How to prune geraniums for winter and keep plants healthy when bringing them indoors for the colder months

These tender geraniums need winter protection in many areas – and can be overwintered in two ways

Pink geranium blooms
(Image credit: Getty Images/Ventura Carmona)

Geraniums, or pelargoniums, come in a range of colors and with a wealth of fragrances. They are popular as colorful additions to flower beds and borders, while are also commonly seen in pots or hanging baskets. These tender plants can either be grown as annuals and discarded at the end of the season, or overwintered to keep going year-after-year. 

Pelargoniums are hardy in USDA zones 9-12 and cannot withstand prolonged cold temperatures. If you live in a colder climate and want to overwinter geraniums to bloom again next year, they do need pruning when you move them to a protected position.

It should be noted that these tender plants are pelargoniums, but have the common name geraniums. However, these plants are different to hardy geraniums and the two species have to be treated differently.

Geraniums in shades of pink and red

Scented geraniums are adored for their fragrant foliage 

(Image credit: Getty Images/Elizabeth Fernandez)

Should geraniums be cut back in winter?

Geraniums really benefit from being cut back in winter. Along with bringing them into a warmer environment and reducing the watering over winter, cutting them back means the geraniums will be in the best condition possible come spring.

Harry Luther, the founder of Plantpat, explains: ‘Pruning geraniums for winter helps remove dead or diseased plant material that could otherwise harbor pests or diseases. 

‘It also encourages the plant to focus its energy on essential processes like root development and cold resistance.’

There are many diseases that can affect geraniums, including fungal and bacterial issues, and several of them come to the fore during the winter and spring period. Leaving dying or diseased material on the plant throughout winter is one potential way to trigger the onset of nasty fungal issues that is best avoided.

Harry Luther
Harry Luther

Harry is a passionate gardening expert and the Founder of PlantPat, with years of experience in the horticulture world. His journey with plants began early on, nurturing a deep love for all things green. Over the years, he has honed his expertise in various aspects of gardening, from propagation techniques to plant care.

dark pink and red pelargoniums

Geraniums can grow very tall and leggy if not pruned

(Image credit: James Allan/Alamy Stock Photo)

How to prune geraniums for winter

To overwinter geraniums, move them to a protected spot before the first frost for your US hardiness zone. Plants in borders will need to be dug up and planted in pots, while geraniums growing in pots can simply be moved to a sheltered location.

Geraniums can be overwintered indoors, such as in a greenhouse, and they can either be allowed to continue to grow or be kept as dormant plants by cutting them back harder for the colder months.

Make sure to use clean and sharp pruning shears when trimming geraniums for winter. Sharp tools will ensure you make clean cuts that are easier to heal over, and sanitizing tools before cutting prevents disease from being moved from plant-to-plant. Also, inspect the geraniums to ensure they are free of any pests before bringing them indoors.

When overwintering geraniums indoors, plants can be cut back hard to keep them as dormant plants in pots. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased sections of the plant and then prune all stems back to around 6-8 inches tall. 

If you would rather keep the geranium growing in a warm and light spot indoors over winter, the plants can either be left unpruned or trimmed lightly. This includes tidying up their shape and removing yellow geraniums leaves or any dead or diseased sections.

David Cohen, the CEO of Love Rose, recommends: ‘Use clean, sharp shears to trim back the stems by about one-third. Pruning benefits geraniums by promoting bushier growth, redirecting nutrients to healthier stems.’

The plants are then pruned hard in spring to stop them getting too leggy, and that will reinvigorate them to put on new growth. When you do this pruning in spring, the stems you cut can be used as pelargonium cuttings to grow new plants.

David Cohen
David Cohen

David Cohen is the the CEO of Love Rose, one of the UK's largest online flower delivery services.


Can you leave geraniums in pots over winter?

Geraniums that are grown as part of container garden ideas can be kept in their pots over the winter period. The pot can be moved into a bright but frost-free location for the colder period, or moved indoors to continue to grow. The plants will need to be pruned and then monitored and watered lightly.

To overwinter and keep geraniums blooming as indoor plants they will want a bright and sunny spot with temperatures of 55-65°F. Water them only lightly to avoid the potential of root rot from plants sitting in soggy soil. 

When watering plants in containers check the moisture level a few inches down using your fingers. This trick can help prevent you overwatering your houseplants.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.