keeping geranium through Minnesota winter

Mary_AnneTMSeptember 4, 2011

Hello, my husband and I are complete gardening newbies. We had no gardening experience but moved into a house with a pretty full garden last year. This year, we started to tweak with it a bit, and have tons of questions. If we can get some guidance through this forum that is great.

We put some geraniums in planters in the front porch area. When we selected and bought geraniums, we were told that geraniums are usually perennials, but are annuals in Minnesota because they don't survive Minnesota winter. However, I've also heard that if you dig them up and keep them inside for the winter and replant them next spring, they'll live and bloom again. Is this true? If so, if I could get a detailed instruction on how to do it, that would be great. Can I also just bring the whole planters inside instead of digging them up? If so, am I supposed to water them? Any other guidance on how to make geraniums survive would be appreciated. Thank you!

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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

There are several ways to overwinter geraniums. The success level seems to vary, some people will have a very good success rate with one method while someone else may have a very poor success rate with the same method. I would suggest taking cuttings and growing them over winter while trying one of the other methods with your mature plants. My hairdresser has used the pull them up, shake off the dirt and stick them in a paper bag or box in the basement method for years and says she has about an 80% success rate. My success rate with that method, not so good. I've included a link to the University of Mn extension website. For your questions look under annuals. There are a couple of articles dealing with geraniums. Bookmark the site as there is a lot of great info on there.

Here is a link that might be useful: MN extension

    Bookmark   September 5, 2011 at 10:18AM
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What has worked for me is leaving them in the pot. I've had luck with both letting it go dormant in the basement, and keeping it with my houseplants. Definitely try at least a couple different methods.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 9:33AM
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I have quite a few geraniums that are 10+ years old.

The first three years we were in an older home with a dark basement. I simply brought them inside in the containers they were potted in before the first freezing night. I treated them as houseplants on the windowsill UPSTAIRS with waterproof saucers, old dessert plates actually, under them to prevent ruining the woodwork.

For the past seven years we've been in a new-build house with a big basement and lots of light. Needless to say my collection has expanded and thankfully it's still unfinished so it's my plant playground in the winter. I continue to do the saucer thing to protect the window ledge.

The keys for me are to sparingly water, just a bit every two weeks or so. There's not much daylight so they really can't utilize much moisture.

At the end of January/early February, I spread some newspapers on the floor in the basement and make a huge mess. It's fun at that time of year though, because it's gardening. LOL! First, I cut down each stem to the bare nubs, only about 1" to 2" above where the stem meets the soil.

After I clean up the leaves and stems mess, I yank each plant out of its' pot and bare root them. Dispose of all the old soil into a yard bag and save to add to a garden plot when warmer weather arrives. I usually wash all the pots to get rid of possible disease, though I have skipped this step when lazy, never had a problem. Fill each pot with new potting soil and add water until it's thoroughly saturated. Next, I make a little hole in the middle of the potting soil and place the plant in the spot and gently spread the roots down and into the soil. Pat the soil down so it's all comfy.....and wait.

In a week or two or three, you'll see new leaves on the stems. Water just every two weeks or so until you see new tiny leaves. Continue to keep them on the dry side until the leaves are about two inches wide. This could take 1 to 2 months.

When the weather warms up enough, above freezing at night, put them outside in the SHADE for at least two weeks. Direct sun will burn the new leaves. Fertilize with your favorite, mine is Miracle Gro Bloom Fertilzer. I give them a drink of the stuff every two weeks in the summer. They are still looking spectacular even when most plants look so tired this time of year. They have new flower buds galore! Love 'em, can you tell. :)

I always think of gardening as an artistic and science experiment. So much to love about it. Hope your geraniums do well in however you decide to keep them over. I think those little babies have kept me sane through our long, dark winters along with seed starting. The promise of spring....

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 11:12PM
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Hi, hostaholic2, thank you for the information and the Extension site link (I'm loving the site already!).
Katkni, thank you for letting me know how you save geraniums over winter - when you let them go "dormant" in winter, do you water them, and do you keep them in a sunny spot, or dark (real "basement"-like space) OK?
Windytown4, thank you so much for the detailed instruction! Your love of gardening shows through your writing. I hope to follow your method along with others (since following multiple methods seems to be recommended)!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 11:57PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)


After reading your instructions I am going to try holding geraniums over.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 11:54AM
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Mary_Anne I have done a little of both in the winter, and had luck with both watering and keeping in a window or under the grow lights, or putting them in a dark cool and dry place. What I do usually depends on the space available. Good luck, and let us know what works!

    Bookmark   September 18, 2011 at 8:45AM
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I hope you have much success. I love keeping plants over and watching them THRIVE the next season. A really cool thing happened with the some of my geraniums this season - well, actually they were my father's geraniums.

He was diagnosed with a terminal illness late last fall. He asked me to take his plants to care for them as he also believed in overwintering them. He had quite large pots filled with the plants that I had started 10 years ago from seed. They were his babies. Needless to say, they did not get repotted due to everything that was going on in that tough time. I just watered them once in awhile and cut them down in February. Last month those beautiful geraniums were surrounded in their pots by gorgeous petunias and impatiens! It was then that I remembered I had given him some hanging baskets with those plants for Father's Day the previous June. They were hanging directly over the geraniums! I've never experienced that before...and it was a wonderful gift that returned ten fold. Little did I know then it was his last Father's Day.

Love goes on. *smile*

    Bookmark   September 21, 2011 at 11:37PM
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My uncle used to bring his geraniums inside every year. He hung them upside down in the basement, bareroot and took them out next spring. I don't know if he did anything else to them, I was a kid so wasn't paying attention. Every year he had shrub geraniums in his yard. They just thrived!! This was in Sioux Falls, SD but still zone 4.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2011 at 10:16AM
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