By Becky Pederson
Wintering geraniums not only saves money, it also saves special memories. As a warm October day arrives, I force myself to uproot blooming pots of geranium plants to store away for winter. My geraniums have become old friends as I have enjoyed some of them for 25 years. I do have favorites.
One is a magenta pink beauty my mother gave to me in 1991. Another is a peach-colored plant given to me by a friend when our grandson was born in 1994. For Mother’s Day, 1999, my daughter came with a glorious bright pink geranium in a hanging basket.
Here are the wintering geranium steps I’ve used for so many years. I loosen the dirt around each plant and lift it out of the soil shaking off all the dirt. With scissors, I clip off the flowers and all but 5 or 6 leaves. I lay out a tarp and place each trimmed plant on the dry tarp to be in the sunshine. As evening approaches I pull the tarp into the garage for the night to prevent dampness and to protect plants from frost. If a garage is not available another tarp and an old blanket or rug on top will work fine. I have the plants in the sunshine for two days to dry.
Have ready several paper grocery bags. Open the bags and place the geranium plants in the bags root end first. Fit as many plants in the bag as you can. Staple shut in three places. If your plant is taller than the bag, slide another grocery bag over the top. A couple pieces of masking tape will secure the top bag in place. Do not make the bags airtight.
I store the filled bags under the basement steps but not directly on the floor. I set the bags on top of several empty coffee cans I gather close to each other. A cool closet would suffice if there is no basement.
The soil from the pots is incorporated into my compost bin and used again in the spring. I wash and dry the empty pots and store them away for winter.
When spring arrives with warm days and sunshine it’s time to repot. I have large 18 to 24-inch pots. Each pot is planted with five or six plants. For hanging baskets, I use three geranium plants and also I use lobelia or marigolds as fillers on the outside edge of the pots.
Upon opening the grocery bags you will see many pale green sprouts. Mother Nature does her magic and knows it’s time to get growing. Once potted, keep the plants in the warm sunshine but cover them if there is any danger of frost. Each time I water I use a water-soluble plant food.
Over the years I have added Orange Tango, Samba, Americana Bright Red, and Rocky Mountain Rose. These are all zonal geraniums. I have had no luck wintering geraniums of the Martha Washington or Ivy Leaf varieties.
Last winter I had 88 bare-root geraniums waiting for spring. I have cut countless slips from my original collection. I share many plants with family and friends.
Wintering geraniums takes some patience in the spring. It takes time for the plants to establish new roots, grow leaves, and form buds. But the wait is so rewarding!
Have you tried wintering geraniums or other any other outdoor plants? What steps do you take to be sure you see the green sprouts in the spring?