Try sev­eral meth­ods to over­win­ter gera­ni­ums

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ask Ken ...


A. I wrote (Nov. 3, Gar­den­ing Q & A: “There’s more than one way to re­duce the slug pop­u­la­tion”) about slugs ter­ror­iz­ing a woman and her pan­sies some­time back. Slugs are pretty tough, over­win­ter­ing as adults, but they may be some­what ac­tive un­til there have been sev­eral heavy frosts. I would sug­gest tak­ing a good look around to see if there is any sign of their trails or if they’re hid­ing un­der your pots. While purely anec­do­tal, I have heard that squir­rels, rab­bits and even birds will some­times munch on pansy flow­ers. Now, pos­sums, I re­ally don’t know ... but they are sur­vivors.

Re­gard­ing your gera­ni­ums: There are sev­eral strate­gies for over­win­ter­ing your beloved plants. Which method you choose de­pends on the type of en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions and space you have avail­able. Given that your plants are in con­tain­ers and al­ready in the garage, I’d leave them that way. If you haven’t al­ready, in­spect them for in­sects. Also, re­move any dead leaves and prune back any dead or leggy growth. If you have the space, I wouldn’t worry about cut­ting them way back. Be sure to in­spect pe­ri­od­i­cally for mois­ture, and wa­ter thor­oughly only when the con­tain­ers have com­pletely dried out.

For fu­ture ref­er­ence, note that it is also pos­si­ble to dig in-the-ground plants, shake the soil off the roots, and then store in open pa­per bags or hang­ing (messy I’d think). Pe­ri­od­i­cally, the roots need a good dunk­ing in wa­ter to en­sure stems re­main turgid. Ideal tem­per­a­ture is be­tween 45 to 50 de­grees Fahren­heit. In both in­stances, in this en­vi­ron­ment, the idea is to keep the plants in near-dor­mant con­di­tions.

If you have a cool spot with good light in your house, you can try over­win­ter­ing in­side. In that case, af­ter in­spec­tion, as above, I would give them a trim to re­duce any leggy growth. Given am­ple light, you might ex­pect some new growth and pos­si­ble bloom. If so, keep dead­headed as needed. Soft­pinch to di­rect any new growth — just de­pends on your con­di­tions. At any rate, be sure to watch the wa­ter­ing, and you can give a shot of di­luted liq­uid­feed monthly, tak­ing care not to over­wa­ter. It is im- pos­si­ble to du­pli­cate out­side grow­ing con­di­tions in your home dur­ing the win­ter months. Un­less you have a nice sunny Florida room, your goal is to keep your plant grow­ing just above its main­te­nance level.

And, lastly, you could just take a few cut­tings to get a start on new plants for next spring. Gera­ni­ums are fairly easy to root from cut­tings. Take 3 to 4 inches of healthy ter­mi­nal growth, re­move bot­tom leaves, dust with root­ing pow­der, and stick in a well-drained me­dia. Place in a well-lighted win­dow with warm tem­per­a­tures. Keep me­dia moist, but not soggy. With a lit­tle luck, your cut­tings should strike roots in sev­eral weeks.

Step up (move to next pot size), us­ing a well-drained me­dia, as needed. Move back out­doors af­ter dan­ger of last frost has passed.

and one more thing ...

Email your ques­tions (in­clude your ad­dress) and re­ceive a com­pli­men­tary pack­age of seeds if your ques­tion is cho­sen for pub­li­ca­tion. Send ques­tions to wk­[email protected] or to Home + Liv­ing c/o The Vir­ginian-Pi­lot, 150 W. Bram­ble­ton Ave., Nor­folk, VA 23510.


There are sev­eral strate­gies for over­win­ter­ing gera­ni­ums, Ken Spencer writes.

Ken Spencer Gar­den­ing Q&A

Dur­ing the most re­cent very cold snap, I brought my still-bloom­ing gera­ni­ums into my garage. They are all in clay pots, just as they were in my court­yard. I know that I prob­a­bly should cut them back to a third of their size, but can I leave them in their pots? Or what? The blos­soms have dried up on the stem. Am I too late to do any­thing pos­i­tive? Woe is me. Also, what can pos­si­bly be eat­ing my pansy flow­ers? I mean not the stems — just the flow­ers. Pos­sums? Squir­rels? Help! — M. Ochel­tree, Nor­folk

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