Geranium – Overwintering

Recently I was asked how to store dahlias and caladiums for the winter. Let’s continue the discussion and focus on another plant that is not reliably winter-hardy but which can be kept with a bit of effort.

The bright red or orange flowers of geraniums have brightened many a hanging basket and flower bed this year. It seems a shame to let cold weather kill the plants. If they could be kept alive, next spring could be resplendent that much faster. Here are three ways to keep the plants alive over the winter.

DEEP MULCHING OUTDOORS Cut the plant back to eight inches tall. Cover a plant or a small group of plants with an inverted, shallow cardboard box. Cover the box with at least ten inches of dry leaves. Cover the leaves with a sheet of clear plastic. The leaves and plastic will trap and hold the earth’s heat. In average winters, the plants will spring to life when uncovered in late March.

IN A SUNNY WINDOW Landscape plants can be put in indoor pots and in baskets hung from the ceiling in front of a sunny window. Either may need to be cut back so they fit in the space you have. Cool, bright windows seem to be better than hot windows. Water occasionally but do not fertilize until putting them back outside in the spring.

IN THE BASEMENT Remove plants from pots or baskets. Enclose the entire plant in a brown paper bag bag. Hang each one upside down by their roots in a cool basement. In mid-March, take the plants down, remove the bag and soak in a bucket of water. They can be put outside when it warms up. It is surprising how fast those little sticks perk up and sprout leaves once again!

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