Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Prepare geraniums for winter

As the summer sun really begins to make its presence felt, gardeners will be making the most of their favourite pastime and getting to work outdoors.

There are so many tasks to be done that it would be perfectly understandable if some tasks were to be overlooked.

However, it is absolutely essential that planning ahead and prepping certain plants for winter conditions are not neglected.

Geraniums are one example of a plant that requires this kind of attention. They are commonly known as cranesbills and are a genus comprised of 422 different species. These can be annual, biennial and perennial, depending on which variety is sought.

Red geraniums are a popular choice with green-fingered enthusiasts up and down the country.

In an article for the Guardian across the pond in the UK, former presenter of Gardeners World and garden writer Alys Fowler suggested that the best policy is to take cuttings over the course of the next month or two.

She explained that the planter will be able to give these to younger seedlings when the time comes for growing next year.

"It is easier to over-winter smaller plants than it is their parents," the expert advised, adding: "Take roughly ten-cm long stem cuttings, preferably from non-flowering stems and from just below a leaf node. Remove all but the two or three topmost leaves, and any flowers or buds, then insert the cuttings to just below the leaves around the edge of a small pot filled with compost mixed with 50 per cent sand or grit. Keep them barely moist – they'll rot if too wet – and house on a warm but shaded windowsill."

Ms Fowler said taking this action should lead to new growths being nurtured within a four to six-week period. When roots start to appear at the base of a pot, the cuttings can be separated from one another and given their own, dedicated container. Parent plants are also best brought inside as well – and this is significantly easier for those who make use of a greenhouse.

"Both cuttings and parents need somewhere cool, frost-free and light – a spare room, a porch, but not a heated room. Water sparingly and give a liquid feed and a light prune in spring if the growth is leggy. They'll spring into life as the days lengthen," the expert continued.

The University of Rhode Island also advise that lower leaves are stripped off in order to facilitate the placement of new cuttings in a rooting medium.

After these have become established, fertilisation is recommended with a liquid solution mix of somewhere between 20-20-20 or 15-30-15. A good rule of thumb is to halve the recommended rate of application labelled on the product.

Monthly applications thereafter will ensure that the plants grow in the best possible conditions – at least until they are ready to be relocated in flower beds outdoors.

Pests are a common problem when it comes to growing geraniums. This can be avoided by following a few simple steps. For instance, the removal of fading flower stalks can reduce instances of botrytis, which can be an issue in winter seasons.

This is a kind of necrotrophic fungus that can have an adverse impact on many different species of plants. Its most notable hosts are wine grapes – and it is typically characterised by gray mold. This comes about as a result of consistently wet or humid conditions.

A second symptom is noble rot, which typically occurs when drier conditions follow on from the wet ones – so gardeners need to be vigilant against the risk of this at all times.