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How can I overwinter my geranium plants?

Many gardeners like to keep their geraniums ((Pelargonium)) from one year to the next. This provides plants for the home in the winter and reduces the cost of purchasing new plants the following spring. There are several methods of keeping plants over winter.

One way is to root cuttings in the fall prior to a killing frost. Geranium stem cuttings, often called slips, should be 4 to 6 inches long. Take the slips from the tips of the healthiest stems. Remove the leaves on the bottom two inches of the cutting and dip into a rooting hormone powder. Set the cuttings on the counter top overnight for the cut ends to dry then stick two inches deep in coarse sand, perlite, vermiculite or a well drained potting soil. Water thoroughly. Place in a north or east window or underneath artificial lights until rooted. This generally takes 3 to 4 weeks. After the cuttings have rooted, plant them in individual pots and place in a well lighted area. Keep the soil evenly moist and begin fertilizing monthly once new growth appears.

Rather than taking cuttings, some people prefer to pot their best plants and bring them inside to over winter. If this is your choice, cut the plant back to about one third its original height. Carefully dig up the plant and pot it into a 5 or 6 inch flower pot. After potting, water thoroughly. Location and care is the same as for rooted cuttings. A sunny, cool location is best.

One of the old, but very successful methods of carrying geraniums over winter, is to dig the entire plant prior to frost, shake the soil from the roots and hang it from basement rafters. Years ago fruit cellars were quite common and they made excellent places to hold the plants using this method. It will not work in many basements today because temperatures are too high and humidity too low. However, some people report success with hanging geraniums in modern basements. Temperature and humidity seem to differ in every basement and since there is no way of knowing whether this will work in your basement, try it with several plants.

If you try this method, take the plants down occasionally and place the roots in water for several hours, then hang them back up. Do this several times during the winter to prevent them from drying.

Whether you carry your geraniums through the winter as young plants started from cuttings, as plants in pots, or dormant plants hanging in the basement, keep them inside until all danger of frost has passed in the spring before planting outside.