pelargonium guide & flowery photo album

pelargoniums & winter

many people who likes to have pelargoniums in their garden over the summer tend to buy new ones each year. this is not necessary at all if you have a little bit of space in a cool but bright place.
there are several ways to store your beloved granny plants for hibernation. i'll describe what works for me. please bear in mind that i'm only writing about the ordinary zonals in this post, not miniatures, species or other types.
big plants that are at least a year old, preferably two, and have strong growth, lots of roots and healthy foliage can be cut back by about one third. i use cinnamon powder on the "wounds" they receive in the process of trimming to help prevent fungus, rotting etc.
the most important thing to consider for overwintering is light. there are tips out there about packing them in cardboard boxes, hanging them upside down in their roots or in plastic bags... it's not only my silly love for pelargoniums that makes me shun these methods it's also the simple fact that only a few of the strongest can survive this kind of treatment. they need light. not necessarily direct sun but they do need as much daylight as possible. if you live in the far north you'll probably have to give them artificial light (can be a cheap fluorescent lamp).
pelargoniums don't mind cold but they cannot stand frost. after over watering, frost is the biggest killer. i find that the lowest they tolerate is about 5 degrees Celsius. ordinary kinds don't fare well with heat either, that's why you can't just keep them all in you living room... well, you can but they'll grow in twisted ways and will have less flowers next summer. a cool place is cool with them.
the rule to go by is: the less light, the less water. in early winter and at the beginning of spring, i water my pelargoniums once a week. in the dead of winter i only spray the top soil with water and then water enough to reach about 1 cm around the bottom of the pot. i never water them from the top.
since i have lots of window sills to use, i keep each pelargonium in the same pot that it has had during the summer. never give new soil, never plant in bigger pots - this you can do in spring. i actually tend to be sure that the roots are a bit crammed - it's a good way to ensure you don't kill by over watering.
the other way to do it if you have little space is more brutal but it works! take a box and a lot of sand. styrofoam works best (i know, not very sustainable, sorry, but at least this way the damned stuff will be used for a good purpose ;-). cover the bottom of the box with a few centimetres of sand. tease as much soil off the roots as you can ... and here comes the really brutal part: cut the plant back by 2 thirds! then pack the plants closely, cover roots & soil with sand and finally moisten the sand. with this method you do not water. no water at all! but please remember that this only works for pelargoniums with age & roots enough.
nothing. zip. zero. i give less & less in the last month of summer and then stop. not until spring & new leaves arrive do i start again.
of course you need to give them some loving... when i check (and perhaps water) them once a week or so in winter time, i make sure to remove dead leaves and spread some good vibes. after all, they brighten the other three seasons considerably for me :-)


West Coast Island Gardener said...

I love that you are self-declared Pelargonium Freak!!!

I bookmarked your site on my computer as a fab how-to resource. Terra-cotta and pelargoniums are a perfect marriage. A beautiful coupling I want to see more of next year in my garden!


kompoStella said...

yup, that's me, a Freak :-)

i'm happy to read about your bookmark and think you'll be well on your way; as i've said before, you have an enviable placement upon this planet and one of the reasons i think so is that you live within reach of the PHANTASTIC nursery in Langley... or at least it used to be, things change and i haven't been there for way too long (bu-hu-hoo)

nancybond said...

I knew I'd find the answers I need about how to over-winter my geraniums by coming to you. :) Thanks for the helpful and informative post!

My geraniums, if you remember, have grown to gargantuan size over the summer and I have very limited space in my apartment -- some have told me I can generate new plants from the old by taking cuttings. Have you started them this way, and if so, do you let them root in water first, or simple put in soil? Thanks if you can help. :)

kompoStella said...

Nancy :-) you're welcome.
propagation in water can be used for regular zonals but i do find that it works better to pot them right away. the roots get stronger and there's less of a chance for fungus.
just make sure you've got at least 3 nodes below the surface and that you use the smallest possible pot.
he he, you've given me an idea for another how-to post ;-)

bigHuk said...

Thank you for your help, I have added your site to my bookmark.
My pelargoniums used to be put under the staging in the green house and left to their own luck, it was very hit and miss, but now I will treat them far better.

kompoStella said...

bigHuk - you're welcome. a lot of pelargoniums can stand a hit & miss treatment no problem but if you're interested in big, beautiful plants or some of the more special varieties you need to plan a little more ;-)
please do let me know if you have a specific problem - i'm always on the look out for new subjects to post about.