Digging up geraniums to keep over the winter is easy to do. First, we go all the way around, dig it up, and carefully lift it out. Next, pull off all the old, dead flowers and leaves, and clean it up. Then, put a little growing media in the bottom of the pot because you don’t want to plant it too deep. Take the plant, get all the roots in and spread them around uniformly around the pot. Fill it up the rest of the way with the media. Bring the plant up, so it’s not planted too deep, and press it down. As you pack the soil around the roots, it will pack down to leave a reservoir in the top of the pot for water.
Then, if you have a sun room, or a sun porch, or even a garage that’s attached to the house where it doesn’t freeze, and just set them in there, with minimal water (just enough to keep them alive, but not enough to encourage growth) and you can hold them through the winter in a pot, and then plant them in the garden next spring.
But, if you’re just going to knock the soil off the roots, and bare root them, you’ll just reach down around the base and pull the plant up. Retain a little bit of the root, but you don’t have to have as much root as the other method. You’ll take about one-half to two-thirds of the leaves off. Make sure there are no flower buds. So, if you’re going to bare-root the plant and hang it up, it will look like this.
In a cool, damp, dark environment such as a basement, hanging upside down bare-root, they’ll survive the winter, and about two out of three plans will grow again. When you plant them out in the spring, you’ll cut them back, and plant them, and they’ll grow. That’s the old-fashioned way, but it is effective. You won’t save one hundred percent, so just dig more than you think you’ll need, and hang them up. It seems to work well if you have a basement, and if you have a root cellar, it’s even better.
This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, Kansas State University Research and Extension State Leader, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.