Saturday, November 1, 2008

Overwintering Those Geraniums

First of all, let me clarify: When I say geraniums in this post, I really mean Pelargoniums. True geraniums are hardy to our zone and I don't do anything special to winter those over. They have come back reliably for several years now.

What many people call geraniums (myself included) really aren't geraniums. Those are the Pelargoniums, and those are not hardy here, so I have to do something if I want to keep them for the next year. In the past two years, I've overwintered them inside by either keeping them in a sunny south window or in the basement greenhouse. I've only lost one by doing that and I have seven or eight of them.

I've toyed with the idea of doing the drying thing, where you dig the plant before first frost, shake the dirt off the roots, cut them back a bit if they've gotten large, and hang them in a cool, dry, dark place until spring. Once a month or so, you spritz them with a little water. In the spring, you pot them up or plant them in the ground and start watering them. Miraculously, they spring to life.

My doubts and fears about doing this were allayed this past spring. One of my potted geraniums that I'd wintered over in the basement appeared to be just a dead stick stuck in hard, dry dirt. Somehow, it had gotten tucked in between two larger plants and had been missed when I watered them all. Instead of taking it out of the pot right away, I set it aside.

About a month later, I came upon the "stick in a pot" again and moved it a few feet away. Here, it inadvertently got watered whenever I watered a nearby shrub. Some time later, I remembered the neglected geranium.
When I picked the pot up, you can imagine my surprise to see several small green leaves shooting out the stem near the base of the plant!

It was at this point that I decided when fall came and it was time to bring the geraniums in, I would try the drying and hanging method.
And that's just what I'm doing. If that poor neglected geranium can survive an entire winter without water and yet another several weeks in the sun outside without water, I think we'll be okay.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with this method of overwintering geraniums. Did you have good results? Any other things I should know about using this method? I'd sure hate to lose my 'Mr. Wren.'


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have pulled them out of the ground before and kept them overwinter. I learned this method many years ago from a neighbor that did this. She kept hers in an unheated room of her house. I thought it amazing that they lived and she had such LARGE geraniums too. I unceremoniously tossed mine into the crawl space under the house one year and forgot about them. When spring came I saw this beautiful color of red peeking through the crawl space window and got them out, potted them up and voila had wonderful plants. It is easy and successful.

Helen/patientgardener said...

I have never heard of the idea of drying out geraniums before. I always pot my up an keep them in the greenhouse or in doors. I will be fascinated to see how you get on.

Anonymous said...

I always overwinter them in the greenhouse and give them very little water. I've never tried the drying out method but it sounds interesting, especially if you were short of space.

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

Hi Kylee,

I've used the dry method before and it works. I just placed them in a paper grocery sack and once in a great while would mist them with water.

This year I've just planted all of them in one big pot and put them in a basement window. Geraniums are very forgiving.

Brenda Pruitt said...

I don't believe I've ever seen them bloom in red and white like that. Quite striking. Living in East Texas, I leave my one seemingly very hardy one outside. It comes back year after year.

F Cameron said...

I love the pelargoniums -- lots of memories of Italy and France as the pots line the stairs to entryways and adorn balconies and window boxes.


Anonymous said...

Your Mr. Wren is exquisite! I gave my Mom an ivy geranium this summer that is a raspberry-red with white, but this one of yours is nice and bright. I've never overwintered by drying, but I'd love to try it. I could likely keep them at my parents' in their much cooler basement or garage. Hmm....

TC said...

I've heard of the pulling, hanging, drying, method for overwintering pelargoniums but not tried it. We've overwintered them in pots with much success; kept one for about 7 years that way.

(I used to be a big fan of Dave's Garden and still wear the "I Garden at Dave's Garden" T-shirts.)

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ That's good to hear, Lisa! I know someone who does it this way every year, and has great success, but that doesn't guarantee that I will. I'm keeping them in the basement, which is pretty cool during the winter. Dad used to keep his canna bulbs in the crawlspace.

patientgardener ~ Oh to have a greenhouse! I've not done this before either, so hopefully it will go well!

easygardener ~ That's a big reason why I'm trying this. I have a lot of plants to overwinter, so this will take up less space and require less care.

Carolyn Gail ~ Good to hear! And I thought about putting them in a paper grocery sack - maybe I will do that.

Brenda ~ Oooh, now you know I have zone envy! I could leave my bougainvilleas in the ground there, too, couldn't I?

Cameron ~ Switzerland is like that, too. I remember my pen pal told me when were there and I remarked about all the gorgeous flowers, "We say you're lazy if you don't have flowers in front of your house." Well!

Nancy ~ Well, there you go! You try it too and we'll see how we both do! :-)

TC ~ I'm so glad to hear of all these success stories with overwintering pelargoniums using the dry method.
I love Dave's Garden for the Plant Files and Garden Watchdog. I used to be a little bit active in the forums, but got away from that for some reason. It's a great site!

Kerri said...

Kylee, I used this method last year, keeping them upside down, in a cardboard box, in our upstairs storeroom. I forgot to cover and occasionally mist them as suggested in the article I read. Mid March I potted the mostly dead-looking plants up, not expecting much as only a few had signs of life. 5 out of 11 survived. One did very well, but the other 4 took a very long time to bloom and didn't grow much. These 4 were ivies, the other is a regular geranium. If I do it again I'll pot them up sooner, and try the paper bag, plus will remember to mist them.
Mr. Wren is gorgeous!

jh said...

I have never heard of this. I was going to just bring them in like I do every year but now I am going to try hanging them. Thanks for the unique tip.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Next year I'll have to try the drying & hanging method. This year is my 1st year trying to overwinter a Pelargonium. A friend gave me a huge potted 1 she had kept in her bathroom for a couple of years. I left it outside all summer & brought it in a couple of weeks ago. Wish me luck.

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