We’re a few months into winter and Debbi Soeffker and Randy Mayer's geraniums lay dormant, waiting to be repotted and replanted for the spring. With a little more than 40 geranium plants, you could even say that the Plymouth couple’s hobby has grown through the years.
How do the flowers hibernate? At summer’s end, Soeffker lets her geranium plants dry out before taking the dried pot ingredients and putting them into a sealed paper bag, either with staples or tape. The bags, some the size of grocery bags, others leaf and lawn, are then stored in a heated indoor location, like a basement or attached garage, until after the last frost, usually in April.
“As you take them out of the bags, sometimes there are little growths at the top,” Soeffker says, “it’s just amazing.”
Soeffker and Mayer have been over-wintering red geraniums for a little more than 13 years. They began the hobby as an investment for the next summer, instead of spending money on new plants every spring. “I knew they were easy to grow and hardy,” she says.
At the end of winter the plants haven’t seen daylight for close to seven months, so Soeffker initially keeps the plants out of direct light. After bringing them into the house and finding the ones that need to be repotted, Soeffker cuts off any misshapen stems and uses rooting powder before repotting them.
“Not only is the plant larger, you started some new ones,” Soeffker says.
The number of ways to pot the plants continues to surprise Soeffker. She’s experimenting with sizes, as she has one geranium plant about the size of a patio table. Another is the size of a shot glass. “It all has to do with the root system,” Soeffker says. “The plant can only grow so far.”
The geraniums are starting to have a reputation too. “My neighbor asked if she could bring her family over just to see them,” Soeffker recalls.
While red geraniums remain Soeffker’s favorite flower, she has expanded into ivy, daisies and white orchids, to name a few. In the summer months, she grows herbs and vegetables like cherry tomatoes and vining cucumbers, all without a formal garden.
While the geraniums take proper planning and storage, they’re something worth Soeffker’s time. “By the time you’re able to enjoy spring weather you’ve got a whole garden,” Soeffker says. “It gives you something to look forward to. It kind of cheers you on.”
Would you like to over-winter geraniums?
Here are tips from Debbi Soeffker:
Start small or start smart.
Just make sure to use the right size of container to store and re-pot.
Proper timing and tools make the difference. A common mistake Soeffker sees is using the wrong pot size. “Often times people think if you put them in a big container they’ll grow bigger, but only the roots will, not the flower,” Soeffker says.
Invest in your plants and potting soil.
“[The cost] is nothing compared to how much you’re investing in the plants,” Soeffker says. Geraniums can get costly, with smaller plants costing upwards of $30, Soeffker says.
Just let the plants be in the winter months.
“Go for it!”
Soeffker encourages it for two reasons: to save more and just to see how successful you can be.