I have a geranium which I really like, and I need to do the right thing for it this Fall/Winter. It's too cold here to keep it outdoors, but I can't keep it at my house because we have a cat who will eat it (despite being the greatest cat ever).

So my only option is to keep it at my desk at work. I have a fluorescent lamp under my shelves, which keep light on the plant during the day. I don't have access to direct sunlight at my desk.

The room temperature here is about 70 Fahrenheit. It is living in a pot that is meant to hang and drain, and I can water it and let it drain into my trashcan anytime I like.

Meanwhile, it is very long-legged, and I'd like to trim it way back to allow for more bushiness. I can't put it in a paper bag and hang it, like I've read online.

So here are my questions, pertaining to this particular situation, and please see images below:

  • How often should I water it?
  • How far back should I trim it?
  • Is it even possible to keep it like this without it dying?

enter image description here

Pic 2

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    Please edit your post to include a photograph or two of the plant because it will certainly help with the pruning aspect of your question, and possibly with the other two parts too.
    – Niall C.
    Nov 14 '18 at 18:08
  • 1
    You might be better taking cuttings from it, rather than trying to keep the old plant alive. If you do keep the plant and it gets leggy over winter through too much heat and not enough light, you can always take cuttings in spring. Geraniums are one of the easiest plants to propagate from cuttings - you don't need "green fingers!" bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/…
    – alephzero
    Nov 14 '18 at 19:06
  • I agree, this plant looks barely alive, cuttings seem a bit dubious. better to go with cut back, keep dry and wait for new growth
    – kevinskio
    Nov 14 '18 at 23:40

Most geraniums are considered an annual in areas with winters. I went ahead and assumed your geranium is a Martha Washington because of the few flowers I can see drooping over the edge. I've never saved geraniums but I've heard others saving their roots, which hopefully are still viable in your pot because the rest is toast.

I am posting a site that tells you how to 'over winter' your geranium. Do not expect greenery and flowers this winter. It looks like your geranium froze while out of doors?

You need to cut off all of the dead top growth and keep it cool, not frozen. A garage might be a better place to over winter this plant. Forget light, do not water regularly as this plant is in dormancy. Forget fertilizer as well! You want to keep the roots from freezing and from rot.

Some people actually dig the roots up and store just the roots as this article explains. What soil is in this pot? Is this the original soil and pot from a nursery? If this soil is garden soil you should dig the roots up to store. If in potting medium leave them in the pot.

Let us know if this information makes sense and works for you. Otherwise, throwing the plant out in your 'compost pile' and starting over in the spring with a new fresh geranium is what I would do. When replanting in the spring only use sterilized potting soil without moisture holding gimmicks and added fertilizer. You want to add fertilizer separately and use half of what the directions say. A balanced fertilizer with NPK, not blood meal, nor fish fertilizer. Equal numbers or keep N the lowest of the 3 percentages to promote flowering. Osmocote 14-14-14 all purpose works very well! Half of what is directed. You will probably only do one application in the spring for the entire season. I would transplant into fresh potting soil in the spring and then add the fertilizer.

The best place for a geranium is on a covered porch, no direct sunlight. If you want this plant in direct sunlight, get it transplanted and allow it to grow IN the sunlight. Acclimation to direct sunlight or differing lighting is very important. You can't just take an indoor grown plant and put it out of doors in the sun. Usually means death. Nor can you take a plant used to the out of doors and sunlight back into the indoors even with the direct sunlight from a south facing window without acclimation.

Plants in pots have roots that are susceptible to too high temperatures and too low temperatures. I am hoping that this plant wasn't out side long enough to have frozen roots or none of this will work.

overwintering Martha Washington Geraniums

NOTE: Is your garage a detached garage? Newspaper is incredible insulation. I would lightly water the soil and wrap the entire pot and plant in newspapers. Use masking tape to secure the paper to itself. Keep it loose and airy. Leave a few gaps for air, crunch it up somewhat to allow gaps between layers. Do at least 5 layers. Make sure the pot is very well covered including the bottom. It will look like an ugly ball of newspaper. If there is a wall shared with the home keep it snuggled up to that wall. That should work fine for the entire winter. When it warms up in the spring, put it where you want it to stay and water well. When your plant has grown leaves, I would then replace the coco fiber matt, cut off any browned or mushy roots, use fresh potting soil and transplant gently. Now would be a good time to add Osmocote Extended Release fertilizer. This fertilizer lasts 4 to 6 months so you won't need to add anymore for the season, before you repeat winterizing. Take a picture of the root ball in the spring and send it to us? Certainly, let us know if this worked for you. The next year, you might have to root prune harder to continue using this pot. Fresh coco liner every year, raw burlap fabric works well as a substitute for the liner, cheaper, too. If this works, you might think about a second pot, hopefully the same brand/style with a bowl shape? Cut the root ball in two or three chunks for 2 and 3 more plants? Power in mass plantings of the same plant! Watch for insects. Don't over water. Water completely when you water and simply check the heft by lifting the pot slightly with your hand as it hangs. If heavy don't water, you'll be able to tell if it is light and thus needing watered. Heavy waterings when you water. Don't water again until you feel the lightness of the pot/soil/plant by pushing up on the bottom of the pot. Try to keep the plant height at least eye level and below. There are pot hanger extenders so you can make an interesting hanging pot grouping. Pinch off flowers as soon as you can stomach doing so...the more flowers you take off the harder your plant will work at making more and more flowers. Keep debris off the top of the soil. You could also add other plants with the geraniums as well as in their own pots for this hanging pot composition. Don't get carried away. I would add just one other type of plant; Orange sedge or Carex testacea. A bright green lovely ornamental grass, very fine in texture with 'glints' of orange that won't clash with the pinks/purple at all. Trim those by gathering the entire wad of grass, twist and simply cut the end bit straight across and release. Next spring look for this plant and plant it in its own pot that matches this pot, very pretty pot! Classy. Same style or at least black wire with coco liner. I would also refresh my geraniums from time to time with new ones. I'll go check the name.

Orange sedge

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    Geraniums in hanging baskets will usually survive UK winters out of doors. I don't know what your definition of "a winter" is, but we certainly get overnight frosts. -5C would be common, -15C exceptional. The leaves all die, the stems usually still look vaguely alive (i.e. green and not obviously damaged) and new stems grow from the roots in spring. Taking cuttings in spring creates nicer looking plants than just keeping the gnarly-looking old ones, though.
    – alephzero
    Nov 14 '18 at 23:32
  • This is helpful info. The only thing is that I don't have a cool place to store it. It would be either outside or inside at work, but where it's room temp (not really cool). Should I keep it in a darker area, without the fluorescent light, during this winter?
    – Mark
    Nov 15 '18 at 2:38
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    How about a friend's garage? Where there is a will there is a way. I don't like the part in this article about a 'brightly lit cool place', with no photosynthesis happening you do not want bright light, no fertilizer at all, a cool dark room with stable temperatures between 55 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not leave out of doors at all.
    – stormy
    Nov 15 '18 at 3:24
  • @alephzero's comment applies to pots as well. I got a few years out of several plants, usually left outside over winter, but sometimes lifted into an unheated greenhouse. Eventually they died not from the cold but because I forgot to resume watering them when the weather warmed up
    – Chris H
    Nov 15 '18 at 16:27
  • @stormyI could put it in my garage, but I thought it would be too cold in there. I imagine it would be below 40F in the middle of winter.
    – Mark
    Nov 16 '18 at 14:59

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