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Because they are unlikely to be sitting in constant wet ground as you are in control of the watering, the containers dry out quicker are a degree or two warmer and the food is at reach so to speak
Well that is my theory anyway
Sounds good to me, how would you like to have wet feet all the time? Also it has ben very dark, and pelargoniums really do need light, lots of it. Our old ones whch have been overwintered for a couple of years are fine, but they have mature roots, the babies - like yours - just have not grown properly at all.
I agree - it's not been a good year for them and after all they are used to a warmer climate ! Most of mine are in containers as I find they never flower as well in the ground. I too overwinter mine and take cuttings for the following year. I love the regals and have a little collection but they are never allowed out unless the weather is right - the flowers are to nice to spoil !