Looking for an all American sweetheart for your garden? You can’t go wrong with geraniums. As a favorite go-to annual for many gardeners, geraniums are vibrant and easy to grow. They are perfect for containers and window boxes, and they are beautiful in garden beds and borders too.
Geraniums range in solid shades- from brilliant reds and pinks to magentas and purples and even pristine white. There are many cultivars with variations of bi-colored blossoms, as well. The foliage is as fancy and attractive as the blossoms. Whether you prefer solid green foliage or variegated leaves, you will surely find a combination of blooms and foliage to love.
Geraniums (Pelargonium) are native to South Africa where they enjoy lots of sun and warmth throughout the year. In their homeland, they are an evergreen perennial. Throughout most of the U.S., they are used as an annual flower to brighten up the summer months. In zones 10-11, they can be grown as a perennial, or try bringing them indoors in the winter.
How to Grow Geraniums
Geraniums that are started from seed are slow to develop. So, while starting geraniums from seeds is possible, it’s best to purchase a plant. The advantage of buying a geranium plant is that you see the color of the blossoms you will enjoy all season. Select a plant with healthy green leaves without spots on the top or the bottom.
Your plant should have a nice, bushy form. This indicates it has received proper light as it has developed. Avoid a plant with long straggling stems that look like they are reaching out in desperation for a source of light.
Plant your geranium after the last frost in your area. Grow it in a warm and sunny spot. While geraniums are the most vibrant and colorful in a sunny location, they do need a bit of shade if you live in an area where afternoon temperatures are very hot.
Geraniums are generally heavy feeders, so keep those blossoms blooming by providing good, fertile soil from the beginning. Amend several handfuls of peat moss into the first couple of inches of soil as you plant your geranium. Well draining soil is a key to success for your geranium. And you can follow up with feeding your plant a regular houseplant fertilizer every week.
Water your geranium often. It is best to water this plant when the soil is slightly dry to the touch. Water early in the day, so the plant has many hours to dry off before nightfall. Keeping your geranium’s leaves dry will help keep it healthier and less prone to disease.
Deadhead your plant often. Also, pinch off all leaves that have yellowed. Snip off a branch or two here and there to encourage more branching as well.
How to Winterize Geraniums
If you are a devoted geranium lover, you can extend the life of your healthy plant by potting it up and bringing it indoors before the first frost. Cut your plant back to six inches and place it in a sunny location until spring. Water your plant occasionally throughout the winter months. Harden your plant off in the spring by gradually introducing it to outdoor sun and daytime temperatures. Replant it outdoors again after the last frost.
Another way to enjoy your geranium again next year is to dig it up completely. Shake the loose soil from its roots, and place the entire plant with roots in a paper bag. Store the bag in a cool basement over the winter.
Occasionally soak the roots in water to prevent them from drying completely. Replant your geranium in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Geraniums: Pests and Problems
When properly cared for, geraniums are relatively problem free. The most important thing you can do for your geranium is to be careful about watering. Too much water will cause root rot. And, if you water your plant late in the day, it might develop mildew or fungus. Give your geranium plenty to drink early in the day, and your geranium should stay happy and healthy. If you do happen to find that your geranium has developed an infection of any sort, the best practice is to remove the sick plant to prevent spreading to other plants.
Geranium Cultivars to Consider
‘Double Jewel’ is a compact grower. It has a beautiful double white flower with a pink eye. This variety stands up to heat as long as it is given plenty of moisture.
‘Rozanne’ has unique baby blue flowers with solid green leaves. This is an average sized geranium that attracts bees and butterflies. It is disease and deer resistant.