Geraniums (Pelargonium spp.) aren't just easy on the eyes -- they're easy on your green thumb, too. The flowers need little maintenance, tolerating many kinds of soil, surviving periodically dry conditions and resisting most insect pests. Most species can be grown as perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. However, you can enjoy geraniums anywhere as a vibrantly hued annual.
Check the Calendar and Thermometer
To get the most out of your geraniums, plant them as soon as possible in spring so you can enjoy their lush foliage all growing season and the colorful blossoms all summer. Wait until the last frost date has passed in your area. Ideally, also check an outdoor thermometer. Night temperatures should not dip below 60 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal geranium growth.
Select the Perfect Planting Site
Geraniums need at least four hours of sunlight every day, but you'll see more blossoms and thicker plant growth if you put them in direct sunlight for eight hours or more. To maximize sun exposure, you may wish to choose a planting site on the east- or west-facing side of your property. Additionally, the site should be open and have good air circulation -- geraniums hedged in by other plants may experience fungal diseases.
Prepare the Soil for Success
If you're growing your geraniums directly in the ground in a flowerbed or as an edging accent, mix in a couple inches of organic matter like compost or peat moss. This enhances soil drainage and aeration, which improves plant health.
If you plant your geraniums in pots to add dashes of color and texture to a windowsill or patio, make your own geranium-friendly potting mix by combining equal parts peat moss, garden soil and sand. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Measure for Proper Spacing and Depth
Dig a hole in your geranium's new home -- that may be your flowerbed or a container -- that is the size of the plant's current pot. Gently remove the geranium and place it into the hole. When transplanting, always bury geraniums at exactly the same level that they were buried in the original pot. Tap down lightly to settle the soil.
If you're transplanting more than one geranium, know their mature size. Depending on the variety, geraniums can grow anywhere from 6 to 24 inches wide. For example, the coconut-scented geranium (Pelargonium grossularioides) grows up to 18 inches wide while the fernleaf-scented geranium (Pelargonium denticulatum) grows up to 24 inches wide. Space the plants a couple inches farther apart than their future mature size to ensure proper air circulation between the plants.
Water geraniums once every couple of days, or as necessary to keep the soil consistently moist but never soggy. You may need to increase how often you water your geraniums if you notice their leaves wilting or yellowing. When you water, use enough water to moisten the soil to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. This encourages deeper root growth, which in turn enhances overall plant vigor and health. Additionally, always water your geranium at its base. Geraniums do not do well with overhead irrigation, since damp foliage makes the plant susceptible to various diseases.
- Arizona Cooperative Extension: Growing Geraniums
- The Old Farmer's Almanac: Geraniums
- University of Florida Extension: Geraniums for Florida
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Geranium
- University of Minnesota Extension: Outdoor-Indoor Geranium Culture
- Iowa State University Extension: Growing Geraniums From Seed
- National Gardening Association: Geranium Plant Care Guide
- The Vernon Nursery: Taking Geranium & Pelargonium Cuttings
- Better Homes and Garden: Scented Geraniums
- North Carolina State University Extension: Geranium Culture for Home Gardeners
- Photo Credit gkuna/iStock/Getty Images
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