Can I save my geraniums so they will come back next year?

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Geraniums are sturdy, low-maintenance annuals that beautify the garden with bright flowers from early summer until the first frost. Versatile geraniums are suitable for flower beds, patio containers, window boxes or hanging baskets. Although geraniums are often expensive when purchased at garden centres, the beautiful blooms are worth every penny. Saving the plants over the winter can be a big cost-saver for a patient gardener.

Stem cuttings

Planting a stem cutting is a straightforward method of propagating geraniums for the coming year. To propagate a geranium, cut 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) from the tip of a stem. Remove leaves from the lower half, as well as all buds or flowers. Dip the cut end of the geranium stem in rooting hormone and plant the stem in a container filled with potting mixture. Place the pot in indirect light until the geranium roots. Move the cutting into bright sunlight when the roots are 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) in length. Keep the soil slightly moist and feed the geranium, using a water soluble plant food every other week. Move the geranium outdoors after you're sure all danger of frost has passed in spring.

Save geraniums indoors

Geraniums can be overwintered indoors if you have plenty of growing space in front of a sunny window. Trim the geranium to about 15 cm (6 inches), or to approximately one-third of its height. Dig the geranium and transplant it into a sturdy container with a drainage hole. Commercial potting mixture is a good growing medium, but you can also use a mixture of potting soil and sand or perlite and sand. Place the plant in a sunny spot and keep the potting soil moist until it's time to move the plant back to its outdoor location in spring.

Hanging geraniums

Hanging geraniums over the winter is a simple way to overwinter them if you have a cool storage place until spring. The storage place must be humid and temperatures should be maintained between 1.67 and 7.22 degrees Celsius (35 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit). Dig the geranium, then remove the soil from the roots. Hang the geraniums upside down from a hook or a rafter. Unhook the geraniums every two to four weeks throughout the winter and soak the roots in a bowl filled with cool water. If you don't have space to hang the geraniums, wrap the bare roots in a thick layer of newspaper and store the plant in a cool, non-freezing storage place until spring. Cut the plant down to about half of its height before planting the geranium again outdoors.

Tips and cautions

Propagate only your healthiest geraniums, as weak or diseased plants may not overwinter successfully. If the plants do overwinter, the problems will still be present in spring. Check plants closely for pests, especially if you choose to overwinter your geraniums indoors. Often, buying new plants in spring is a better option if your geraniums aren't healthy.

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