Geranium Love

Gwen Berry

In my experience, geraniums look their very best in Fall. They’ve had all summer to grow from spindly starts to good-sized plants. The weather has cooled down to temperatures more pleasing to geraniums, so they’re enthusiastically putting out new green leaves and bright blooms. Every year I have to make a weighty decision – whether to sadly watch freezing temperatures demolish the gorgeous plants or bring them inside where they’ll inevitably become leggy and ratty-looking  and take over all available space.

This year I couldn’t bear to let my big potted geranium go, so I brought it inside. “It’s just temporary,” I said to myself. “It’s so beautiful, I’ll enjoy it for a while longer. When it gets ratty and leggy, I can put it out and let the winter take it then.”

Ha! As if I could ever be that hard-hearted, when it’s been faithfully charming me with bright new flowers all through the dark, cold days. As predicted, they are blooming on stretched-out, wandering branches with increasingly empty space between leaves. The lower leaves crumbled away long since. Leggy, yup. Ratty, yup. But still. . .

As I contemplated my dilemma, for the first time it occurred to me to wonder if a geranium could be pruned, and what that would do to a plant like mine in the middle of winter. So I did what any modern seeker of wisdom would do – got on the internet. 

What followed was a gaggle of YouTube videos demonstrating how to prune geraniums, how to use the trimmings to root new geraniums plants, and how to overwinter geraniums in a dormant state instead of actively growing. Most methods of dormant overwintering involve storing the plants, bare-rooted and upside down, in a paper bag or cardboard box, in a cool, dark place. Then you just get them out and replant them in the Spring.

Melinda Meyers ( gives this basic advice:  “Long leggy stems can be cut down to size.  Use a handpruner or garden scissors for the job.  Cut overgrown stems back, just above a set of healthy leaves or node, the place where leaves were once attached.  You can cut back all the stems or stagger this over a few weeks, leaving some leaves in place to create energy for the plant.

“Root some of the trimmings to increase the number of plants for your garden or to share with others.  Cut the stems into 4 to 6 inch pieces with at least one set of leaves attached.  Stick the cut end, with the lowest node buried, into moist vermiculite, perlite or a well-drained potting mix to root.

“Place in a bright location out of direct light and keep the rooting mix moist. Loosely cover with an open plastic bag while the cuttings root.”

It’s worth watching some of those expert videos if you’re thinking of pruning your geranium. The videos have more complete information, and you can watch how it’s done. Just do a YouTube search for “pruning geraniums,” and you’re off.

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