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Don’t say goodbye to geraniums

3 ways to overwinter plants for next year

“My geraniums are so pretty right now, I hate to lose them to the frost.”

The fact is, you do not have to give them up. You can overwinter them.

You need to bring the geraniums in before the first frost. Choose vigorous, healthy, insect-free, disease-free plants for any of these methods.

There are three ways to overwinter the plants you choose for keeping for next year:

• Dig them up and pot them in containers. (or simply move any geraniums already in containers)

• Store them as bare root plants.

• Take cuttings and root them in potting soil.

The first method is the easiest way to save the best specimens. Choose plants that are insect- and disease-free. Dig them up, gently remove the garden soil, and pot them up with potting soil in containers that are large enough to allow the roots to continue to grow.

Prune the plant back by about half making the cuts just above a leaf. You can use these cuttings in the third method of overwintering as well.

Place them in a sunny location or under artificial lighting where they can get 10 to 12 hours of sunlight and daytime temperatures range from 65 to 70 degrees, and 55 to 60 degrees at night. Water as needed to keep the soil moist.

The second method is to store them as bare root plants.

First, dig up the plants and shake off the garden soil. Place the plants in a brown paper bag or hang them upside down in a cool dry place (45 to 55 degrees), such as an unheated garage.

In March, cut back the shriveled stems to live green tissue. Pot these in containers with drainage using potting soil. Water well and place near a sunny window. Be sure to keep the soil moist.

They should be ready for planting out in the garden or in outside containers in May.

While many people have success with this method, I have not had any plants overwinter using this method.

The third method will take up the least space. Take cuttings from your most vigorous plants. To do that, simply cut off as many three 5-inch-long shoots as you want to keep. Be sure to use a sharp knife for a clean cut. Remove the lower leaves, dip into a rooting hormone, and insert into containers with drainage.

Water these well. Cover plants with a plastic bag, and place in bright light but not in direct sunlight. In six to eight weeks, the cuttings will have rooted. Pinch back tips of plants to encourage branching and avoid spindly plants. (This information is from Iowa State University.)

When the danger of frost has passed in the spring, plant your geraniums outside and enjoy.

For details and a video on how to overwinter geraniums, go to http://go.osu.edu/overwintergeranium.

Greenisen is a Master Gardener intern with The Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension

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