Overwintering geraniums can be rewarding

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Geraniums (Pelargonium hybrids) are one of the most popular plants in the home garden.

Besides being the most popular bedding plant, geraniums are tough little plants. They can take the heat of summer and the drought-inducing conditions growing in a container. Many gardeners like to keep their geraniums from year to year to provide blooming plants indoors as well as to save money buying more plants next year.

Just like growing geraniums outdoors, overwintering them is not hard. There are several different ways you can save your geraniums.

Bring the pot indoors

If your geraniums are in a container, you can just bring the container inside to the brightest location in the house. Outdoor plants often go in shock when brought inside; the summer sun is totally different from the light inside. The drastic change can cause plants to drop foliage.

So, consider which plants you want to save and then in about two weeks before bringing them indoors, move plants to a part-shade spot. This way they can start adapting to the light changes. The plants may still lose leaves and you won’t see the abundance of flowers indoors, but new growth will begin to appear eventually.

Look them over carefully before bringing them inside to be sure there are no insect infestations; always select your best plants to bring inside.

Once the plants are ready to be brought inside, cut back the tops of the plants to about six inches in height and place in a sunny window. Reduce watering and only water if the soil is dry to the touch about two inches down in the container.

Using a cardboard box

Dig up your geraniums (or remove them from a pot) before a hard freeze and shake the soil from the roots. You don’t have to get rid of all the soil, just any loose soil. Set the plants in the sun to dry for a few days. This will remove any excess moisture from the plants which can cause rot once in storage. It’s expected that the foliage will fall off and what’s left might not look very good.

Place the geraniums in a cardboard box upside down. It’s not known why putting them upside down works, but it does increase the chances of survival.

Keep the box in a cool, dry place (a place that doesn’t freeze) and check on them monthly. Throw away any additional fallen leaves and any shriveled stems. If you see black or mildew-looking tips, cut those off and discard them. Six to eight weeks before the average last frost date in the spring, it’s time to get the plants out of the box and plant them.

First, cut the stems back to where you see healthy green color inside. Pot each cutting into a light potting mix so at least two leaf nodes are below the soil line which is where new roots will develop. In one to two weeks, you’ll see new growth. Water cautiously during this time; only when the soil is dry one to two inches down in the soil. In four to six weeks, your geraniums will start to look like small plants. You can transplant outside in the garden or repot them to enjoy another year.

Taking cuttings now

Removing cuttings from existing plants is another method to save geraniums. Prior to the first frost, take cuttings that are about three to four inches long from the tip of the parent plant. Strip off the lower leaves to allow for sticking the cutting into a rooting hormone powder. Rooting hormone powder is readily available in retail outlets in the home and garden section.

Before placing the cuttings in pots, dip the tip of the cutting into the powder to help speed up the rooting process. Use a light potting mix to place the cuttings in pots. Water well (watering from the bottom is better to not disturb the cutting) and place the pots in a well-lit area of the house. If you don’t care if they flower and you’re just maintaining the cuttings for next year, even a heated basement window will work.

It will take about three to four weeks before the cuttings develop roots of their own; you’ll know the cuttings are rooted if you gently pull on the cutting and you feel some resistance.

You may want to try one method or a combination in case some don’t make it through the winter months. There’s nothing like watching plants grow indoors during the gloomy winter months. Geraniums are easy to save and a fun project to continue your gardening hobby. Why not try it this year? For more information on gardening, don’t forget to visit our website at cceoneida.com

Are you interested in learning more about gardening, while enjoying shared tips, tricks, and comradery with other gardeners? Consider participating in the master gardener volunteer training in 2022! Come and visit the Extension Parker F. Scripture Botanical Gardens an educational component of the Oneida County Master Gardener Volunteer. For more information call us or visit, http://cceoneida.com/ phone 315-736-3394, Ext 100. Be sure to like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/cceoneida) and check out our YouTube channel by hitting the icon at the bottom of our web page.

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