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Master gardener shares tips on caring for geraniums

The warmer weather and seeing snow melting can make us anxious for spring.  This is when gardeners start planning for spring.  

If you brought your geraniums in for the winter, they probably have continued to grow and now look spindly.  February and March are good months to get them ready to eventually be placed outside when it warms up.  Trimming back tall stems can help shape your plants and encourage new growth.  When trimming tall stems, you can save stems, you can save the end that has new growth and propagate new plants.  Make sure the geranium plant is well watered before trimming.  To propagate, place the new growth stem in a glass of water, trim off any blooms, and place in a warm area with filtered light.  In a few days, you should see new roots starting.  When there is good root growth, pot in a container, place in a sunny area and watch it grow.  

Another method of saving geraniums through the winter is placing them in brown paper bags.  In the fall, take geraniums out of the container, being careful not to break off roots, shake most of the soil off the roots and place upside down in a brown paper bag.  Close the top of the bag with some type of clip.  If the geranium is too tall to close the bag, place another brown bag over the original so the whole plant is enclosed.  Store for the winter in a cool dark place (such as a basement or closet in a garage), ensuring that it does not freeze.  You may mist the plant monthly with water to make sure it does not dry out.  

In early spring take your bagged geraniums and pot them.  Remove the dead leaves and trim ends of stems if they have dried up.  Water well, place in a sunny area and watch new leaves sprout. 

I have had good luck bagging common geraniums.  I have light pink common geranium that are 10 years old and have survived the winter well in bags.  Some of the specialty geraniums, like the scented geraniums, I have not had good luck bagging them.  

Happy planting! 

By Dorothy Sprik, Pipestone County Master Gardener

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