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Overwintering your geraniums is relatively easy to do and can save you a bunch of money next spring. Most of us have a favorite geranium variety, and overwintering yours will save you time next planting season hunting for just the right one. Try one of these three methods to get a jump start next spring.
Grow in containers
Before the first frost, cut back plants by half. If growing in the ground, dig and transplant into containers, using a potting mix made for containers. Water well and keep in a cool, bright location. Geraniums grown inside during the winter will often become 'leggy,” and may be a paler green color than in summer. Don't worry, once you've babied them through the winter, they'll regain their vigor next spring.
Geraniums root readily from cuttings, and it's an easy way to increase your stock for next spring. Remove a 3- to 4-inch section of the plant's stem tip with a sharp knife.
Pinch off the leaves from the lower half and dip the cut end into rooting hormone (available at your local garden center).
Stick the cuttings in a moist, porous, well-drained rooting media such as coarse sand, perlite or vermiculite. Make sure the container has holes for drainage.
Keep media evenly moist. In six to eight weeks, you should have roots about an inch long. Transplant into individual containers using sterile potting soil. Place in a sunny window and water as needed. Pinch tips back to encourage branching and prevent spindly growth.
Geraniums have the ability to survive for most of the winter without soil. Dig up the entire plant before frost and gently remove the soil from the roots. Place plants inside open paper bags or hang upside-down from the rafters in a cool, dark location for the winter. Ideally the temperature should be between 45 to 50 degrees.
Two or three times during the winter, take the plants out of the bags or down from the rafters and soak the roots in water for one to two hours.
While many of the leaves will die and fall off, the stems should remain firm and solid. Discard any plants with shriveled stems, since those plants will most likely die.
Pot up dormant geraniums in containers in late March or early April. Water plants thoroughly, trim any dead stems and place in a sunny window. Be patient, it can take several weeks for plants to initiate growth after dormant storage.
Move plants outside in the spring after all danger of frost has passed and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
For all your gardening questions, call the Linn County Master Gardener Hortline at (319) 447-0647.
' Jackie Hadenfeldt MacLaren is a Linn County Master Gardener.