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How Old Is This Geranium Anyway?

Red Geranium

Overwintering A Geranium For Spring

I bought this red geranium in a 4 inch pot in 2018, the year before Behnke’s closed. The photo does not show just how spectacular this color is, and unfortunately, I never knew what the variety was. It truly is a deep red color. My DH (darling husband) each year before frost puts it in our garage for the winter. He cuts all the blooms off (deadheading) the plant and pretty much ignores it till Spring.

How Old Is This Geranium?

This is our 3rd year bringing the geranium back out. Each year we use the geranium in our Red White & Blue Pot. In addition to the geranium, we put in a white bacopa plant and a blue salvia (Black & Blue).

I asked my husband if he ever waters this container, and yes, after a few weeks inside, he will give it some once in a while. You don’t want it to shrivel up and die, but he also did not want it to get all weak and leggy. Then around February, depending on the weather, he starts bringing it outside when the weather is nice. He always carries it back in the garage before dark. As the days get longer, new growth starts appearing as the geranium grows bigger and bigger. Once the chance of frost is over, I have to pull out the old saliva and bacopa (they never make it) and replace them with new plants.

Why Do People Overwinter Plants?

When I was little, many a customer would talk about how they overwintered their geraniums. I always thought it seemed like a lot of work and would say, oh heck, just come on back and buy a nice new one each year. Now I understand the satisfaction in keeping a plant like a geranium year after year.

My grandfather, Albert Behnke, told us that his best customer was the little old lady who came back and bought the one perfect geranium year after year. I think that it could be any plant. His point was a repeat customer was his best customer.

I know that the time may come when our geranium won’t make it, but as long as my husband wants to carry it in and out, I am not stopping him. It has brought us so much enjoyment since April. Full of long-lasting blooms, it is just now that I started deadheading some of them.

After the nursery closed, a customer wrote to me to show me some photos of plants she purchased from us in years past. Her daughter coined the phrase, #bornatbehnkes, and that hashtag has taken off, as so many of you have also shared on social medial your #bornatbehnke’s plants.

I hope you too have that particular plant you love. After losing my last four African Violets (sigh)that I bought before the nursery closed, seeing this geranium made my heart happy. Now I need to find a garden center that has a good selection of African Violets.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Loved reading about the “eternal” geranium! I find it a treat, when cleaning out my gardens, to come across a plant that wasn’t supposed to survive the winter but did. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a tiny emerging something.
    I dug it up to transplant it and wondered what it was. No others were around, but I’ve never just planted one of any annual.
    It did have tiny bulbs attached. It’s now 10 in. tall but no flowers yet. It dawned on me what it could be. A dwarf dahlia!
    It had emerged at the feet of my little girl sitting on a bench statue near my front door. It put a smile on my face thinking it was somehow a gift for all the work (joyful work) that I do taking care of my gardens!

  2. Oh, Stefanie, I am so sorry you lost your African Violets! A year ago, I stupidly took off all the dead blooms off mine and they then stopped blooming. They only started blooming again nearly 10 months later. I kept carefuly watering it because the plant was given to me as a present by my mother who died in 1999. She also gave me a bunch of Christmas cacti. I have all but one which I planted in a glass pot which it didn’t like. I also have a Ming Aralia which I took from a cutting from a plant in her office which is now huge and nearly 40 years old. I love my old plants!

  3. I’ve never managed to keep annuals through the winter. Black and Blue will usually function as a perennial if you stick it in a bed though. I have several, in a couple of locations, that have come back reliably for many years now. Neither location is particularly sheltered, and they break dormancy fairly late. They’re a big favorite with the hummingbirds.

  4. I also enjoyed reading about overwintering geraniums. It looks like my tree rose is going to have company in the shed this winter! By the way I’m also looking for a source for African Violets.

    I really, really miss Behnke’s.

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