Annual geraniums, also known as pelargoniums, are not frost hardy and must be overwintered indoors in climates with winter freezes. Many growers choose to compost these tender plants at the end of the growing season, but with a little effort, you can overwinter your geraniums and enjoy their foliage and blooms for years to come. Pelargoniums are easy to grow from cuttings, so try saving a few stem pieces that can be rooted in potting soil to generate new plants.
Perennial geraniums, by contrast, are hardy in zones 3 - 8 and can withstand snow and ice. To prepare these perennials for winter, simply cut the foliage back in the fall and let them rest over the winter. They will emerge in the spring without any special care or protection.
Protecting Geraniums in Winter
Annual geraniums will not survive winter freezes and can either be discarded at the end of the growing season or overwintered indoors or inside a greenhouse. To overwinter them, dig up the plant in the fall and cut back the stems by about one-half. Plant the pelargonium in a container just big enough for the root ball and find a cool, sunny location for it indoors. They prefer nighttime temperatures of approximately 50° to 60°F. Keep the container on the dry side in the winter, but don’t let it dry out completely. Geraniums should not be fed while they are resting in the winter.
Alternatively, you can let pelargoniums go dormant over the winter and store them bare root in a cool, dark location. After digging them up, shake all the dirt off the roots and place plants in a paper bag. Let the plant dry out and store it in a basement or garage, with temperatures around 45° to 50°F. Check on the geraniums every few weeks and remove any shriveled or dead stems. Give them a long soak about once a month and return them to storage.
In the spring, you can pot up the geraniums and water them deeply to get them growing. Place them in a sunny window, and new growth should appear after a few weeks. Once the risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimate plants to the outside to help harden them off.
Perennial geraniums do not require extra protection in winter. When they start to die back in the fall, cut off the foliage to a few inches above the ground. Alternatively, you can wait until early spring to cut off the dead foliage before new growth emerges.
Cutting Back Geraniums For Winter
Cut back annual geraniums by at least a half before overwintering indoors. You can also trim up any long roots. Try saving some of the cuttings to propagate new plants.
Perennial geraniums can be cut back hard in the fall or spring to remove spent leaves and flowers. This provides new shoots with access to plenty of sunshine and air circulation.
Geraniums Winter Care in Pots
Annual geraniums cannot be kept outside in the winter, unless you live in zones 9-12. In all other hardiness zones, containers will need to be brought inside to overwinter. Place containers in a sunny, cool location, such as a west-facing window. Water container plants when the top few inches of soil is dry to the touch.
Perennial geraniums can be kept in pots outside during the winter as long as the containers are frostproof. Plants in containers should not be allowed to sit in water and can be moved under an eave for protection from winter storms.
Watering Geraniums in Winter
Annual geraniums have average water needs and do not like to sit in waterlogged soil. In the winter, you can cut back on watering and allow the soil to dry out a bit. Plants stored bare root in the winter should be kept dry for the most part; each month, soak the roots for a few hours and allow the plants to dry before returning to storage.
Perennial geraniums will go dormant in the winter and should not require any supplemental water. During an extended winter drought, you can water dry plants once a month, but usually this extra care is not needed.
Growing Geraniums Indoors
A great way to overwinter annual geraniums is to grow them as houseplants. They will need as much sun as they can get and a cool location. Do not place them near a heating element or furnace vent. Reduce your watering schedule and do not feed them in the winter. You can pinch back any leggy, weak stems.
Hardy geraniums are spreading perennials that perform best with a period of winter dormancy. They are frost hardy and do not need to be brought indoors over the winter.
Steps To Care For Geraniums in Winter
Step 1 - Dig up annual geranium plants in the fall before first frost
Step 2 - Trim back stems and roots
Step 3 - Plant annual geraniums in a container and keep them as houseplants
Step 4 - Alternatively, geraniums can be stored as dormant bare root plants in a basement or garage
Step 5 - Pot them up and harden them off in the spring
Step 6 - Cut back perennial geraniums in the fall or spring
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