Burnett: Overwintering tips for geraniums

It seems just as you get to know a particular variety of geranium, it’s off the market.

Geraniums are popular bedding plants, blooming freely from May to frost.

Every year or two, the varieties available on the open market change as new ones are developed and old ones go by the wayside. It seems just as you get to know a particular variety and look for it again the following season, it’s off the market.

In the Okanagan, if they are left outside over winter that would be the end of them, but saving geraniums for the following season has been a popular activity of gardeners for ages.

Geraniums can be over wintered by potting up individual plants, by taking cuttings, or even by hanging the plants upside down in a cool, dry place.

You can overwinter Geraniums in pots by just pruning them back to one-half to one-third of their original height.

Then carefully dig each plant and place in a six- to eight-inch pot.

After potting, water thoroughly and place the plants in a bright, sunny window. Geraniums prefer cool indoor temperatures. Daytime temperatures near 18 C and night temperatures around 12 C are ideal. Geraniums become spindly when grown in poor light and warm temperatures.

During their stay indoors, water the plants thoroughly only when the soil is dry. Occasionally pinch or prune the geraniums to maintain stocky, well-branched plants.

You can overwinter your geraniums by taking cuttings. Ideally the best time to take cuttings is in August however it can be done at this time as well.

Take three- to four-inch cuttings by snapping them from terminal shoots. Using a knife exposes the cutting to disease entry. Pinch off the lower leaves, and then dip the base of the cuttings in a rooting hormone. Stick the cuttings in a rooting medium of sterile potting soil.

Clay or plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom are suitable containers. Insert the cuttings into the medium just far enough to be self-supporting. Bottom heat using a heating pad or waterbed heater enhances the results. After all the cuttings are inserted, water the cuttings and medium thoroughly. To prevent wilting, place a clear plastic bag over the cuttings and container. Then place the cuttings in bright light.

Rooting should occur in six to eight weeks.  Plant the rooted cuttings in three or four-inch pots containing a well-drained potting soil. Care of the rooted cuttings is the same as for the potted plants.

An age old gardening activity is to overwinter Geraniums by making them go dormant. Dig the geraniums and carefully shake all the soil from the roots. Then hang the plants upside down in a cool (7 to 12C), dry place.

During the winter months, periodically take the plants down and soak the roots in water for one to two hours.

Most of the leaves will fall off during the winter however  the stems should remain firm or solid. Cut back the geraniums to one-third their original height and pot indoors in late winter or plant outdoors in May.

This method may require soaking the plants in water to re-hydrate them before potting them up.