Overwintering pelargonium (geranium ) plants – BBC Radio Leicester phone-in questions for Saturday 6th November 2021

Scented leaf pelargoniums in my summer containers

I grow a huge number of bedding pelargonium plants – better known as geraniums- for containers in the summer. They flower non-stop from June to November. They are little trouble and all I do is give them some potash liquid fertiliser once a week, and regularly dead-head them

These are tender evergreen perennials and can be kept over winter in a frost free place. This year I have nearly 100 4” pots, full of cuttings which will be kept in my heated greenhouse. This is a space-saving method to keep them from one year to the next. If you don’t have a greenhouse, a bright windowsill indoors is suitable. As long as the cuttings are kept frost-free they will fine. The secret is not to overwater them. In the greenhouse, I only water pots once when the cuttings are taken, and then I don’t water them again until next February when I want to start them back into growth. Cuttings kept indoors in the house will be watered very minimally as the temperatures indoors are higher than in the greenhouse. Full-size plants can carry on flowering all year round if they are brought indoors. Check them for pests and diseases before bringing them in and top the pots with horticultural grit to keep the surface of the compost dry. Wet compost promotes grey mould. Remove any damaged or diseased leaves. When watering, make sure to keep leaves as dry as possible by aiming the water at the base of the plants.

My father in law used to keep his prize-winning pelargoniums in the garage. He dug up his plants in autumn, shook off all the compost, removed all of the leaves and wrapped the remaining stumps and roots in newspaper. They were kept cool, dry and frost free until the spring. I’ve tried this method, but only found it partially successful as my potting shed got damp in winter.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about overwintering my pelargoniums: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/15/clearing-out-the-greenhouse-taking-pelargonium-cuttings-sunday-september-15/

Are you planning to keep your pelargoniums over the winter? Or do you sow yours from scratch each spring? Or buy them ready to plant from the garden centre in early summer?

This year I grew all my bedding plants, including some new varieties of pelargonium, from packets of seed. I was amazed how many pelargoniums could be grown from such tiny dust-like seeds. It was a money-saving option that worked out well.

Some more photos from my greenhouse and garden to brighten your day:

This is a Rosebud pelargonium

A collection of bedding pelargonium plants making a display in the greenhouse.

Common names can be confusing. Most people use the word geranium when they are talking about pelargoniums. But geraniums are a different plant genus. So to avoid confusion, people refer to them as ‘hardy geraniums’ – the sort you grow in beds and borders, as ground cover amongst other plants, and ‘tender geraniums’ (pelargoniums) grown in hanging baskets and containers.

A variety I’ve kept going for more than 20 years, taken from a cutting from my grandfather. It was his favourite pelargonium.

A miniature pelargonium which flowers all year round. This one came from Fibrex Nurseries, a specialist grower, highly recommended. https://www.fibrex.co.uk/. Miniature pelargoniums are wondrous things. I’ll write a new blog post explaining how to grow them. They are easy to grow and once you’ve grown one, you’ll want to start a collection. I warn you, they are addictive!

If you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester, the gardening programme has moved to Saturdays at 11am. Josie Hutchins and I take it in turns to answer phone-in questions and talk about what gardening jobs we are doing each week. If you have a question, please get in touch with The producer, Dale. We are one of the few local stations now offering gardening advice on the radio.

13 thoughts on “Overwintering pelargonium (geranium ) plants – BBC Radio Leicester phone-in questions for Saturday 6th November 2021

  1. Karen, thank you very much for this interesting blog and where you teach so much about how to winter pelargoniums: I love it. Karen you have 100 pelargoniums, what a wonderful collection !! Summer must be a divine seeing its beautiful flowers. I love the pelargonium flower from the cutting that your grandfather gave you 20 years ago and that you have been conserving the plant: that plant is touching and very special. I love how your father-in-law kept the pelargoniums in the garage bare root: how many beautiful memories they must bring you. The photos of the pelargoniums are divine and make me smile and happy. I had never heard of miniature pelargoniums: I beg you to write a blog about them when you can, because if you like them so much they must be exceptional. I wish you all the best on your BBC radio show on plants. Health, strength, encouragement, positive thinking, hope and much love for your whole family, Mr B and for you. Loving caresses for your “furry and feathery family”. Take good care of each other. Happy and good weekend. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx 😘🙏💚🍁

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    • Thank you Margarita. The pelargoniums are tucked up for winter in the heated greenhouse. The hens are a lovely new covered run so they will stay warm and dry when the weather turns wet. And little Meg the spaniel has two new fleecy coats to keep we’re warm and dry on our muddy walks. Monty kitten and old cat Grace have come in by the fire of the winter and are hardly venturing outdoors at all! Have a happy weekend and thanks so much for reading my blog. Affectionate greetings from us all. Smiles and love from karen xx

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      • Thanks to you Karen for writing this wonderful blog, how not to write on it! I’m glad the chickens have a warm pen for the Winter. Meg with her two new coats will be gorgeous on her walks and well sheltered. I love that Grace and Monty are together by the fire. Give them all affectionate caresses from me: how you take good care of your furry and feathery family !!! Much love and joy. Good weekend. Very affectionate greetings from Margarita xxx.

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      • What about a spare room. I must admit, I’m putting some under the spare bed, dry, wrapped in newspaper. Radiator is turned right down in there. Doesn’t take as much room with all the compost shaken off. As long as they are dry they won’t rot. Any room in your garage or shed, if frost free? I’m really just relying on my pots of cuttings. Providing the greenhouse heater doesn’t fail, I’ll have lots of plants for next spring. Thanks for reading the blog. x

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  2. It is interesting to read all the different ways of over wintering pelargoniums. The pelargonium society’s ‘MR Pelargonium’ on his YouTube channel recommends feeding with a small amount of dilute liquid feed once a fortnight during the winter period.
    Maybe it is because he grows them for show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Brian. Yes, he must be keeping them in full growth indoors. They would produce lots of soft growth if fed, but if kept too cool they will go mouldy. I’m writing about indoor miniature pelargoniums next. They can be kept growing in a centrally heated house and do need watering and feeding. Thanks for reading and telling me about the you tube. I’m going to have a look now. 👍

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  3. My sister-in-law has an old Yankee method of storing her summer pelargoniums over winter and it amazes me. She shakes the soil off and hangs them upside down in a cool, dry cellar all winter. It is a wonder to me that they don’t die from desiccation, but she just sticks them back in the ground every spring and they grow beautifully.
    I have a cool sunspace (can get to 45F in Jan.) which is perfect for overwintering pelargoniums, after spending the summer on the front porch. They bloom endlessly and provide great cheer through the long dreary winter. Your collection looks amazing. I can’t imagine having over 100 plants to tend, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Eliza. I’m bringing more into the house this winter. Like you say, they make perfect house plants and flower just at a time when we need more cheer. Your sister in law sounds like she uses a similar method to my father in law. I always used to be amazed when they came back to life after such drastic treatment. Enjoy your weekend. Xx

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