If you live in an area where your flower garden faces the danger of frost, you will need to winterize ivy geraniums. Like all geraniums, the thin-stemmed, trailing ivy variety is native to regions that have a Mediterranean climate characterized by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. In their home climate, geraniums are perennial flowers. In temperate climates, you can treat them as annuals or allow them to "hibernate" for the winter.
If autumn has arrived and you are not yet ready to say good-bye to the beautiful, trailing flowers that brightened your windowsills all summer, fear not! Even novice gardeners can winterize ivy geraniums without difficulty and there are several easy ways to do it.
If you are lucky enough to live in a climate zone that avoids heavy freezing in winter and you are the gambling type, you may chose to leave your ivy geraniums in the flowerbeds over winter. Prune them back and cover the bases with a six-inch (15cm) layer of coarse sand. The sand should protect the roots during the cooler months, and in the spring, you will only need to take off the sand layer and let nature do the rest of the work.
Alternatively, if your ivy geraniums are in pots or hanging baskets, you can simply let the soil dry out and move them to a cool, dry, dark area of your basement. Forget about them until spring, at which point a little water and sunshine will wake them up for the new season. This might result in a slightly reduced survival rate, but it is a good, quick option if you are pressed for time.
Ivy Geraniums as Houseplants
For other methods, the first step is to get your geraniums out of the flowerbeds around the time of your basic gardening fall cleanup, generally just before the first hard frost hits. Gently pull up the flowers and shake off the excess soil. At this point, you have two options to winterize ivy geraniums: You can re-pot them with fresh, indoor soil and treat them as houseplants for the cold months, or you can prepare them for dormancy.
To keep your geraniums growing indoors during winter, you will need to be sure you can provide them with enough light. Ivy geraniums have thin stalks to begin with and insufficient light will leave them weak and spindly. Eight hours of bright sunlight daily is generally the minimum required. If available light is less than this amount, you might consider using supplementary lighting or opting for the dormancy approach.
Once you have pulled the entire plant from the flowerbed or container, follow these steps to ensure overwintering success:
- Lay the plants in a single layer on a wire rack or on sheets of newspaper in a cool, well-ventilated area like a garage or basement.
- Leave the plants to dry for three or four days.
- Once the plants appear dry and the remaining soil has fallen off the roots, you can prepare them for storage. Store your ivy geraniums in any of the following ways:
- Hang the entire plant from rafters or a clothesline in a cool, dark room.
- Place each plant separately in a paper bag. Fold the top of the bag over, hang them as you would the bare plants, or clamp pant hangers to the tops of the bags and hang them in a basement closet. The bags further protect the dormant plants from light and allow you to label each one to organize for spring planting.
- Layer the dry plants in a cardboard box. If using this method, be sure that the box is in a well-ventilated area with no danger of dampness.
In early spring, re-pot your ivy geraniums, place them in a bright, sunny location and begin watering them regularly. Before you know it, they will send out new shoots and you can begin enjoying your flowers for another season.
After You Winterize Ivy Geraniums
Over-wintering any plant is a gamble. Even professional gardeners do not usually achieve perfect survival and your results can be determined by luck or plant genetics as much as by whether you prepared them just right. If you do happen to lose a few geraniums over the winter, try not to be discouraged. Just enjoy your summer blossoms and begin to plan for the next cold season.