Have you been looking for a bright and beautiful plant that's not a nightmare to care for?
Please have a seat and enjoy your coffee as we introduce you to an excellent choice — the geranium.
These exceptional plants yield stunning blooms with minimal care, maintaining their beauty throughout the entire summer season.
If that sounds like the perfect plant for you, keep reading.
How to Choose the Right Geranium for You
Geraniums prefer a warm, dry environment and thus may not survive on an exposed, cold porch. But they could potentially thrive indoors, provided the conditions are suitable.
However, it is important to consider the amount of sunlight available, as geraniums are notably fond of sunlight.
Check out these main geranium types and their pet peeves to decide which would work best for you.
Zonal geraniums are the most common type of geranium available.
You'll spot zones of bronze, purple, or dark green on each leaf, and these colors intensify as the plant matures.
The flowers bloom in a lovely, spherical cluster at the top of the stems, flaunting a mix of red and orange shades and white.
And if you're in the mood for purple or yellow blossoms, you'll find hybrid versions offering these colors too.
This geranium shows impressive hardiness, effectively withstanding heat and demonstrating resilience, making it an excellent choice for zones 7 to 12.
They prefer drier conditions, which positions them as an ideal choice for drought-prone areas. However, be advised they may not thrive in intense heat or high humidity conditions.
A variegated geranium is a variant of the zonal geranium, distinguished by one significant difference. Variegated geraniums have bi-colored or tri-colored leaves, adding an extra bit of eye-catching color to the plant.
These geraniums maintain an upright stance and can grow up to 3 feet in height while remaining relatively short and stout.
This unique growth pattern enables them to cultivate dense foliage of vibrant leaves and produce an abundance of the vivid, standout flowers that geraniums are renowned for.
Ivy geraniums are perfect for hanging baskets, window boxes, or tall containers, making them a fantastic choice for your porch or patio.
Their vine-like stems, adorned with vibrant flowers, create an eye-catching spectacle.
These plants grow fast and can spread out several feet in larger varieties. However, there are also smaller versions known as 'balcony geraniums.'
While they can handle a bit of frost, they wilt quickly in extreme heat. So, if you're in love with this type of geranium, but live in a warmer climate, make sure to position them in a shaded spot.
Interspecific Hybrid Geraniums
The Interspecific Hybrid Geranium, a cross between zonal and ivy geraniums, beautifully combines the best of both types. It blooms continuously, with stems that stand upright and trail slightly over their containers.
Unlike its parent types, it copes well with heat, making it a superb choice for porches in hot regions like the Southeastern US.
The Scented geranium, as the name suggests, is known for its fragrant nature. But it's the leaves, not the flowers, that carry the aroma.
From apple and lemon to rose, mint, orange, and even chocolate, there's a whole bouquet of scents available.
Unlike typical geraniums, these don't flaunt large blooms but produce smaller pink and white flowers.
However, their real charm lies in the delicate fragrance released when their leaves are brushed or rubbed. If you're seeking a plant to add a pleasant aroma to your space, this geranium is a fantastic choice.
Martha Washington Geraniums
Martha Washington Geraniums, also known as Regal Geraniums, boast large, striking flowers perfect for floral arrangements, gardens, and porch pots.
They're somewhat unique in the geranium family as they prefer cooler, wetter climates found in zones 5 to 10, unlike most geraniums that love warm, dry climates.
They don't last long in a garden, so this plant might not be the best choice if you want something for all summer. However, if you're after a showstopper bloom, these geraniums are a superb choice.
How and When to Start Seeds Indoors
Now that you know what kind of geranium will work best for your plant project, let's talk about growing them.
While you can definitely go buy some at your local garden center or nursery, plants that start from seeds typically grow better in the long run.
First off, start early
Begin around four months before you plan to plant your geraniums outside. They germinate and grow slowly, so they need ample time to become big and strong before moving them outdoors.
Fill a seed tray with good potting soil
Each hole needs enough soil for you to plant your seeds in. Once you've got the soil in, spray over the soil with a water spray bottle to moisten the soil. Don't soak it, just get it a little damp for your new geranium seeds.
Plant your seeds.
Place one seed per pocket in the seed tray, then add about 1/8th of an inch of soil on top. Moisten the soil again with your spray bottle.
Cover your seed trays with plastic wrap.
Wrap each tray with plastic wrap to trap in the moisture from the soil. Then put your tray in an indoor spot that has indirect light and stays around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds germinate.
Once you see small green sprigs emerging from the soil within 1-4 weeks, the plastic wrap has fulfilled its purpose and can be discarded.
Move your seed trays under a grow light.
Place your seed trays 6 inches under a grow light for 12-16 hours daily. Direct sunlight is too harsh for young seedlings. Remember to keep the soil moist with a spray bottle to prevent drying out and promote healthy growth.
Keep a fan on them.
We aren't trying to cool off the seedlings, so keep it on the lowest setting. A light breeze on your plants will encourage strong growth in the stems to keep them from being damaged once they move outside. A simple box fan will work fine for this as long as the air isn't blowing too hard.
Fertilize your seedlings.
Mix a good water-soluble fertilizer with water at around a quarter of the recommended strength, then pour it around the potting soil once per week to fertilize your seedlings.
Pinch them off.
Once your seedlings start getting around 4-6 inches tall, start pinching off the upper portion of each stem. This will encourage them to grow out rather than up, ensuring dense mounds rather than leggy stems.
Harden off the seedlings.
One week before planting geraniums outside, begin hardening them off. Start with two hours daily in a sheltered location, gradually increasing time and sunlight exposure.
By planting time, seedlings will acclimate to being outside. Wait until the last frost has passed, as tender seedlings can die quickly if exposed to frost.
Choosing a Planting Location for Your Geraniums
Geraniums are relatively easy to grow but have specific needs. They can be planted outside in a garden or placed in pots for outdoor decoration or as indoor houseplants. Make sure their requirements are met to prevent them from fading.
Ready to plant your geraniums outside? First, check the weather to ensure you're past the last frost; a heavy frost can kill young geranium plants overnight.
Once you're into warmer weather, examine the soil. Geraniums prefer light and fluffy soil with enough nitrogen and a pH level between 5.8-6.5. If you're unsure, a soil test from a garden store can help.
Drainage is vital as well; you can test this by digging an 8-inch hole, filling it with water, and checking for standing water after a few hours.
Geraniums also need 6-8 hours of daily sun but appreciate some shade during intense summer heat to prevent leaf burn.
Lastly, ensure enough space for your plants to spread, typically 8-12 inches between them, but check the specific instructions for your geranium variety.
When planting geraniums indoors, the process is generally more controlled than planting outdoors, but there are still essential considerations.
You should have a well-drained pot, avoiding a saucer that might retain water and cause soggy soil. The chosen pot should be a few inches larger than the expected growth size of your geranium, providing plenty of room for growth.
Your potting soil should be light, fluffy, and rich in nitrogen content, and incorporating some organic materials can be a great choice.
Finally, the location of your potted geranium is vital. Place it where it can receive abundant daily sunlight, such as in front of a window or in a sunroom.
Preparing the Soil for Geraniums
For thriving geraniums, soil preparation is essential. Ensure it's well-drained, nutrient-rich, and at the right pH level. This isn't just planting; it's creating the foundation for a vibrant garden. Proper care in the beginning leads to beautiful blooms later.
Geraniums love soils that are lighter and fluffy. Heavy soils like clay don't encourage the growth of this plant well. To improve denser soils, mix in sphagnum peat moss, leaf mold, organic compost, or composted manure. This will help circulate air through the soil and make it lighter.
Need to fix poor soil drainage? Start by removing any large rocks. Still having issues? Mix in 3-4 inches of compost. It'll lighten the soil, allowing water to filter through.
Determine Nitrogen and pH Levels
Geraniums require soil rich in nitrogen and prefer slightly acidic conditions, with pH levels falling between 5.8 and 6.5. Soil testing kits, available at garden supply and hardware stores, can provide this information.
If the soil's nitrogen content is found to be deficient, it may be amended with commercial soil mixes, compost, or specific nitrogen-boosting fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers with bloom-boosting properties are particularly effective.
To adjust the pH levels of the soil to the slightly acidic range preferred by geraniums, organic materials such as manures, vermicompost, vinegar, or peat moss can be mixed into the soil.
Alternatively, sulfur-containing synthetic fertilizers like ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate can be used to increase soil acidity.
Geranium growers should be vigilant for signs of iron deficiency, manifesting as yellowing leaves with dark green veins.
This issue can arise when acidity levels are modified in alkaline soils. Correcting this deficiency is as simple as spraying the affected plants with an iron sulfate mixture, thus restoring them to optimal health.
For those opting to grow geraniums indoors, the preparation process is notably less complex. A quality all-purpose potting soil, supplemented with an appropriate fertilizer, will generally suffice.
To learn more about geranium fertilizers, check out this article: 9 Best Fertilizers For Geranium [Gardening Advice & Suggestions]
With the location selected and the soil prepared, it's time to plant your geraniums. This straightforward process requires attention to depth and spacing, and you'll soon enjoy the vibrant beauty of these flowers.
Planting Geraniums in Pots
Choose the right pot for planting your geraniums, taking into account the weight and material that suits your needs. Clean the pot to eliminate any pests or germs, and fill it with well-draining soil mixed with organic materials.
When preparing the geranium, remove it from its original container and loosen the soil around the root ball. Place the plant in the pot, making sure the root ball is level with the soil surface, but avoid covering the stem to prevent rot.
Once the geranium is in its new pot, water it immediately at the soil level, avoiding the leaves. Adding a water-soluble fertilizer at this stage can give the new plant everything it needs to thrive.
Geranium Plant Care and Maintenance
Now that you've gotten your geraniums in their perfect place, be it a garden or a pot, you're ready to enjoy them. To keep enjoying them, though, you do need to do a few little things to make sure they stay happy and healthy.
If your plants are indoors the best thing you can do is to make sure they have well-draining potting soil with a good amount of organic material mixed in. Keep the temperature between 65 and 70 F during the day and no lower than 55 F at night.
During the day, you also need to make sure that your plants get between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight. If you live in an area that doesn't get that much sun, simply invest in a grow light for plants to supplement.
Water your plant deeply at the soil level once the soil begins to feel dry.
If your plants are outdoors in a garden or pot, you need to water them weekly if they're planted in the ground. If they're planted in a pot and the temperatures are high, you may need to water them daily. Keep a check on the soil and if it feels dry, go ahead and water your plant at soil level.
Encouraging Geranium Growth
To promote healthy growth in your geraniums, it's recommended to apply a water-soluble fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. This consistent nourishment ensures the plants remain vibrant and thriving.
Promoting Bloom Production
Deadheading your geranium, or removing the spent flowers, encourages the geranium to produce more blooms. To do this, clip the stems of the dying flowers at the base and remove them from the plant. If you spot a flower that's already lost its petals, snip it from the plant as well.
Make sure to clean your scissors or shears between each deadheading session to keep from spreading diseases.
Making Sure Geraniums in Pots Have Enough Room
If your geranium is in a pot, you may need to re-pot it as it grows. If you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes or if your plant keeps tipping over, it's time for a move.
Choose a pot that is 2-3 inches larger than the one your geranium is currently in, allowing for more room to grow.
Keeping a Geranium Bushy Rather Than Leggy
Avoid tall, scraggly geraniums by pinching off the tops of stems that grow too high, as this can cause them to lose their lower leaves.
Start in the spring, and if stems grow more than a few inches, snip or pinch the top 1/4-1/2 inch off the end. This encourages outward growth, resulting in a bushier and fuller appearance, as the geranium will sprout two new stems in place of the one removed.
Aphids are quickly taken care of with either ladybugs or insecticidal soaps, both of which are available at garden supply stores. A major pest for geraniums, geranium budworms, are taken care of either by picking them off by hand or with synthetic pyrethrin pesticides, also available at garden supply stores.
Geraniums are sensitive to cold temperatures, and those planted in the garden may not survive the winter. To preserve them, you can overwinter your geraniums.
Start by digging up the plants and potting them, then cut them back to one-third of their original size. Water them well and allow the soil to dry. Before the cold weather really hits, bring them inside and cover them with a paper bag to encourage dormancy.
Store them in a cool, dry place until spring, and you'll be able to enjoy your geraniums year after year, even in regions that experience cold winters.
Geranium stands out as a remarkable gem among plants. Its ability to flourish with minimal care, combined with the brilliant flowers it produces, makes it an ideal choice for gardeners.
Whether enhancing the interior of your home or adding vibrant touches to your garden, the cultivation of geraniums is an easily achievable goal.
Embrace the little care they require, and you'll find yourself rewarded with a treasure trove of floral beauty that continues to captivate and inspire.