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Don’t Pull Up Those Geraniums

October 18, 2017 Back to Picks >

As the days shorten, a wise gardener makes plans for putting the garden to bed for the winter. Some plants will be trimmed back after the riotous growth of summer. A few will be pulled up knowing that they won’t survive the first hard frost. Usually these are the flowering annuals of summer but there’s one group of plants you should leave in the ground.

Geraniums, whether scented or unscented, are hardier than most gardeners realize. Yes, the leaves turn black and the stalks collapse with the first sustained freeze but trust me, they are not yet dead. Above ground they look awful but below ground, there’s still life. Here’s what I do to keep my geraniums from year to year.

The first thing I do is apply a good three inches or more of mulch around the base of my geraniums growing in the ground. This will not prevent the leaves and stalks from dying at the first freeze but it will protect the root ball from damaging temperatures. Throughout the winter the mulch will keep the soil slightly warmer than the freezing air coming down from Canada. It may be only a couple of degrees warmer but thatís all it takes to keep the roots alive.

The second thing I do is create a “backup copy” of the geranium. About six weeks before I expect the first freeze, I take some healthy cuttings from my geraniums and root them in a pot. The cooler outdoor temperatures of fall will encourage root growth. I’ll soon have a healthy young plant to bring inside. This is a sort of gardening insurance in case the coming winter is unusually cold and the parent plant doesn’t survive.

This fall, don’t dig up your geraniums. Instead take steps to help them survive through the winter and be ready when spring comes for another growing season.