Yes, the heavy frosts are coming. It won’t be long. So now is the time to get out into the garden and salvage a couple of those beautiful geraniums for some winter enjoyment or to save some for next spring. Today I want to take a few minutes to talk about our outdoor geraniums and then I want to tell you about some wonderful and exciting indoor types, the scented leaf, the rosebud and the fancy leaf varieties.
If you want to keep the in the house and enjoy them all winter long, get out there now and dig up a few. First of all trim the plant back, probably to no more than 6 inches tall and 8 across. Be sure to leave some foliage. As you dig, leave as much soil on the ball as you can, enough that will fill a 6” flower pot. After potting, give it a thorough watering and let it sit on the porch or other cool place for a week or two so that it might get adjusted to its new environment. Then, bring it in, give it as sunny a spot as you can and treat it like any other flowering houseplant. With a little patience, and some luck, it will grow, throw a few blooms and give you a great start for a large plant next spring and summer.
So, you want to save them but don’t want them in the house? My mom had a great system. She dug the plants, shook as much soil as possible from the root system and then let them dry out on the porch for a week or so. Then she cut and discarded about half the plant and hung them in a dark area, actually in her case it was a large cupboard, in her unheated garage and forgot them for the winter. I’ve seen them stored in root cellars, dark and unheated or unfinished basements. They need to be cool and they need to be dry. During this time the foliage will dry up and fall off. They’ll look terrible. But then in mid to late March, pot them up, water and feed them and watch them take off. Why not try some. Doesn’t cost anything!
Yes, there is a third way to save some of those wonderful plants that are so beautiful in the summer. Take some cuttings. It’s easy. First of all find a wooden box or plastic garden tray, be sure it has drainage, or a few large pots and fill it with a mix of wet peat moss laced with 20% sand or use a potting mix. Now, go into the garden and take some cuttings. Select healthy branches and cut the growing tips off, about 6 or 7 inches of them. Dip the base in a rooting hormone. “Rootone” and/or “Hormodin” are readily available in our home improvement stores and garden centers. You can go without this step, but your chances of success are much better if you use them. Put the cuttings into the pot just deep enough to have support. Now, loosely cover with a large clear garbage bag and close, but do not seal the end. You will have effectively created your own rooting chamber. Rooting should take place in 5 to 8 weeks. If you note any cuttings that are rotting or dying, remove and trash them at once. Once rooted, transplant to small pots, place on a sunny window sill, water and fertilize regularly and watch them grow. Better hurry, before frost.