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Overwintering Geraniums: 4 Easy Methods To Save Your Plants

Overwintering Geraniums: 4 Easy Methods To Save Your Plants

As the temperatures drop and the nights get longer, it becomes clear that the cold season is approaching. And with its arrival comes the reappearance of the notorious Jack Frost.

Suddenly, as a plant parent, the prospect of seeing your lovely plants left out in the cold is worrying.

Often plants that survive quite well outdoors in the summer months don’t do too well and require extra attention in the winter to ensure their survival.

The term used for this is called “overwintering.” This is easier than it sounds, and the methods are relatively simple. Read on to discover how to save your geraniums this winter.

Bring Potted Geraniums Indoors

If you grow your geraniums in planters or patio pots, you can simply bring them indoors. This is best done when temperatures drop below 55 to 60℉ (12-15℃) to avoid frost damage and stunted growth. 

Equipment needed: 

  • Pruning shears
  • New container and fresh soil if repotting
  • Warm water
  • Pebble tray filled with water

1. Prune Dead Foliage 

Examine the plant and trim dead or yellowing leaves using the pruning shears or scissors. Check for signs of pests, such as spider mites, and leaf disease. 

2. Ensure the Plant Is Not Rootbound

Once you have removed the dead or damaged foliage, check that the plant container is still adequately sized.

Summer growth may have caused the plant to outgrow its container, so now is an excellent time to repot the geranium if necessary.

3. Place the Plant Container in the Shade

Moving plants indoors means they will be subjected to lower lighting levels; this can affect their ability to photosynthesis if this move is made suddenly.

Placing the plant in the shade will help the plant acclimatize to lower lighting levels. Leave the plant in the shade for one week before moving the container indoors. 

4. Submerge the Container in Warm Water 

Place the plant container in warm water for 10-15 minutes; this will drive slugs and insects to the soil surface.

If you notice a lot of insect life in the soil, use an insecticide (I like to use all-natural neem oil) to remove the bugs and repot the plant before bringing it indoors.

You don’t want to bring outdoor pests indoors where they may start nibbling on your house plants. 

5. Place the Geranium in Bright Light

Geraniums require a lot of bright light; however, they can tolerate moderate indoor light. Place the plant in a south-facing window or in an area that receives at least eight hours of light per day.

If the light indoors is too low, the use of a grow light may prove practical. Don’t worry – they aren’t expensive at all.

Check out this full-spectrum light set with four bendable arms, remote control, and 10 light levels – great value!

6. Continued Indoor Care

Geraniums require temperatures of approximately 65-75℉ (18-21℃) during the day and 55℉ (13℃) at night. This is easy to achieve when the plant is indoors.

Place the plant on a pebble tray filled with water (I explain all about pebble trays and how to make one yourself here.) to increase humidity levels as indoor air is drier than outdoors.

Dig Up In-Ground Geraniums and Grow as Houseplants

A woman working outside planting pink geraniums in pots.

Geraniums grown in the garden will naturally die off at the end of the growing season because they are annuals.

However, to keep your garden-grown plants from dying, you can transplant them into suitable containers and grow them indoors.

Transplanting should be done before the first frosts to avoid plant damage. 

Equipment needed: 

  • Garden trowel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Pruning shears 
  • Ceramic pots/container
  • Fresh soil
  • Brown paper bags

1. Select Healthy Geranium Plants To Pot 

Using the garden trowel, dig up the healthy plants you wish to grow indoors. Place in the new containers and fill with fresh potting soil. 

2. Prune the Plant and Water Thoroughly

Prune the plant down to a third of its original size. Water the plant well, and allow excess moisture to drain thoroughly. The soil should be allowed to dry out. 

3. Bring the Plant Indoors Before the Temperature Drops

The best time to move the plant indoors is when temperatures are still temperate. This allows the plant time to gradually adjust to the dryer humidity levels indoors before the heating goes on. 

Store Bare Roots Over Winter

This method involves removing the plant from the soil; the plant is then hung in a cool dark place, protected from freezing temperatures.

This method is called dormant storage and can also be done using brown paper bags to store the dormant plants. 

Equipment needed: 

  • Garden trowel
  • Pruning shears
  • Brown paper bags/twine
  • Spray bottle filled with water

1. Remove the Plant From the Soil

Using the trowel, dig up the plant or remove it from its outdoor container. Then, using your fingers, gently remove the excess soil from around the roots. 

2. Prune and Allow To Dry

Prune the plant to half its original size using the pruning shears. Place the plant in a dry area to allow it to dry before storing. This will prevent the plant from developing mold or rotting in storage.

3. Hang the Plant

Using twine, hang the plant upside down in a shed or dark room protected from freezing temperatures. The ideal temperature range for dormant geraniums is 50℉ (10℃).

Alternatively, you can store the plants in brown paper bags. Note the bags should not be sealed to allow for airflow. 

4. Continued Care 

Throughout the winter, check that the plant does not become too dry. Moisten the roots with a little water, and allow them to dry thoroughly before placing the plant back in the bag.

Don’t be alarmed if all the leaves fall off; the stems are alive!

5. Replanting in the Spring

Approximately six weeks before the last frost, place the dormant geranium into a container of fresh potting soil. Remove dead or damaged foliage.

Water thoroughly and apply a diluted fertilizer to encourage growth.

Place the container in an area that receives indirect light (check with my article here if you’re not sure what qualifies as indirect light), and allow the plant to come out of dormancy gradually. 

6. Move the Plant Outdoors

It should take about two weeks for new green growth to show. Once the risk of frost has passed, move the containers outdoors or plant directly into the soil. 

Take Cuttings and Root Indoors Over Winter

Sometimes limited indoor space means we are unable to bring additional plants indoors for overwintering. However, this doesn’t mean you need to throw your geraniums in the trash.

Geraniums are easily propagated using stem cuttings, and it’s these cuttings that can be used to overwinter your geraniums for the next season. 

Equipment needed: 

  • Sharp knife 
  • Rooting hormone
  • Plant container
  • Water
  • Clear plastic bag

1. Select a Healthy Stem

Choose a healthy green stem, and snip a cutting approximately 5-8 inches long. The cutting should be taken just above a node.

2. Remove the Leaves and Flowers

Strip excess foliage and flowers until two sets of leaves remain at the top of the cutting. 

3. Dip the New Cutting in Rooting Hormone

Rooting hormone will encourage the cutting to develop healthy roots. Find it here on Amazon.

4. Place the Cutting in Fresh Soil

Fill a container with fresh, well-draining potting soil. Make a hole in the soil about 2 inches in depth and plant the cutting into the soil. Press down firmly on the soil around the cutting. 

5. Continued Care

Place the container on a windowsill or counter with access to bright light. If indoor lighting is limited, place under a grow light.

Water regularly, ensuring the soil remains moist while the cutting is developing roots. Rooting should occur in about eight weeks. Once rooted, continue to care for the new plant indoors until the spring.  

A woman placing a geranium cutting into a plastic cup filled with soil.

Should Geraniums Be Cut Back In Winter?

Geraniums, over time, naturally become leggy and woody. While this type of growth is typical for plants growing in the wild, it doesn’t make them very attractive for the garden.

Cutting geraniums back promotes healthier plant growth and keeps the plant compact and bushy.

If you are overwintering your plants indoors, prune them in the late autumn before bringing them inside. 

How Do You Get Geraniums Out of Dormancy?

Plant the dormant geraniums into new containers filled with fresh soil. Prune any remaining dead foliage, and water well. Apply a diluted, liquid fertilizer to the soil around the base of the plant.

Because the plant has been kept in the dark over the winter, place it in an area that receives bright indirect light. This will help the plant acclimatize to the light and slowly encourage the plant out of dormancy. 

How Long Do Geraniums Live Indoors?

With proper care, the geranium can survive indoors for more than 30 years. However, this depends on keeping the plant disease and pest free.

Geraniums are also not tolerant of colder temperatures, so suboptimal temperatures could lead to early demise.

As the plant ages, it may become more challenging to prevent leggy growth at this point; replacing the plant may be the only option. 

Tips for Growing Geraniums Indoors

  • Use a water meter (known as a hydrometer) to gauge the soil moisture to prevent overwatering. 
  • Use grow lights to provide additional light and excellent blooms.
  • Pinch back leggy growth to encourage bushier growth.
  • Don’t plant in overly large containers. Geraniums prefer a snug-fitting container.
  • Use a half-strength liquid fertilizer once monthly during the growing season.