Do you cut back geraniums for winter storage?

Geraniums are a popular flower that can be grown as annuals or perennials depending on your climate. In colder climates where geraniums cannot overwinter outside, many gardeners choose to dig up and store their geraniums indoors over the winter. Properly cutting back and storing geraniums for the winter will ensure you have beautiful, healthy plants ready to go back outside in the spring.

Should you cut back geraniums before winter storage?

Yes, it is recommended to cut back your geranium plants before overwintering them indoors. Trimming the plants helps encourage bushier, more compact growth when they are brought back outside in the spring. Here are some key tips for cutting back geraniums before storage:

  • Wait until the plants have gone dormant. This usually occurs after the first hard frost when the plants stop actively growing.
  • Cut back each stem by about one third to one half its original size.
  • Be sure to use sterilized shears to prevent transferring diseases.
  • Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased foliage as well.
  • Cutting back reduces the plants’ water needs during storage.

When is the best time to cut back geraniums for storage?

The optimal time to cut back geraniums is in the late fall after they have gone dormant. Usually this is after the first hard frost of the year, which causes the plants to halt active growth. Here are some guidelines for timing:

  • In cooler climates, trim plants in October or November.
  • In warmer regions, wait until late November or December.
  • Aim to cut back plants about 1-2 weeks before your average first frost date.
  • Cut back any remaining foliage once all blooms and leaves have died back.
  • Trimming too early risks damaging active growth and blooms.

How much should you cut back geraniums before storage?

As a general rule, cut back each geranium stem by about one third to one half its original size. Here are some tips on how much to cut back:

  • Remove any dead or diseased stems entirely.
  • Shorten healthy stems by one half to two thirds their length.
  • This stimulates the plants to grow bushier in spring.
  • Be careful not to cut back so far you remove all foliage.
  • Leave 2-4 sets of healthy leaves per stem.
  • Pinch out the growing tips of each stem as well.

What is the proper method for cutting back geraniums?

Follow these steps for properly trimming geraniums before overwintering:

  1. Sterilize your pruners before each cut with isopropyl alcohol.
  2. Remove any dead, diseased, insect-infested or broken stems back to the base.
  3. Cut back remaining stems by one half to two thirds their length.
  4. Make cuts just above a set of healthy leaves.
  5. Pinch or snip off the soft growing tips of each stem.
  6. Remove any leaves or stems that look overcrowded.
  7. Avoid cutting so far back you damage the main plant crown.

Should you wait until after flowering to cut back?

Most gardeners wait until their geraniums have finished flowering for the season before cutting them back for overwintering. Here is some guidance on timing:

  • Allow all blooms to fade and die back completely.
  • Wait for the plants to stop actively growing after frost.
  • You can still remove dead blooms and foliage as needed.
  • Trimming off old blooms encourages new growth.
  • Cutting back too early means losing any late season blooms.

What type of cuts should you make?

When trimming back geraniums, be sure to make the right types of cuts:

  • Use sterile, sharp pruners or scissors for clean cuts.
  • Make cuts at an angle to allow water to run off.
  • Never strip off leaves by hand as this can damage stems.
  • Smooth any ragged edges with a quick snip.
  • Cut just above a set of healthy leaves or nodes.
  • Remove overcrowded, crossing or damaged growth.

Should you trim the roots as well?

In most cases, you do not need to trim back the roots when cutting back geraniums for storage. Here are some tips on handling the roots:

  • Carefully dig up the plants while avoiding root damage.
  • Gently loosen any circling or tangled roots.
  • Remove any dead or rotting roots.
  • Prune roots only if severely pot bound or congested.
  • Trim off no more than one third of root mass.
  • Replant in fresh soil and pots before storage.

Should you apply a rooting hormone?

Using a rooting hormone is not necessary when simply cutting back geraniums before winter storage. Rooting hormone helps stimulate new root growth and is more useful when:

  • Taking geranium cuttings to propagate new plants.
  • Transplanting geraniums from the garden into containers.
  • Experiencing problems with rooting or transplant shock.
  • Storing geraniums as dormant bare-root plants.
  • A rooting hormone is optional for winter cut back.

What tools should you use?

Having the right pruning tools makes properly cutting back geraniums much easier. Recommended tools include:

  • Bypass hand pruners for most pruning tasks.
  • Garden scissors or snips for smaller stems.
  • Sterilizing spray or wipes to prevent disease spread.
  • Isopropyl alcohol (at least 70%) works well.
  • Clean, sharp tools ensure easier, healthier cuts.
  • Avoid using unsterilized tools between plants.

What care do geraniums need after cutting back?

Properly caring for geraniums after cutting back helps ensure they overwinter successfully. Recommended aftercare includes:

  • Inspect for pests or diseases and treat if found.
  • Water well but avoid saturating the soil.
  • Place in cool, controlled storage conditions.
  • Store dormant plants at 45-55°F if possible.
  • Maintain a humidity level around 50-70%.
  • Keep plants in the dark or minimal light.
  • Watch for any new growth and remove as needed.

What effect does cutting back have?

Cutting back geraniums before winter storage provides a number of key benefits, including:

  • Encourages bushier, compact growth in spring.
  • Removes dead, damaged or diseased foliage.
  • Reduces water needs during storage.
  • Stimulates the plants’ root systems.
  • Forces dormancy so plants use less energy.
  • Helps prevent leggy, stretched growth.
  • Allows you to check for any pest or disease issues.

Can you skip cutting back?

It is not recommended to skip cutting back your geraniums before overwintering them. Here’s why:

  • Leaves more foliage to die back in storage, risking disease.
  • Plants take up more space with unpruned growth.
  • Leggy, stretched growth is harder to manage.
  • More work will be needed to prune plants in spring.
  • Stored energy reserves get depleted faster.
  • Higher chance of unhealthy, sparse growth in spring.

If you are short on time, it is better to prune lightly than not at all before storage.

Potential problems with improper cutting

Cutting back geraniums incorrectly can lead to a number of issues, including:

  • Removing too much foliage can stress or kill the plants.
  • Not pruning enough leads to leggy, unattractive growth.
  • Improper cuts allow disease entry points.
  • Sterilizing tools between plants prevents spread of diseases.
  • Cutting too late in fall removes useful food reserves.
  • Pruning too early damages active growth.

Taking care to cut back geraniums properly helps set them up for success during winter storage and regrowth next spring.

Should all geranium varieties be cut back?

Cutting back in preparation for storage is recommended for all types of geraniums. This includes:

  • Zonal geraniums (most common garden type)
  • Ivy geraniums
  • Regal or Martha Washington geraniums
  • Scented geraniums
  • Seed geraniums and wild geranium species

While techniques may vary slightly between varieties, cutting back helps overwinter any geranium unable to survive outdoors through winter.


Cutting back geraniums in late fall prior to overwintering them is an important step to ensure your plants thrive the following spring. Wait until after the first frost so plants are fully dormant, then trim back stems by one third to one half their original size. Remove all dead growth while leaving 2-4 sets of healthy leaves per stem. Use sterilized, sharp pruners or scissors to encourage new growth and prevent disease issues. With proper cut back and storage conditions, your geraniums will return healthier and more vigorous than ever next year.

Time to cut back geraniums How much to cut back Proper cut types
– After first frost/freeze – 1/3 to 1/2 of stem length – At an angle above healthy nodes
– Once fully dormant – Dead stems removed entirely – Sterilize tools between plants
– Late fall/early winter – 2-4 sets of leaves per stem – Smooth any ragged edges

Overwintering geraniums successfully

In addition to proper cut back, follow these tips for successfully overwintering geraniums:

  • Check for pest and disease problems before storage.
  • Repot in fresh, well-draining soil if needed.
  • Select containers sized just larger than the root ball.
  • Water well but avoid saturated soil.
  • Place in cool (45-55°F), humid (50-70%) conditions.
  • Store in complete darkness or very low light.
  • Monitor closely for any new growth.
  • Keep dormant until 6-8 weeks before spring planting.
  • Move to warmer conditions for re-sprouting.

Sticking to best practices when cutting back and storing geraniums over winter will reward you with vigorous, productive plants that burst back to life each spring.

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