My blog site is primarily dedicated to growing tropical and subtropical plants, whether as a houseplant or in the garden

Waking Up Your Overwintered Geraniums!

Waking Up Your Overwintered Geraniums!

If you’re like me, you have a lot of plants, bulbs and tubers that have been stored in a dark, cool spot over the winter months.  My garage is turning into the Noah’s arc of plants.  I want one or two of everything!  In the fall, I will write a blog post on how I overwinter my botanical goodies that have been growing luxuriantly all summer in the garden.  For now though, winter is over (FINALLY…although we just had some snow in northern Ohio in April), and it’s time to wake the plants up from their slumber! I used to store everything in our cool, dark basement in our old house.  In our new house though, we have a heated garage, so everything is stored there.  More in the Fall on how I dig up and prepare for the winter storage of various plants.

This post is about geraniums, but to give you a taste of what else I overwinter, here is an inventory of everything I successfully overwintered in our heated garage this past winter:

  • Several potted geraniums
  • Both “regular” elephant ears and upright elephant ears
  • 4 O’Clock tubers
  • Several different kinds of dahlia tubers
  • A big Brugmansia
  • Two purple leaved banana plants
  • Pink Crinum lilies
  • A fig tree
  • Lemon verbena

Geraniums

In this post, I wanted to focus on bringing geraniums back from their slumber.  If you are Italian, like me, you have an innate love of geraniums.  When I think of my babushka-wearing Italian grandmother, bless her soul, her summer garden was brimming with geraniums, dahlias, oleanders, stock, fig trees, and many others.  There is nothing like an older geranium that is a few years old.  They will give an elegant, Mediterranean touch to your garden.  If you’ve never overwintered a geranium and appreciated how beautiful they can get with age, you should give it a try.  When you overwinter them year over year, they will get taller, have more flowers, and take on a completely different character.

Two summers ago, I planted several geraniums in the ground.  Right before the threat of frost, I dug them up, shook all the soil off the roots, and chucked them in a big empty pot. My intention was to store them in peat moss to overwinter them.  I had read about how some people tie them up and hang them in a cool dry spot, and others overwinter geraniums in paper bags.  I simply got lazy and left the plants, sans soil, in a big empty pot all winter and plopped the pot on a garage shelf.  I thought for sure that they would be crispy critters and be completely dried up by the Spring.  Much to my delight, I found that most of them were showing signs of growth in the Spring!  Truly incredible.  So last year I took these naked beauties and potted them up into glazed ceramic pots.  They’ve been there ever since.  A few days ago I cleaned them up by taking all the dead leaves off, and started watering them.  Geranium winter storage is easy!

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Wintering geraniums is so easy.  To overwinter the geraniums in their pots, I literally picked them up at the end of the season and put them on the shelf in the garage, as-is. Maybe once a month or so while in the garage, I would give them a little water so they wouldn’t completely dry up.  The garage stays 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit all winter.  At the end of the winter, they looked like the picture above on the left.  I have 7 different plants that all looked like that, so I cleaned them up by cutting off all the dead leaves and also cut off any dried up branches. The picture on the right shows 3 of the 7 plants after they were cleaned up.  Much better! Even though they look pathetic at this stage, they will grow to be full and beautiful plants pretty quickly.   When the weather gets warmer in the next few weeks, I’m going to top dress the pots with fresh soil and scratch in some Osmocote fertilizer.  I will also supplement with Miracle-Gro weekly.  In the meantime, I’m keeping them in my sunroom until it gets warm enough to place them outside.  Once they show signs of active growth, I will start fertilizing them.

When you bring your geraniums outside after being in winter storage, especially if they have tender growth like the pictures above, place the plants in complete shade at first. This is called hardening them off.  The tender leaves need to slowly get used to the brighter light.  If you don’t do this, the leaves will burn.  Gradually introduce them into the sun.  Geraniums like a lot of sun so find a suitable spot.  In no time, they will look like the red geraniums in the photo below.  This picture was taken in my garden in 2016.

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If you haven’t overwintered a geranium yet, and you like these plants, please give it a try and share your story with me!  I’ve love to hear from you!

Happy planting!