Q: I have three large geraniums that I am attempting to keep, over the winter, in our house. I have them placed to get morning sun and water them once a week. The leaves are starting to yellow on two of the three plants. More water or sun? – A.F., Albuquerque
A: I have two thoughts about your wintering-over geraniums. First, aim to offer more sun daily. Keeping them in the spot that is giving them morning sun might not be quite enough after having been outdoors earlier this year.
Geraniums like and usually require a lot of sunlight, so see if there are spots that can receive more light. If you have a “shady” home, especially with the annual lessening of daylight, then you might incorporate a light system using a plant bulb. These bulbs offer more of the UV that plants use to keep themselves healthy. They are readily available in most department stores.
My next thought is about the amount of water the plants get. See if the plants are ready to be watered by sticking a finger in the soil before you do water. If it’s still moist, then hold off on the usual watering for a smidgen longer. Remember, the plants and the containers aren’t using nearly as much water being indoors like they would outside.
If you feel the need to water, perhaps offer just half, upwards to two-thirds of the amount of water that you are in the habit of offering. See if that doesn’t help the geraniums get used to being indoors more easily.
Or, are they getting enough water? Do the geraniums sit on a saucer and when you water, does water collect in the saucer? If not, then maybe, just maybe, the containers aren’t getting enough water.
Do the plants, stems and leaves still feel firm? If they are still firm and snappy, then the water sounds like it’s enough and they are just aiming to adjust to the move indoors.
It’s one or the other, and you need to figure out the common ground your geraniums require. As to the leaves yellowing, these ones are the old guard and the plants, in order to continue, have decided to let them go since they take so much energy to support.
Your geraniums are starting to show signs of putting out new leaves I hope and as they get used to being indoors, where their environment is far more stable than being outside.
I suggest that as you pluck the yellowing leaves off the plants, don’t leave them on the plants. Then, give both sides of the leaves a good look. Do they have a grainy or dusty look, especially on the underside of the leaves? If found, you might have inadvertently brought in some hitchhikers with the plants. Spider mites will often cause some leaf yellowing, and if discovered will need treating.
I wouldn’t suggest transplanting or fertilizing now until the plants have successfully transitioned to their new environment. I think a smidgen more light will help and when you do water, offer only half of what was the usual (unless the containers are really dry) and see if that helps the plants settle in with you.
Don’t go nuts fussing with things, just assist the plants to get used to being tended indoors. Geraniums are ridiculously sturdy plants, they usually figure it out and reward you with bloom as the seasons progress.
Q: I have noticed lots of bulbs available to grow indoors already. Is it really time to start growing them? – E.F.
A: If you are a “bulb forcer” and enjoy growing bulbs indoors because you like to have several pops of them in different stages throughout the winter months, then go for it.
If you’re planning on offering forced bulbs as gifts for the impending holiday season, then I believe it’s a bit too early to start them. Unless you are wanting to take a collection to a Thanksgiving feast, then go ahead and start.
I don’t think it’s ever too early, nor too late, to enjoy the marvel of having bulbs growing inside when it’s getting so dark and cold outdoors.
Have fun while you are Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.