Pruning Geraniums

Annual geraniums, also called pelargoniums, benefit from regular pruning to keep plants compact and full. Pelargoniums are annuals in most climates (hardy in zones 9-11), but they can be overwintered indoors. If you plan to overwinter your geranium, cut it back hard in the fall and again in the spring as the new growing season starts. Deadheading is also recommended to encourage continuous blooms and prevent the plant from going to seed.

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Perennial geraniums, known as hardy cranesbill, also benefit from being cut back a few times a year. Shear hardy cranesbill in midsummer or after flowers have started to fade. This can encourage another flush of blooms and can keep the growth compact. Once the plant finishes blooming for the season, trim it back to a few inches above the ground, so the plant can rest during the winter and conserve energy. Hardy cranesbill is very low maintenance and does not require deadheading for blooming longevity.

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When to Prune Geraniums

Annual geraniums can be pruned several times during the growing season to keep plants from becoming leggy and floppy. Certain varieties, such as Decorative pelargoniums, tend to put on tall shoots and therefore benefit most from regular pruning. Overwintered annual geraniums often develop leggy, woody growth and should be cut back by at least one-third in the spring. Fall is another good time to hard prune geraniums, allowing them to rest during the winter. 

Anytime your pelargonium puts on tall spindly growth during the growing season, feel free to pinch back the stems. Pinching back will keep plants bushy and full, although keep in mind that it can delay flowering. Deadheading can also be done anytime to remove spent flowers and keep the plant blooming all season.

Perennial geraniums can be pruned midsummer after blooming, which will keep the plant compact and bushy. Another shearing in late fall will prepare the plant for winter dormancy. You can remove dead or bent stems anytime from hardy geraniums.   

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Why Prune Geraniums

The purpose of pruning annual geraniums is to keep plants looking sturdy, compact and well rounded. Some varieties like regals and angels are naturally compact and bushy, so regular pinching back may not be needed. All varieties can benefit from severe pruning in the fall, which increases airflow between the leaves and prepares the geranium for overwintering indoors. Overwintered geraniums should also be cut back hard in the spring to remove leggy, woody stems. Pruning encourages new shoots to emerge from the base of the plant.  

Hardy geraniums should be pruned annually to remove spent leaves and flowers and keep the plants looking tidy and full. Shearing can also lead to another flush of blooms in mid-summer. Geraniums in shady sites tend to grow taller and floppier than those planted in the sun, and therefore may need more frequent trimming.

How to Prune Geraniums

Step 1 - Cutting back annual geraniums in the spring

Use sterilized pruning shears to cut geranium back by a third of its height. Cut stems just above a node. Sterilize pruning shears in 70% alcohol solution or 10% bleach solution. 

Step 2 - Pruning annual geraniums in the fall

Once plants have stopped flowering, cut the plant back by a half to a third of its height using sterilized pruning shears.

Step 3 - Deadheading and pinching off annual geraniums

Using your hands or sterilized pruning shears, snap off the stem of the spent flowers below its node or joint. This can be done all growing season.

Step 4 - Pruning perennial geraniums in the summer and fall

When perennial geraniums finish blooming, shear plants with sterilized pruning shears. Try to cut at nodes. Once the plant starts to die back in the fall, use your pruners to cut the plant back to 2 - 3 inches above the ground.

Geraniums Pruning Tips

  • Pinch back annual geraniums regularly during the growing season to keep plants dense and compact
  • Regularly deadhead annual geraniums to maximize blooming
  • Cut back annual geraniums in the fall before overwintering 
  • Prune off leggy growth of annual geraniums in the spring 
  • Shear hardy geraniums in the fall when plants die back
  • Cut back hardy geraniums mid-summer to keep plants tidy

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