Watch What Happens When A Geraniums Is Cut Back.

Sometimes working with plants takes a leap of faith. Then, when we realize a technique is successful, it’s not so traumatic next time. Giving geraniums a good cut-back is like that.

Geraniums that grew outdoors in summer containers can be wintered quite nicely indoors in a sunny window or under fluorescent lights. The geranium in the photo to the left was lifted from its outdoor planter before fall frost. It was healthy, and could have been potted as is, but there’s a better way.

By next spring the old, tall, larger stems are often “leggy,” somewhat bare at the base, and not as freshly branched. If large, wintered geraniums are returned outdoors in spring in this shape, they often aren’t as compact, well-branched, and well-filled as they once were, and might look like, well, old geraniums.

Here’s a method that works well instead, that we’ve used for many years with the several hundred geraniums that we bring indoors each year: Instead of potting up the large plants, cut them back quite severely before potting, to about 3 inches above the soil line, like this photo:

Here’s why I like to cut back geraniums drastically when they’re brought indoors and repotted:

  • Cutting back removes the old, woody stems and forces vigorous new shoots to sprout, forming a well-branched bushy, fresh plant.
  • Cutting back reduces the size, allowing them to be potted into a 4 or 6 inch pot that takes less room and can easily be grown on a windowsill or under lights.
  • If this is done in fall or early winter, the plants will be healthy and husky when it’s time to return them outdoors next May. Sometimes a little additional trimming or shaping can be done in March.
  • This cut-back keeps geraniums rejuvenated and gives them heavier flower capability.

The photo below shows what our cutback geraniums look like after about one month: By May they’ll look like fresh plants that we’d pay $4 or $5 each at a greenhouse. Happy Gardening!


4 Responses

  1. Carole Mitchell

    Don, I love your posts and share them widely. You are also a wonderful speaker on any garden topic. One teeny issue I’d like to share is about IT’S versus ITS. It could be that a copywriter inserted the mischievous apostrophe.

    The first, “it’s” means it IS, it WAS or it HAS.

    The second, ITS, (like HIS, HERS) never has an apostrophe. Possessive pronouns don’t need the apostrophe to show ownership. Possessive nouns do!

    Thanks for passing this on!

    1. Don Kinzler

      Hi Carole. Thanks! And thanks for the caution about it’s and its. If it’s incorrectly done, I’m to blame, as I edit the posts myself. I’ll watch more closely, and thanks for pointing it out in a kindly manner; I appreciate it.

  2. Joan Zettel

    Thanks for the pictures! I took your advice, and cut them back, but I was always questioning exactly how much to cut back….Now I will be more confident!

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