Very cold weather, a checklist for Scented Geraniums

(January 09, 2010)
Cold Weather Checklist
In the UK and Ireland this is our coldest winter spell for over 30 years and it looks as if it is going to continue for at least another couple of weeks.  We would recommend that you check the current condition of your Scented Leaf Pelargoniums:
If you have left your Scenteds in the garden:
Unfortunately, I would be amazed if any survive this winter if they are still planted in the garden.  From Feedback that we receive I do know that quite a few people living near coastal regions do not lift their plants.  I would suggest, though, that for future years that they are at least cut back and covered with a good layer of hay/straw to offer some protection.  Ideally, all Scented Leaf Pelargoniums should be lifted and overwintered inside.  When temperatures drop as low as they are at present and the ground is freezing rock hard it just isn't looking good for their survival.  Sorry to be the bearer of quite drastic news.
Overwintering in an unheated shed, garage, greenhouse or polytunnel:
Again, it's not looking promising.  I recommend that you check each individual plant immediately and if any are showing signs of surviving please cover them with horticultural fleece.  Even old net curtains or newspaper will help as it tends to be an air frost that does the damage.  However, once the compost in plant pots freezes there will be heavy losses.  I made the mistake of overlooking a few of our Scenteds in my large unheated potting area and they have all totally frozen to death.  The alternative is to at least utilise a convector heater from the home, or similar, when it is forecast that temperatures are likely to drop below zero.  In my experience Scenteds will withstand quite a lot of cold but will not survive the abnormal sub-zero and extreme freezing temperatures that we are currently experiencing.  Something to think about well in advance for next year.
Inside the home:
Here the complete opposite applies.  As it is so cold outside we have all cranked up our heating to practically tropical conditions.  In these types of temperatures the plants will put on lots of new growth and many will continue to flower.  In other words they will NOT go into a dormancy state.  It is important again to check each plant individually and ensure that the pots are not drying out too much.  Natural light is very low over the winter months and it may well be necessary to move individual plants around during the day to ensure that they receive as much light as possible.  If they do not receive enough natural light and have to rely purely on an inside electric bulb they will grow very straggly, lose their leaf colour and look unsightly.  Remember to move them off windowsills before nightfall and definitely do not trap them behind closed curtains.  If your Scenteds are still putting on new growth they may require repotting into a larger container and they will also require feeding.  From some of the photos we receive we are amazed that folk expect their Scented Leaf Pelargoniums to look after themselves!!  Problems that arise are more often the owner's fault and not the plants.  Scented Leaf's are easy to look after but will only tolerate a certain amount of neglect.
To sum up, it's not looking good and we are sure that there will be lots of disappointed folk who have lost their prized plants.  I am very sorry to have to say this.
Please do check your plants immediately and take whatever action is necessary!

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