How to Overwinter Geraniums

Geranium plant next to large pot of soil and gardening tools

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $30

Geraniums (Pelargonium hybrids) are usually only grown as annuals, except in USDA zones 10 and 11, where the mild climate allows them to flourish outdoors all year long. Therefore, come fall, gardeners in zones colder than 10 have four options for their plants: Let them die off as annuals, bring them indoors as houseplants, propagate new plants from cuttings, or store them dormant until spring. If your garden is full of this flower, it's probably worth it to overwinter some plants. However, if you only grow a few plants each year, buying new ones in the spring might be more cost-effective and less time-consuming.

Tip

The longer you keep geraniums growing indoors in pots, the woodier the stems will become and the less they will flower. So, if you want a profusion of blooms, you’re better off purchasing new plants as annuals each year. 

2:03

Click Play to Learn How to Overwinter Geraniums

When to Overwinter Geraniums

You must avoid frost on your geraniums for successful overwintering. Full plants and cuttings should be harvested in the fall while the plant is still blooming and the temperature is mild. If you harvest too late, the plant might have already entered its die-off phase. On the other hand, harvesting too early can mean sacrificing peak blooms in your garden. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Garden shovel
  • Garden trowel
  • Gardening gloves
  • Garden shears
  • Spray bottle

Materials

  • Ceramic pots
  • Potting soil
  • Twine
  • Paper grocery bags
  • Rooting hormone

Instructions

Materials and tools to overwinter geraniums

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overwintering Geraniums by Growing Them Indoors

Geraniums make decent winter houseplants if you can provide them with plenty of bright light. A sunny west- or south-facing window (or grow lights) assures that they won't grow spindly. Just make sure to situate the plants away from drafts that might force dormancy. 

  1. Check for Insects or Disease

    Before the first frost, check your geraniums closely for signs of insects or disease. Your should only overwinter healthy plants.

    Tip

    When growing geraniums indoors, keep an eye out for typical indoor garden pests, such as aphids, spider mites, and fungus gnats. If your geranium is healthy, it will continue to grow and bloom, though not as well as in its outdoor environment. If your plant looks like it's struggling, consider letting it go dormant until spring. 

    Geranium plant with diseased leaf

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Dig, Pot, and Prune

    Dig up and pot the healthy plants. Then, prune them to one-third of their size. Water the pots well, and then allow the soil to dry out. 

    Healthy geranium plant pruned and transplanted to new pot

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Bring Plants Indoors Once It's Cold

    Bring your plants indoors before it's time to close the windows and turn on the heat for winter. This gives the geraniums time to adjust to the drop in humidity that occurs indoors during winter.

    Geranium plants placed next to bright window

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overwintering Geraniums as Cuttings

Many plants can be propagated with cuttings, including geraniums. Cuttings will take up less space than a potted plant indoors.

  1. Cut the Stem

    Cut a 4- to 6-inch portion of a green stem just above a node, which is the part of a stem from which leaves emerge, during a lull in the plant's blooming cycle. Don't use woody or old stems.

    Geranium stem cut above node with pruners to overwinter cuttings

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Make Another Cut

    On your cutting, make another cut (on the same end you previously cut) below a node, so your new plant is 4 to 6 inches long. Strip off all of the leaves and flowers from the plant, leaving the two sets of leaves at the top.

    Geranium with second cut and two sets of leaves

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Dip the Stem in Rooting Hormone

    Slightly moisten the bottom 2 inches of the stem if using powdered rooting hormone. Dip the stem in the powder or use a gel rooting hormone.

    Geranium cutting placed in rooting hormone on bottom end

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Plant the Cutting

    Use your finger to make a 2-inch deep hole in the soil. Plant the cutting in damp soil, making sure not to remove the rooting hormone when planting. Firm the soil around the cutting, and place it near a bright window. You can plant several cuttings in one pot.

    Geranium cutting placed in small pot with damp soil

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  5. Water the Cutting

    Water the cutting, and don't allow it to dry out. If the humidity is less than 50 percent, consider adding a bag over the cutting and pot to retain moisture. The cutting should root in six to eight weeks, although it may be slightly sooner. Grow the new geranium as a houseplant until spring, and then move it outside.

    Geranium cutting being watered in small pot

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overwintering Dormant Geraniums

Overwintering full-size, dormant geranium plants involves tucking them away and then pulling them out again in the spring. A cool, unheated, slightly damp basement is ideal for storing dormant geraniums in pots. 

  1. Pot Before the First Frost

    Pot your geraniums before the first frost, cutting the plants back by about half. Allow the soil in the pot to dry out.

    Geranium plants cut back to pot before first frost

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Place a Paper Bag on Each Pot

    Place an overturned paper bag on top of each plant. Store the plants in the basement.

    Paper bag placed over potted geranium plant

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Check Every Few Weeks

    Check your geraniums every few weeks to make sure the leaves and stalks are not shriveling. If they show signs of drying, spray them with water or slightly water the roots. Then, allow the plant to dry completely before replacing the paper bag.

    Geranium plant being sprayed with water

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Overwintering Dormant, Bare-Rooted Geraniums

Another approach to overwintering geraniums involves storing them with bare roots. For this method, hanging the plants or covering them loosely with a paper bag works well and eliminates the need for pots. As with any dormant storage, select a spot that's cool, dark, and damp but above freezing.

  1. Dig up Geraniums

    Dig up your geraniums before the first frost. Cut back the plants by approximately half, and shake the soil from the roots. Set the plants in a spot to let them dry for a few days to avoid mold in storage.

    Bare-rooted geranium dug up with soil removed from roots

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Hang or Place Plants

    Either store the plants upside down in loose-fitting paper bags or place them in a cardboard box and close the lid. Then, store them in a cool, dark room. If you opt to use bags, make sure not to seal them tightly. The plants need some airflow.

    Bare-rooted geraniums placed upside down in cardboard box

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Check Plants

    Check your plants every few weeks. If they are shriveling, spray them with water or slightly dampen the root area. Allow the plants to dry completely before placing them back into the bags.

    Bare-rooted geranium plants sprayed with water in cardboard box

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Working With Dormant Geraniums

About six to eight weeks before the last expected frost, relocate your dormant geraniums to indirect light. Clean up the plants, snip off dead leaves, and cut stems back to healthy green growth. Fill a pot with moistened potting mix, then stick the stem into the soil so that two nodes are buried.

Give the potted plants a thorough watering and a diluted dose of fertilizer (about half of the package recommendations), and let them slowly come out of dormancy. You should start to see new green leaves after a couple of weeks. Move them back outside once the danger of the season's final frost is past. In four to six weeks, they should look like the ones you bought in the nursery the prior year!

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Growing Geraniums and Annual Flowers in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension