The plant most people call “Geranium” is really a Pelargonium. The true “Geranium” is the Cranesbill, a shade loving short plant that is used as a groundcover by some people.  This very popular house or bedding plant is actually a tender perennial or sub shrub in Nebraska.  Most of the 230 species comes from South Africa.  Usually we see the plants advertised as either seed or zonals.

          Fall and frost is soon to come and if you’d like to save that plant for next year, there are actually a number of ways this can be done.  It will depend somewhat on how many you want to save.  If it’s just one or two you can dig the plant and put it in a pot in early fall so it can adjust to home life. They adjust easily to being cut back, even quite drastically.  I like to put the pot in a semi-shady spot outside for a week or two before bringing it into the house as its root system has been badly damaged. Another easy way is to take cuttings.  Choose a short branch without flowers or remove any buds. Many cuttings will root if just placed in water but I prefer not to do that. When you remove it from the water, all the roots will collapse together.  The roots are also “water roots” and a new set will need to grow in the soil.

          So I dip the cutting in water and then in a root hormone powder. They also have a liquid now but I haven’t tried it. I then use a pencil or rod to make a hole in the potting soil. I don’t jam my cuttings down into the potting soil as most of the hormone will be pushed off if I did. Use a pencil or a rod.

          There shouldn’t be a lot of leaves on your cutting as they will demand water with no roots to supply it. There should be a section of the stem in the soil that had leaves that were removed, as the reproductive cells are in the V formed by the leaf attachment.  If the leaves that are left are large, I cut them in half.  To aid the process, I make a tent of a plastic bag supported on sticks to preserve humidity until roots form.  Put the pot, the plant, and the tent in a semi-shady place. 

          If you have a number of “Geraniums” and you want to save them all and they are in pots, just put pot and all in a cool place such as an unheated basement room or garage.  The plants will dry and drop their leaves.  Do not let the soil become desert dry. Water a few times during winter but don’t water so much that the plant starts to grow again.  When spring arrives, cut your plants back, repot in fresh soil, water and put in a light area.  You will be surprised at how many come back to life. George’s wife has some of hers in pots in a South window by the walkout basement door. She keeps them watered and they grow all winter. Some even bloom from time to time. She has to be careful that a cold wind does not blow on them.

          Another way that works for some people is to dig the plants, shake the dirt off the roots, put in paper bags, and tie together at the top.  Store them during the winter in an unheated room in the basement.  They may need to be spritzed once or twice during the winter. In early spring they are cut back, potted and watered. One person hangs them upside down in grocery bags and another has them right side up.  Let me know what works for you.

          My favorite way is to buy seeds so it is a surprise what I will have in summer.  They are slow to germinate and grow slowly at first so plan on starting them early and have a warm, well lighted spot for them to grow. Remember, it is very easy to drown their roots!

Copyright 2008





          In the fall I let the first light frost hit my amaryllis plants to get them ready for a minimum 6 to 8 week nap. After the leaves have died and gone brown, I cut off the foliage and put the pots in a cool place for the winter. Store in a location that does not get above 55-60 degrees F. Also, do not store in an unheated garage or any location where the bulbs might freeze.  

          If the plant has been in the soil for the summer, dig it with roots intact, place the plant on its side until the plant dries out and the leaves turn brown. Take the old leaves off and put the bulb in a container for its mandatory rest of at least 6 to 8 weeks. The container can be a pot, or a box filled with peat moss, vermiculite, sand, or sawdust. You can separate the bulbs at this time or wait until you take them out of storage.

          Bring the plant out of storage after it has had its mandatory 6 to 8 week nap. When you put it into a pot, select one that is only 1 or 2 inches larger than the bulb, thoroughly soak the soil, and place in a warm sunny location. Later add just enough water occasionally to dampen the soil. If the plant is already in a pot and you see a green shoot coming up, take it out of storage, thoroughly soak the soil, and as above, place in a sunny location and add water only occasionally. It will take 6 to 8 weeks after removal from storage before you get a bloom.  Do not fertilize amaryllis until the flower is done blooming.  

          If you want to force a bloom for Christmas or early January, put the plant on its side on the patio for a week or two so the leaves turn brown. Remove all the dead foliage. It then takes 8 weeks of rest, then at least 6 weeks to bloom, which means starting the forced dormancy now and then the storage process on September 18th.   

          I have other plants that are blooming in the house during and after Christmas so most of my Amaryllis are kept sleeping until spring, and then planted in the garden with the other lilies. If you do this they will bloom along with the other lilies in early summer. When planting outside, you can either leave them in the pot or plant the bulb directly in the ground.  Amaryllis plants are heavy feeders so I fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer every two to three weeks after it is done blooming.  This builds up the energy in the bulb in order to have a large flower next year.

Copyright 2008


          For more information about amaryllis, geraniums, or any plant, shrub, flower, tree, insect, or disease question, contact your local County Extension Educator for information or check the internet at In the box on the left, type in the name of the plant, shrub, flower, tree, insect, or disease and a number of publications will be listed that you can read and/or print for your reference files.

          Iowa State University Extension information may be reached at In the search box type in the name of the plant, shrub, flower, tree, insect, or disease you want information about or you want to treat or control. A list of short, practical articles will appear. Read the ones of interest and print what you want to file and save.