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What's the best way to save geraniums over the winter?

Question

Subject: The Dirt

I love your column! I wish it were in the paper more often ... but then you wouldn't have time to dig in the dirt. I appreciate that you don't preach perfection, but instead share your love of gardening with a little humor and realism.

Can you suggest the best way to save geraniums over the winter? I have heard of hanging upside down and drying them, and replanting in summer. But that failed several years ago. So I have tried cutting back and keeping in heated ... though cool garage with a little light and little watering.

But it seems to take forever for them to come back the following spring ... summer. I am rooting some cuttings, but know that once rooted I will have a hard time getting them to really take off in winter. Ugh! I know it is not that expensive to just buy new ones each spring, but I am trying to save mine as they were Mothers Day gifts from my daughter, and a gorgeous ruffled variety that I haven't seen often. If I manage to save the plant, I promise to send you a photo next summer.

Gratefully,

Monya Weissert

Columbia City, In

Answer

Monya -- Thanks for the kind words! My best friend has treaured the geranium from her mother's funeral service for years. She keeps it in a fairly large pot that spends the summer on the back porch. In the fall, she cuts the plant back a bit and puts it in a bright nook in the kitchen where it gets light from two sides. It doesn't have a lot of blooms in the winter, but I've never seen it completely stop blooming.

One of my co-workers has one in the office that isn't quite so happy. I don't think we have as much bright light. It also blooms a bit all winter.

In any case, don't water so much that the rootball gets soggy. Geraniums will die for sure if they rot.

I don't currently have geraniums, but the ones I've had in the past got a little leggy over the winter, even sitting in a windowsill. If they got too long, I'd clip them, strip off any leaf litter and stick them in water. About half would root.

Dirt Cottage doesn't have any bright windows, so I'd have to use artificial lights if I wanted to keep my geraniums going. Artificial lights aren't really my style, though. -- Anne

Journey through gardening season with Rosa Salter Rodriguez (feature writer) rsalter@jg.net, Anne Gregory (Web editor and writer) agregory@jg.net, Frank Noonan (copy editor) fnoonan@jg.net and Cathie Rowand (photographer) crowand@jg.net.

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