Bringing geraniums indoors?

mjc_molie(z6 CT)September 23, 2013

Looking around the yard, most of my annuals are goners. But there are a few geraniums I'd love to keep and overwinter for next year. My aunt has said it's easy to do and actually kept the same geraniums going for several seasons. But I don't think her technique will work for me. I have two big problems --- our basement is finished and heated and there's no garage.

Any suggestions?

Molie

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corunum z6 CT(6)

Mol, put them in your sunniest window. I've kept geraniums going for 5 years. Some varieties get leggy some winters, but I cut them back mid-April, or when I remember, then they go out on the deck around May 15th for 6 months. Bang for the buck, you can't beat pelargoniums. Did you know they were Charles Dickens favorite flower? And, the English brought them from Africa in the 1640s - so I read somewhere.

This one pictured below (Jan.9, 2010) got leggy after 3 years, but if you cut them back and put them outside, they get bushy again. Five years is the most for me because then they need a pot larger than I can lift. Rather than ditch them after just one year, try anything you want to save them.

Jane

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 11:32AM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Wow, Jane, yours are beautiful ---- especially because there's snow outside!

I wish I had that window in my house. Those 3 sides provide such great light. I may try your technique even though we have just east/west windows.

Molie

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 12:00PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I've never been able to solve the woody stem problem with older geraniums, but I do manage to get a couple years out of the same plants by wintering them over in the cellar. My geraniums spend summers in three wine barrel planters as shown in the top picture. Because the planters are permanent outdoor fixtures, I stuff the plants into small pots and store them in the laundry room for the winter. Their roots are cramped and they do not get much sun, but I have about a 90% survival rate.

I used to buy non-hybridized geraniums, and I would place cuttings in water to start new plants for the next year. However the geraniums I've been buying in recent years are hybrids that cannot be rooted, so I over-winter the original plants.

Your geraniums look very healthy and happy, Jane.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 3:38PM
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muffin1358(6/MA)

I bring mine in and put them in my bay window. It's so pretty to have their flowers all winter. I've had the same plants for 3 seasons now.

I think my window faces the east...they get lots of morning sun.

Edited to add photo:

This post was edited by muffin1358 on Mon, Sep 23, 13 at 18:47

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 6:29PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Muffin, those are really nice looking geraniums --- the one in front looks just like one of the bi-colored pinks that I want to keep. Though my east facing front window is not bayed like yours and Jane's, I think I'll try them on my east side.

Sped, I like your technique of stuffing them all into plastic bins. Very tidy. But the other problem with my basement besides the heat is that it gets good natural light. I don't think they'd go dormant for me downstairs.

I figure, even if they croak on me, I'll learn something about wintering over geraniums this season. Thanks, all.

Molie

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 7:09PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Molie, my geraniums don't go dormant, and my cellar is fully heated. I water them when I do a load of laundry, which averages once or twice weekly. They just suffer from confinement and not enough sun, particularly in the last few months before they go back out. But they do get sunlight, just not full sun all day like outdoors in summer. Also as the end of May approaches, I set them outside for a portion of the day to accustom them to outdoor living more gradually. I forgot to mention that.

Best of luck with your geraniums. I hope yours make it through and you get to enjoy them another year!

This post was edited by spedigrees on Tue, Sep 24, 13 at 12:04

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 7:35PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

When I started bringing in my geraniums, I was inspired by my memories of bright red geraniums in my granny's west-facing kitchen windows each winter. I just put them in a sunny window. They do get a bit leggy indoors, but as others have said, they can be cut back and will grow back thicker when I put them outside or even as days get longer in the spring. I've done it both with scented and regular Pelargoniums. My current variegated lemon-scented geranium has survived several years, and I put it in a part of the kitchen where we release scent when we brush by.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 9:11PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Well, folks, I am excited now and actually think I'll try saving many of the geraniums I have outside using a controlled "experiment" --- thanks to all of you. Some will go in our west-facing bedroom windows, a few in the east side front window, and a few in the downstairs laundry area where it's heated and gets some light.

And then I'll see what happens.

Molie

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 8:48AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I hope you'll let us know how the experiment turns out, Molie!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 12:20PM
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daffodil33

Would this work (bringing pot into house for winter) for geraniums as well?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2013 at 10:32PM
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muffin1358(6/MA)

Do you mean your dahlias? I think dahlias need to rest in the winter but I'm not certain. I suppose you could experiment with them though...try storing some and try keeping some in a window to see which ones do the best.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 6:19AM
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daffodil33

Whoops sorry meant to type: would this work for impatients. Thanks

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 9:42AM
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daffodil33

Whoops sorry meant to type: would this work for impatients. Thanks

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 9:51AM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Don't do it!

I've done this with the common impatience (not the New Guinea)--- granted years ago-- and there were problems. The blossoms continually dropped like ticks off a dog and were everywhere, plus they tend to flatten and mush and were hard to pick up.

The seed heads pop and shoot out all around the plant, which they would do in nature. You'll end up with what looks like egg casings for insects on the floor--the table, etc.

All in all, very messy indoor plants.

Molie

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 10:06AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Ref: Impatiens indoors - not good also because of the lack of fresh air circulation in the house, they develop spider mites which suck the life out of the plant. Been there, done that, not going back.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 10:44AM
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daffodil33

Whoops sorry meant to type: would this work for impatients. Thanks

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 3:28PM
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muffin1358(6/MA)

Just curious...did anyone else go through with keeping geraniums indoors this winter?

I love seeing the flowers on the cold winter days. It reminds me that Spring IS coming... :)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 3:55PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Yes, muffin ---- mine are still thriving. Well, "thriving" with qualifications ----as much as they can in the place where I finally had to put them. They're very green but not floriferous like Jane's or yours. I'm just hoping that these, along with the hellebore I purchased at the holidays, will limp along until early spring when they can go out on the deck.

We have only east/west windows in our house but have high skylights in the long main room. We keep orchids on top of all the cabinets and many are setting flower spikes again. So there will be some color, other than green, soon.

Molie

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 4:52PM
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muffin1358(6/MA)

Cool!

If you haven't already, you can try a dose of MiracleGro for the geraniums. Sometimes that helps to get the flowers going.

Wishing you good luck...

muffin

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 5:50PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Thanks, muffin, for the tip. What have I got to lose? Nothing. In fact, that's what my two "saves" are starting to look like... nothing. I keep cutting back the geranium and the sad little Cinnamon hellebore --- she's starting to gasp.

Molie

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 3:20PM
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spedigrees z4VT

My geraniums are starting to look less prosperous, but this is their normal progression during a winter in my basement. They are not blooming anymore, and there are more dead leaves. By June 1st (when they go outdoors) they will be rather pitiful, but they recover rather quickly and I get another summer out of them. All my hybrid geraniums are good for a second summer. I don't cut them back. I just pluck off the leaves as they die.

Don't give up!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 4:33PM
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muffin1358(6/MA)

Molie, maybe try to stop the trims too. You might be cutting a shoot that's going to flower?

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 7:50PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Will stop the trimming (muffin) and just do the plucking (sped) from now on. Thanks.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 9:03PM
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hunt4carl

Just in case someone doesn't have a sunny spot inside
to winter them over, here's an astonishing trick I learned years ago:

When your geraniums are "done" in the Fall, lift the
plant out of it's pot, rinse all the dirt off the root ball,
and then hang this naked plant UP SIDE DOWN (don't
ask me why!) by a string, away from the light (a cabinet
in the basement, the closet in the hall). Next spring,
just cut off the dead leaf stem, repot the root ball, and
believe it or not, that geranium will return!

If I hadn't done this successfully several different years,
I wouldn't believe it either. . .you'll just have to try it and
see !

Carl

    Bookmark   January 27, 2014 at 9:32PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

I tried the hang 'em high method decades ago. After stringing them up on a cold water pipe in a dark cellar, the guilt traveled with me all winter - sunny days and gray. It was awful. And I don't even remember if they survived. Unlike a turtle that can be frozen solid and come back to life, I need to keep my geraniums in my light and warm (sight) site. That hanging method ranked right up there on the fun scale with having to take the dog to the vet for the last time. Never again.

Here are the first year plants as of this morning. Very few and sparse blossoms, but they're thinking about better days ahead. The geraniums look far better than the two flowerless, withering orchids I brought home last winter. Bloom-less orchids are as much fun as having a stuffed dog. No more orchids for me. I'll stick to geraniums in the window.

It's now 50 days until spring.
Jane

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 11:22AM
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spedigrees z4VT

I don't really have a dark place to hang my geraniums by their roots in the cellar, otherwise I'd try it. It would eliminate a lot of wasted potting soil. I remember one gardenweb member referring to her torture chamber for plants! It made me laugh! I don't see that storage method as much different from drying out my gladiola corms and placing them in a cardboard box for the winter. I wonder if there is a reason why the geranium roots need to be hung. Is it just to thoroughly dry them?

The only reason my own geraniums suffer during winter in my cellar is because I cram them into tiny pots (coupled with minimal direct sunlight). Otherwise I would not have room to store them. I have a lot of plants, probably 25 or more. It almost seems they would be more comfortable going dormant for the winter.

Soon it will be spring and I can open the garage door and set them outside in the driveway on sunny afternoons to slowly acclimate them to outdoor living before they return to their summer home in my wine barrel planters. At least I and they hope Spring will come soon!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 3:53PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Carl, your geranium technique is just what my aunt used to do. But, like Sped, we don't have an empty closet or a dark basement. So this year I thought I'd try Jane's technique of placing them in a window and having them limp along until spring.

And Jane.....noooo! So sad to hear you're throwing in the towel regarding those orchids. Thinking about how they look now and where you have them, maybe they just need more light?

Is that bay window an east facing one? Might be better to try them near but not in the window or the leaves will burn in the direct sun. Spritz them every day.

Yes, orchids look ragged at times, but ours really get no special care. We hardly ever fertilize them -- maybe one a month when they're not flowering. Many of ours --- even the wimpy ones --- are sending out new shoots or flower spikes. We like to keep them "out of the way" and up high where they're not so prominent in the winter.

Benign neglect seems to work well with all our orchids.

Molie

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 1:49PM
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NHBabs(4b-5aNH)

The one time I tried the hanging method with 2 geraniums, neither survived. Obviously I was doing something wrong, or maybe our winter is just too long for them to survive. So now I keep the geraniums I want to overwinter in pots in the kitchen, which is cooler than the rest of the main floor of the house. The scented geranium (variegated lemon) gets a bit leggy, but grooming the plant smells lovely. The zonal geranium isn't a prolific bloomer even in the summer, so I guess my geraniums are mostly foliage plants. I'll trim them back before setting them out in bright shade during warm days to harden off in spring.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 1:54PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Those plants look pretty good to me, nhbabs. They're happy. Interesting that you mention the temperature factor because I've thought of geraniums as these plants being comfortable in the temps in which I am comfortable, 50-75. Seems that is mostly true, but plants can go a little higher. If interested, the UMASS article below offers a good look at growing geraniums. Are yours second year plants? I use to bring them inside in their large summer pots, but that is no longer good for me or the bay window, so I downsize the pots and have noticed a growth restriction. But once outside again, if planted in a bed, they can become the size of a small shrub. Lots of bang for the buck in geraniums. Fancy leaf plants do not do as well for me. Mores the pity, because they are lovely.

This one plant facing south in my office seems to be a little happier and it may be warmer, but they were all seedlings last year, so they are smaller. Can't imagine spring planting without geraniums.

Molie - I won't give up on the two I have, Alice and Betty Phalaenopsis, because they did send out one new leaf each. BUT, I want Alice to go visit you until she feels better.

Jane
(that's a sheet of green insulation I cut to make moisture-proof barriers under all the pots)

Here is a link that might be useful: Umass.edu - Growing Quality Geraniums

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 4:22PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Well how great are these winter geraniums? :-)
I never buy geraniums, I don't know why. I did go through a phase of buying scented geraniums once but I killed them all one winter. I don't have a South window to grow them in the winter, but I did get the scented geraniums to do okay in the West window. I think I will have to buy some geraniums this year. Love all the photos. How lucky you are to have windows that don't have radiators under them!

Pretty!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 5:58PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I had one Pelargonium (the correct name for these) in a pot last summer and took it in for the winter. It's in my unheated sunroom in a south-facing window. It's been covered with blooms since around early December. The leaves are a little smaller and not as soft and green as they were outside, but overall, a success.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 5:02PM
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