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Saving Geraniums Over Winter

Date: April, 1989

Source: NDSU Extension Horticulturists

Many gardeners like to keep their geraniums from one year to the next. This provides plants for the home in the winter and reduces the cost of new plants the following spring.

There are several methods of handling the plants over winter. One way is to take cuttings and root them in the fall, just prior to a killing frost.

Geranium stem cuttings, often called "slips," should be 4 to 6 inches long. Take the slips from the tips of the healthiest stems. Remove the leaves on the bottom two inches of the cuttings. Stick the cuttings in coarse sand, perlite, vermiculite or a well drained potting soil. Cuttings will root faster if you dip the ends in rooting hormone powder.

Stick the cuttings two inches deep in the medium and water thoroughly. Place in a north or east window or underneath artificial lights until rooted. This generally takes three to four weeks.

After the cuttings have rooted, plant them in individual pots and put them in a well-lighted spot. Keep the soil evenly moist, and begin fertilizing monthly once new growth appears.

Rather than take cuttings, some people prefer to pot their best plants and bring them inside to over-winter. If this is your choice, cut the plant back to about one-third its original height. Carefully dig up the plant, and pot it into a five or six-inch flower pot. After you pot it, water thoroughly. Location and care is then the same as for rooted cuttings. A sunny, cool location is best.

One of the old, but very successful methods of carrying geraniums over winter, is to dig the entire plant prior to frost. Shake the soil from the roots and hang it from basement rafters. Years ago fruit cellars were quite common, and they made excellent places to hold the plants with this method. It may not work in many basements today because temperatures are too high and humidity too low.

However, some people report success with hanging geraniums in modern basements. Temperature and humidity seem to differ in every basement. since there is no way of knowing whether this will work in your basement, try it with several plants.

If you decide to try this method, take the plants down occasionally, and place the roots in water for several hours.

Then, hang them back up. do this several times during the winter to prevent them from drying.

Whether you carry your geraniums through the winter as young plants started from cuttings, as old plants in flower pots, or dried plants hanging in the basement, keep them inside until all danger of frost has passed in the spring.

If you have further questions, please contact your local county extension office for further information.

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