Thursday, October 27, 2011

Experiment: Overwintering a Geranium

Geranium to be overwintered

We’re three-quarters of the way through October, and as I look out our kitchen window, I see a geranium blooming in the cool, fall weather.  In just a few days, I suppose, a hard frost will kill the geranium.  But what if I overwinter it—and replant it in the garden next spring?

Overwintering geraniums isn’t something most busy gardeners take the time to do these days, but in times past gardeners often took geraniums from their gardens and stored them overwinter.  I remember a neighbor, Mary Rau, moving potted geraniums into their garage to dry out and overwinter.

Why was that a fairly common fall routine?  Perhaps they were Frugal Gardeners who wanted to save money, and overwintering their geraniums meant they didn’t have to buy new plants the next spring.  Perhaps it was something just about everyone did before the dawn of the buy-use-discard era.

Soil shaken off, plant pruned
To find details about how to overwinter a geranium, I searched the Internet and found lots of postings.  The one I liked best was “Overwintering Geraniums” by Marie Iannotti at  Iannotti describes a broad view of possibilities in a paragraph or two, plus a photograph.  Her seven topics:  storing geraniums for the winter; growing geraniums as annuals; growing geraniums as winter houseplants; overwintering geraniums as cuttings; overwintering dormant, potted geraniums; overwintering dormant, bareroot geraniums; and reviving dormant geraniums in the spring.

I had planted our geranium in our springtime garden, so mine was not a case where I could just pick up a pot and move it into the garage.  I focused on the website page that showed how to store a bareroot plant.  I dug up the plant, shook off most of the soil, pruned the plant to about half its original size, and put it into a grocery bag to overwinter in our garage, where it will be in no danger of freezing this winter.  I’ve already put “Check geranium” twice on my schedule, once each in December and February.  If all goes well, I’ll pot it in March to start the reviving process, and plant it in the garden again in May.  Iannotti’s posting details each step.

Close bag, store in our garage
Will this experiment work?  Will my revived plant be vigorous and a great addition to Garden 2012?  Or will I decide to buy a replacement plant?  I’ll update you periodically about this experiment. 

If you’re tempted to try to overwinter a geranium and want to see how to do it, Iannotti’s article will give you the basics.  CLICK HERE.

And remember the obvious: You have to do this job before frost kills your geranium, and most of us are overdue for our first fall freeze.


  1. Bob,
    I used to fill my sun room (western exposure with annual geraniums. That worked for three years until the plants got too big to bring inside. I had just enough blooms during the winter months to make it worthwhile. This year I am overwintering sun coleus - they seem to be quite happy as they are putting out new leaves (smaller than outside).

  2. My geraniums usually come back each year. They are not always as pretty as when I first planted them since the colors "bleed" together. i.e. yellow & red or maroon produce an orange variety. Thus I tend to plant the same color in clusters. I have not had any luck with the "annual" living from one season to the next.