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Share to Pinterest15 Easy Steps to Growing Geraniums
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15 Easy Steps to Growing Geraniums

By Alicia Smith
Share to Pinterest15 Easy Steps to Growing Geraniums

There are a wide variety of geranium species, and together or on their own, they produce the kind of flowers that astound and amaze. They're a popular addition to many American gardens, painting landscapes in pinks, purples, oranges, reds, and whites. There are even eye-catching bicolor variants to add flair to the floral extravaganza.

Best of all, growing geraniums is as easy as pie and they promise to lift your mood when you need an instant pick-me-up.


Your geraniums' new home

Share to PinterestThe process of transplanting seedlings of geranium flowers

It's not difficult to transplant geraniums — many of which are from the Pelargonium genus, not Geranium, interestingly — if the place where you plant them has the right conditions, such as adequate light. Establish your nursery geraniums when the last freeze is in the rearview mirror and the soil has thawed a ways down.

Young plants can settle in your garden or in 6- to 12-inch-diameter pots. Complete the welcome with a nice watering.


Planting your geraniums

Share to Pinterestgardening at home: the hands of a squatting woman transplanting a geranium into an orange plastic pot and pouring soil

Geraniums require fertile soil with good drainage, so make sure that the pots you use have drainage holes. Mix balanced organic fertilizer, peat moss, and compost or rotted manure into your soil before planting. Or opt for a commercial container mix if you're going to pot your plant.

Once your geraniums settle in, fertilize the soil monthly between summer and fall, or follow the timing instructions on your fertilizer package. With a little TLC, geraniums will grow well and look pretty as a picture in planting beds or on your patio.


A healthy start (1 of 3): sunlight requirements for geraniums

Geraniums love to take in the rays for at least six hours a day, but they'll need shade when the sun is at its strongest in higher hardiness zones. Regal and ivy geraniums demand light shade no matter where you are in the country.

If geraniums get too hot, they can stop blooming, so location is everything.

Share to PinterestRed sunlit flowering ornamental hanging geranium planter
grbender / Getty Images


A healthy start (2 of 3): watering

Share to Pinterestwatering colorful geranium flowers with watering can in the backyard garden of the house

Balance is vital when it comes to hydrating your drought-tolerant geraniums. You never want your soil to become wholly dry. On the other hand, overly moist conditions can introduce rot.

Monitor your soil to ensure the top inch or two is dry before adding water, and you'll lower the risk of yellow leaves and drooping blossoms.


A healthy start (3 of 3): special nutrients

Share to PinterestMan putting a fertilizer in the flower

Using fertilizers with too little phosphorus can lead to the discoloration of your geraniums' leaves. A lack of nitrogen can also cause purpling, and you can get yellow leaves when the plant is low on the micronutrients iron, sulfur, and zinc.

Seaweed extracts are good sources of micronutrients if your fertilizer doesn't include them.


USDA zone information

Share to Pinterestblooming geranium

Pelargoniums can thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 12. But you may be able to overwinter these beautiful plants in cool zone 7 if your winters don't get too cold. Hardy cranesbill geraniums do well in zones 5 to 8. Chat to your local nursery or garden center expert about the best geraniums for your climate and needs.


Healthy growth: pruning your geraniums

Share to PinterestGardener woman pruning her plants

Pruning will keep your geranium bushes looking full, healthy, and rich with blooms. Before winter, cut back a third of your plant if you plan on storing it alive, and target woody stems in particular.

After winter, you should have new growth, so prune any stems that are non-sprouting. You can use shears, or pinch half an inch off the end of geranium stems with your fingers for a bushy aesthetic.


Preparing for winter

Share to PinterestGeranium flowers on windowsill

Most pelargonium plants in the U.S. are originally from South Africa. And while southern Africa can get cold, pelargoniums tend not to be frost-hardy. As a result, they're unsuitable for the constant icy winter temperatures in parts of North America.

You'll need to overwinter these annuals and tender perennials by digging them up if they're not in containers and placing them in pots you can move to bright parts of your home. Alternatively, hang them upside down in a cool, dark area such as the basement or garage after lightly dusting off the soil. The roots will need an hour-long soaking once a month before you rehang them, and come spring, you'll be able to replant. You can also store dormant geraniums in cardboard boxes or paper bags.


Can I propagate my geraniums?

Share to Pinterestpropagate geranium

You sure can, and the process is pretty simple. Avoid flowering shoots and cut above the leaf node. Honey is a rooting hormone, so if you like, you can dip your cutting in a honey solution to protect it and encourage growth.

Fill a three-inch container with cutting compost before making holes near the edges of the medium. You can now pop your cutting into the container and lightly water the soil before moving the final product to a warm windowsill. You should see roots within a week.


Common diseases

When you're a plant parent, you need to stay on top of the health of your plant babies. With geraniums, this means swiftly deadheading flowers to prevent fungal diseases. If you do notice mold on flowers, remove those blooms asap.

Fungi often crop up if there's poor airflow around your plants, so give them room when you're placing them in the ground or pots to prevent this and allow space for growth.

Share to Pinterestfungal diseased leaf of room geranium close-up
Annadokaz / Getty Images


Common pests

Share to PinterestTobacco Budworm Caterpillar on a Geranium Leaf with Chewed Red Petal

Be on the lookout for pesky pests in the form of budworms, slugs, snails, aphids, whiteflies, and caterpillars. Don't stress if you find them. They're a problem easily solved with a spray of Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki and manual removalCheck your flower buds and underneath leaves, and pick off the budworms and eggs. You can dunk the pests in soapy water, and if you do this daily, you'll start to see fewer and fewer unwelcome visitors until they disappear entirely. Whiteflies can spread from one plant to another, so if you spot them, keep your geraniums isolated or treat them before overwintering. Finally, spider mites respond well to neem oil.


Showing off your geraniums

Share to PinterestRow of several colourful flower baskets hanging on a porch filled with flowering red and white geraniums for a decorative display

You have so many options when it comes to this impressive plant. Hanging baskets filled with ivy geraniums can brighten up your porch or balcony. Hardy geraniums look stunning in rock gardens or containers, and the foliage can grow over the edges of your pot to great effect. And using colorful geraniums as wild or manicured ground cover can infuse life into your backyard.


Similar plants

The name "geranium" applies to many species of Pelargoniums, despite Geranium being another genus This confusion goes back to the 17th century when pelargoniums first arrived in Europe and looked mightily similar to flowers in the geranium family.

Pelargoniums and geraniums differ in one obvious way: each of a true geranium's petals are the same size and shape, whereas pelargonium flowers have two upper petals that differ from the three lower ones.

Share to Pinterest"Sweet Scented Geranium" flowers - Pelargonium Graveolens
RukiMedia / Getty Images


Cautions and other information

Cranesbill geraniums are not toxic, but pelargoniums containing geraniol and linalool are mildly toxic for your four-legged friends. If you have sensitive skin, you may have some irritation after exposure to this plant, so handle it with gloves as far as possible.

Geraniums make up for being slightly poisonous by attracting butterflies and bees to your garden's ecosystem.

Share to PinterestGeraniums in flowerpot plant with elastic gloves
MayerKleinostheim / Getty Images


Geranium varieties

Share to PinterestA beautiful closeup of a dark red burgundy colored Martha Washington geranium in full spring season blossom

As we've already established, geraniums and pelargoniums are in the same plant family and are often referred to interchangeably. In terms of varieties, you'll find scented geraniums with wonderfully perfumed leaves, annual zonal geraniums, and similar seed geraniums, as well as trailing ivy varieties.

Regal geraniums, also known as Martha Washington geraniums, do well in the cooler months. Hardy geraniums or cranesbills are perennials and are therefore true geraniums. There are also variegated geraniums with multi-hued leaves and interspecific hybrid geraniums that combine zonal and ivy geraniums. You're spoilt for choice!



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