Introduction: How to Prune Leggy, Overgrown Geraniums

Picture of How to Prune Leggy, Overgrown Geraniums

Geraniums (these are actually pelargoniums) grow like crazy & need cutting back for good form & abundant bloom. Here's how to prune leggy, overgrown geraniums. This is great to do at the end of the season.

Have you ever walked into someone’s house and just wanted to prune their plants? Are you raising your hand on this one too? It happens to me quite often and most times I keep my mouth shut and my Felcos in their holster. I was visiting my cousin in Connecticut this past August and couldn’t resist hinting at how much space her plant was taking up in her kitchen dining area along with another one in the sunroom. She agreed wholeheartedly and into action I sprung to prune the leggy, overgrown geraniums.

Both she and I got the gene for appreciating beautiful plants and flowers but only I got the one for pruning. Amazingly, these 2 behemoth geraniums didn’t have mealybugs, aphids or spider mites. Technically these plants are both pelargoniums but most call them geraniums and they’re usually sold under that name, along with the scented geraniums and the zonal geraniums. True geraniums have thin stems and many are cold hardy whereas whereas the pelargoniums have thicker, fleshy stems and are tender and will freeze in colder climates. The pelargoniums tend to have much showier flowers.

Step 1:

How to prune leggy, overgrown geraniums (I should have done the pruning outdoors in better light but there were lawnmowers running on either side!

These geraniums grow indoors as houseplants so I didn’t give them the total cut back. The same pruning technique would apply if you’re bringing yours indoors for the colder months and going to place them in sunny spots. If they’re going in your garage or cellar, then you can give them even more of a cutback.

Step 2:

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A side view of the 1st geranium I pruned. It’s not a hanging geranium but it had turned into 1!

Tip: Don’t prune in late fall or winter if you can help it. Spring & summer are the best times because plants rest in the cooler months.

It’s not difficult at all to prune an overgrown geranium but it does require some guts and a bit of patience. Here are the steps I took:

1. Break the geranium into quarters & work that way. I remove the longest, leggiest stems 1st so I can see better how the plant is growing.

Tip: Make sure your pruners are clean & sharp before you start a project like this. I always take my cuttings at an angle because I was told this lessens the chance of infection.

Step 3:

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I’m over halfway done with this 1.

2. Remove the dead growth.

3. Remove any stems which cross over.

Step 4:

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I took a sampling of stems out on the patio so you could see what I was pruning off.

4. Continue to prune stems to create the framework of how you want the plant to grow.

5. Remember to step back & look at the plant while you’re pruning. Remove any stems you don’t like (I always end up taking off a few more after I think I’m done!) & tip prune any which need it.

Step 5:

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The end result of pruning geranium #1.

Both of these geraniums live indoors year round in locations with a good amount of natural light. I pruned the smaller one in exactly the same way.

When you shorten the stems keep in mind that the geranium will grow back fuller and denser so you might want to prune some of the side branching stems off. I did a heavier pruning on these because I live across the country and don’t visit too often. You can always do a light to moderate pruning and see how the plant is growing back in 5 or 6 months.

Step 6:

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Here’s geranium # 2. It was much faster to prune because it only had 6 or 7 stems & all the foliage was at the ends.

The bottom line is that geraniums (pelargoniums) are vigorous growers and very forgiving when it comes to pruning. They use a lot of energy to grow and flower like crazy. They need this pruning so they can rest up for next year.

Step 7:

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Here’s a close up so you can see the new growth appearing out of the nodes.

I topped both of the pots off with fresh soil (be careful not to completely cover the stems) and gave them both a good drink of water. No need to fertilize at this time of year (late summer) because the plant will be going to rest. Depending on where you live, you can feed your geraniums come spring and then again in summer.

Step 8:

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Here’s all I took off of geranium #2.

Pruning leggy, overgrown geraniums (pelargoniums) isn’t hard but it can be a bit puzzling when you 1st look at them. You basically want to thin them out and open them up so the new growth has plenty of room to grow in. I find that after a few minutes I’m in the “pruning zone” and it actually goes pretty fast.

Step 9:

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The end result of pruning geranium #2.

I saved quite a few cuttings for my cousin (I just put the shortened stems in water – geraniums root easily this way) so she can have more or give them away. Oh boy, more geraniums to prune!

Happy gardening,

Nell

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