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Colorful, versatile geraniums can go just about anywhere sunny in your yard. Use them to line a pathway, pretty up a flower bed, or fill out a container. These low-maintenance plants are easy to care for and bloom throughout the summer. Here's how to plant and maintain them in your garden.
- Botanical Name: Pelargonium spp. and hybrids
- Common Name: Annual geranium, common geranium, zonal geranium, ivy geranium
- Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
- Mature Size: Five to 36 inches
- Sun Exposure: Full to part sun
- Soil Type: Rich, well-drained soil
- Soil pH: 5.8 - 6.5
- Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and horses
The best time to plant annual geranium seedlings is in early spring. Sow seeds in February. Plant seedlings six inches apart and full-grown plants 12 inches apart. Wait to plant geraniums outdoors until after the danger of frost has passed.
Water your geraniums when the soil has begun to dry out, and avoid overwatering. Keep in mind that in very hot, dry weather, plants may need water more often than usual. Fertilize indoor geraniums with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength once per month during the growing season.
Best Growing Conditions for Geranium
Choose a site with full to part sun for annual geraniums (note that regal geraniums do best in part shade). The more light you give the plants, the better their flowering will be. Whether you're planting in the ground or in a pot, ensure that you use fertile, well-drained soil.
Types of Geranium
The main variation you'll see in geraniums is color, which includes shades of red, pink, and purple as well as white, orange, or bicolor. Some also have variegated leaves.
There are a few different types of annual geranium. Ivy geraniums, which have a trailing, vinelike growth habit, are well-suited to containers like hanging baskets and window boxes but are less heat tolerant. Scented geraniums are hybrids with a particular scent, such as rose or citronella, but have smaller, less colorful flowers. Regal or Martha Washington geraniums offer big, showy flowers with ruffled petals and prefer cooler, shadier conditions.
Note that Pelargonium species and hybrids, known as annual or zonal geraniums, are different from perennial Geranium species, which are often referred to as cranesbill geraniums or hardy geraniums. While the plants are in the same family and were originally all considered Geranium species, this designation was changed in the late 1700s.
How to Propagate Geraniums
It's easy to root geraniums from stem cuttings. Propagation tends to be the most successful in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing. While geraniums can be propagated in water, the process tends to work better with soilless growing medium. Here's how to propagate your geranium plants.
What You'll Need
- Healthy, mature geranium plant
- Clean, sharp pruners
- Small plant pots
- Soilless growing medium like vermiculite or perlite
- Rooting hormone powder
- Fill the plant pots with soilless growing medium and moisten it well with water
- Select a healthy stem with several leaves on the mother plant. Make a diagonal cut six inches below the end of the stem just below a leaf node. Trim away the leaves on the lower half of the stem.
- Use your finger or a pencil to poke a hole about three inches deep in the growing medium. Dip the cut end of the stem in rooting hormone powder. Plant the cutting in the hole, patting the growing medium around the stem to keep it in place.
- Keep the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light. Keep an eye on the moisture level of the growing medium and water when it dries out to keep stems from rotting.
- Your cutting should begin to grow roots within a couple of weeks. When you see new leaf growth, it's time to pot up your new plants and care for them as usual. If you're planting them outside, gradually acclimate them to their new environment by putting plants outside in the shade, then the sun, for a few hours each day for a week or so.
Common Problems With Geraniums
While geraniums are generally low-maintenance, they are susceptible to a variety of plant diseases caused by fungus, bacteria, and viruses. These may present as spotted, blistered, or wilting leaves, yellowing or rotting stems, or rotten roots.
Help keep your geraniums disease-free by watering the soil, not the leaves, and avoiding overwatering. Use clean, sterilized shears when deadheading or pruning plants, and use fresh potting soil or growing medium when planting or replanting geranium seeds or plants.
How to Get Geraniums to Bloom
If your geranium isn't blooming, chances are it's not receiving the right care or conditions. Lack of light can impact flowering, as can overwatering. Cold spring weather may delay blooms, while very hot, dry weather in summer can cut the bloom period short.
You'll want to perform some basic maintenance throughout the growing season to help your geraniums thrive and look their best. Deadhead faded flowers by snipping the flower stem below the ode to help spur new growth. You can also prune back about a third of the growth in midsummer to keep plants from looking leggy or unkempt and promote blooming the next growing season.
Are geraniums easy to care for?
Yes, geraniums are low-maintenance plants that are relatively easy to grow.
How fast do geraniums grow?
If you're growing geraniums from seed, expect it to take three to four months from sowing in late winter to blooming in early summer.
Can geraniums grow indoors?
Yes, common geraniums can be grown in pots as houseplants throughout the year or over winter. Ensure they've got enough light by keeping them in a sunny south- or west-facing window or using an artificial grow light.