roots and stick the plants in 4 inch pots. It seems to work ok.

Last year I potted up the bare-root plants on March 22nd, but only 2 of 6 regrew. This year I potted up six new geraniums back in early February, before they deteriorated too much, to give them a better chance of regrowing. 5 of 6 of them are doing very well. The two good ones that regrew last year are still bare-root in the basement because they look amazing. Thanks to their thicker stems it looks like they could stay dormant in the basement for another few months and be fine. However, I plan to pot them up later in March.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:03PM
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I'm fairly certain that a lot of the debate about moistening bare-roots comes down to local conditions. If I could pull my geraniums in October and pot them up in March, with humidity in the 40% range in my basement, I might let them go all winter, too. But I can't. An advisor at an extension division in Kentucky or California would need to give different advice than on in the Dakotas or Canadian Prairies.

By October, my first hard frost is close to a month past (often before Labor Day), and if I pot them up in March, they'd spend three months in the house, since last frost is usually late May or early June. With forced air heat running in temperatures that are severe outside (over 40 days of -20F/-30C last winter), relative humidity in my home is frequently below 20%, sometimes below 5%. With the bare root often spending around 7 months in storage at low humidity, if I didn't moisten three or four times a winter, they would be completely dessicated with zero survival.

I think that some of you are in areas where the humidity is consistently high enough that moistening is not essential. And some of us don't. There is no right or wrong on this, only what's right for you.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 4:33PM
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