The Ultimate Guide to Growing Geranium Flowers

The geranium is an iconic, fragrant garden flower. American growers first fell in love with the geranium flower over 200 years ago, and it’s not hard to see why. Geraniums fill hanging baskets, containers and flower beds with fancy leaves that are as attractive as the clusters of dainty blooms they surround. Planting geraniums can be extremely easy and rewarding. All you need are a few simple geranium flower care tips.

What Are Geraniums?

This popular garden plant is hiding a secret – it isn’t a true geranium. Garden geraniums, also known as annual geraniums, are actually from the genus Pelargonium. Originating in South Africa, the garden geranium made its way to North America from France in 1786. Thomas Jefferson’s first geranium cuttings soon multiplied to generations of gardeners as they were passed to friends and family.

Most areas of the United States can grow geraniums as an annual. They can even be grown as perennials in extremely warm areas, such as the southern coastal areas of California. Many dedicated gardeners over-winter their geranium plants indoors for replanting in the spring. Some even grow geraniums indoors as houseplants all year long. The geranium is a truly versatile plant.

Few plants offer as many options as geraniums. With over 300 species, they’re available in a wide range of bloom color and types, foliage and even scent. They range in size from a compact 6 inches to several feet of blooms. The four most popular varieties of geraniums are:

  • Zonal geraniums – the classic geraniums you recognize. With single or double blooms in white, pink, red, burgundy, yellow, orange and purple, Zonal geraniums are easy growers, heat tolerant and drought resistant. The Classic, Tango and Rocky Mountain cultivars all come in a wide variety of colors.
  • Regal geraniums – also known as Marsha Washington geraniums. They feature large multicolored blooms and are considered a delicate variety, yet they thrive with the proper care. They perform best in cooler areas and will not flower in hot summer temperatures. Unique cultivars include Ace High, Brown’s Butterfly, Blue Orchid and Coral Sea.
  • Ivy geraniums – create abundant mounds of cascading flowers. The leaves are shiny and resemble ivy. The single, semi-double and double flowers bloom from early spring to the first frost of fall. Try Summer Showers, Contessa and White Mesh cultivars for abundant blooms.
  • Scented geraniums – have scented leaves with a velvety texture. While they don’t bloom as profusely as other varieties, they are a favorite of many gardeners. Although there are endless variations, popular scents include roses, apricots, apple and mint. The cultivar name often hints to the geranium’s scent, such as Chocolate Mint, Ginger, Lemon Balm and Lime.

If you’re looking to plant an authentic hardy geranium from the Geraniaceae family, you have plenty of options. Most are perennials in Zones 3 to 8, and the majority feature strong rhizomes that spread easily. Some of the more popular hardy geraniums make excellent ground cover. Consider planting cultivars from the genus Geranium macrorrhizum or the hybrids Geranium cantabrigiense and Geranium oxonianum. Between these three hybrids, hundreds of cultivars are available.

Geranium Care 02

Tips for Planting, Growing & Caring for Geraniums

You don’t need to be a master gardener to know how to grow geraniums. Geraniums care little for fancy fertilizers or specialized soils, and they require just a bit of basic care to thrive.

  • Soil for Geraniums
    The perfect soil for geraniums is a loose soil with plenty of organic matter. If your soil is on the heavy side, incorporate peat, compost or perlite. Manure and vermiculite are not recommended.
  • Where to Plant Geraniums
    You can plant geraniums in almost all gardening zones. Despite knowing this, you may still be asking do geraniums need full sun? Geraniums require plenty of sunlight to flower, but in areas with hot summers, a bit of shade is recommended. When it comes to how much sunlight do geraniums need, the answer depends on the specific geranium and your garden zone. The ideal location has morning sun, afternoon shade and well-draining soil. Choose a properly-sized area for your geranium flower beds. Appropriate spacing in between plants will reduce the risk of disease.
  • When to Plant Geraniums
    Don’t rush the planting season – geraniums are not cold hardy. But if you wait too long, you risk missing the cool night temperatures that encourage budding. Knowing how to grow geraniums outdoors begins with planting at the proper time. Wait until the danger of the last frost has passed and your soil reaches 60 degrees F.
  • Fertilizer for Geraniums
    Geraniums require light fertilization. If you feed them too much, the foliage will flourish at the expense of the blooms. Although you may see it in your garden center, you don’t need to purchase a specialty geranium fertilizer. For a gentle fertilization, mix 2 tablespoons of a water soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer into 1 gallon of water. Apply this solution every three weeks throughout the growing season.
  • Growing Geraniums in Pots
    Wondering how to plant geraniums in pots? It’s actually as easy as planting them in the ground. You need loose, well-draining soil, consistent watering and low levels of fertilization.Geraniums grow well in containers of all shapes and sizes, as long as they have drainage holes. The key to successfully growing geraniums in pots is to place them in sunny locations and out of damaging winds.The added benefit of growing geraniums in pots is that you can simply move pots inside during the winter. When placed in a sunny window, geraniums will thrive as a houseplant even in the coldest months. In spring, gradually move them back outdoors after the last frost.
  • Watering Geraniums
    Because you need to water geraniums thoroughly and deeply, take the time to leave an irrigation furrow around each plant to serve as a watering reservoir. This allows the water to pool and then gently filter down through the soil. To avoid root rot, allow soil to become dry between watering. Watering at ground level with a soaker hose keeps water off the foliage and protects against disease.Soil in pots tends to get warm, so growing geraniums in containers requires regular watering. The drainage holes help prevent root rot, so you don’t have to wait for the soil to dry out in between waterings.How much water do geraniums need? It’s going to require simply watching your plants. For proper geranium plant care, avoid letting your geraniums to wilt. Cycles of wilting and revival will result in poor flower production and the dropping of leaves.
  • Pruning Geraniums
    Annual geraniums that are planted outdoors don’t require pruning, but regular deadheading can help prevent disease and increase production. Simply pinch off the entire flower stalk after the flowers fade and remove dry leaves from the plants.The geranium houseplant tends to become long legged and thin. Regularly prune by pinching the growing points to encourage branching.
  • Common Pests and Diseases for Geraniums
    The majority of insects and other pests avoid geraniums. However, botrytis and other fungus attacks can occur during cooler, wet weather. Commercial fungicides provide some protection. Overwatering can cause problems such as oedema and root rot.

Geranium FAQs

Are geraniums annuals or perennials?

Garden geraniums are considered annuals throughout all but the warmest areas of North America. That said, you can force them to be perennials by providing the plants with shelter for the winter. Known as “over-wintering,” this process involves digging up garden perennials and moving them into a cool, yet sheltered environment for the winter. Potted geraniums can simply be moved indoors during the winter. The key to proper blooming in the spring involves exposing the plants to cool temperatures of around 55 degrees F while protecting them from cold nights and frosts.

Can you grow geraniums from seed?

While it is possible to grow some types of geraniums from seed, for hundreds of years, stem cuttings have been the popular way to propagate geraniums. Most geraniums grow easily from stem cuttings in vermiculite or sterile soil. New seed-grown cultivars allow for the starting of new plants indoors. Multibloom, Cameo and Maverick all perform well from seed. Growing geraniums from seed requires a head start. Sow geranium seeds indoors in mid-January in a warm, sunny spot.

Growing geraniums indoors vs outdoors

Geranium care outdoors and geranium care indoors are very similar. Both require plenty of sunlight, careful watering and light levels of fertilization. Growing geraniums outdoors requires a bit more attention to soil drainage and moisture levels. The drainage holes in indoor containers helps to keep moisture regulated.

You can easily grow geraniums in pots and move them between the inside and outside of your home, particularly useful if you live in an area with harsh winters. As fall fades into winter and temperatures begin to drop, simply bring your pots inside to protect your pretty plants.

As mentioned, geraniums thrive indoors, and can actually grow all year round as beautiful houseplants. Geranium care in pots is very similar to that of garden care. However, they do require cool temperatures in the spring to begin setting buds. Moving your plants to a cool space within the house should help with blooming.

What plants grow well with geraniums?

Geraniums are beneficial companion plants. Because they repel many insects and pests, they’re a traditional companion for roses. You can also plant them with other plants that often become pest targets, such as corn, grapes and cabbage.

Are geraniums good for hanging baskets?

With full mounds of colorful flowers, geranium hanging baskets are an excellent choice. Hang baskets where they’re sheltered from the wind and receive plenty of sunlight. If you are hanging geraniums indoors, a southern facing window is ideal.

How do you put geraniums away for winter?

Geraniums are not fickle at all – with a few simple steps, you can help them survive the winter so you can enjoy them year-round. If your plants are already in pots, just bring them indoors.
If you’ve planted them in your garden or beds, be sure to bring them in before the first frost. Gently dig them up and pot them in 8 inch pots using a lightweight potting soil. You can take this time to propagate your plants by cutting them in half. Plant the new roots to double the enjoyment. Bring them inside and place near a sunny window.

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