Geraniums are one of the most popular and commonly used bedding out plants.
Geraniums are available in a wide range of colors; from red, scarlet, pink, coral, salmon, peach, orange, lavender, to white. In recent years, Geraniums have become more popular with their many colors and new varieties.
Geraniums are used in many areas in the yard including flower beds, pots, planters and hanging baskets.
Many container grown geraniums are killed because of improper watering. It's not sufficient to just give the plant a squirt with the hose or to pour in 2-3 cups of water. The water register is the area between the surface of the soil and the top of the container. Fill the water register until water runs out the bottom of the container. The plant needs to be thoroughly watered so the soil is wet all the way to the center of the root ball.
Check the plants' need for watering by looking at the soil. Scratch the soil surface with your finger. If the soil is barely moist or dry below the surface layer, the plant needs watering. Anything wetter than barely moist, should probably wait. So much depends on the weather. If we are in the midst of a heat wave, or if the plant is exposed to dry winds, it may need watering more often to maintain it through the day. Container plants should be watered in the morning hours if possible.
Remember, as plants receive more sunlight, their demand for water and fertilizer increases. Begin fertilizing in the spring when you see signs of growth. Fertilize lightly or not at all during the cold winter months.
While the type of soil is important, it's not too critical because geraniums will grow in any kind of soil providing there is good drainage. They will not tolerate a wet feel. Soggy soil will become sour, resulting in a sick plant. A good mix should have excellent drainage, good aeration, and good water retention capability. It should also be heavy enough to retain enough moisture for the plant and light enough to allow for drying out during cloudy days without the danger of salt build-up.
Most Geraniums prefer full sunlight in a west or south location, needing approximately 6 hrs. of sun each day. Martha Washington Geraniums prefer partial shade in a north or east orientation. For watering, keep the soil moist until the roots are established, after which Geraniums are considered to be semi- drought tolerant. Fertilize every week or two during the growing season with a complete fertilizer such as 20-30-20.
Geraniums may be kept from year to year, as they are technically perennials grown as annuals. There are 3 methods of overwintering Geraniums:
- It may be treated like an indoor house plant, giving it as much light as possible in a south or west window. If the plant gets stretched out or spindly in winter, prune it back by pinching off the large, lanky leaves and long stems.
- The second method involves lifting the plant out of the pot, shaking off as much soil as possible, and storing it in a cool, dark box. Keep the roots covered with a moist cloth which maintains the plant's life at a bare minimum.
- Another method is also shaking the soil off the root system and then storing the plant upside down in a garage or other area where the temperature hovers just above freezing.
With the last 2 methods, plant in pots in early March and water with a high Phosphorus fertilizer to initiate root growth. With all of the above 3 methods, plant the Geraniums outside at the end of May when the danger of frost is over.