Plant Talk – Geraniums

Plant Talk – Geraniums

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So many plants…Hmmm…think I should cover geraniums!

When I mention geraniums to people, I get a couple of responses…either 1) Mine stop blooming when it gets hot or 2) Ewww…what about those worms?And some people just don’t like them..Maybe it’s because they’ve been around so long that it just can’t be hip to like them!

But I love geraniums! They’re easy to grow and have reliable blooms, adding beautiful color until frost. They have nice full foliage too, so make a great addition to a  mixed planter. Okay, so they’re a little extra work… 🙂

Geraniums do best in full sun, but can also take a little bit of shade. They also like to be dry, and over-watering can kill them. This is especially important if the temperature gets above 90 degrees. If it gets that hot and you over-water, the roots will turn to mush and they will die. When the temperatures do get up there, you should cut way back on watering, even in full sun.

They are also heavy feeders, meaning they take a lot of fertilizer. Of course you still have to follow the directions on the fertilizer, but they will be best with more frequent applications. When I want more blooms, I will use a liquid fertilizer once a week on them in addition to the slow-release one I use in the soil. No, not all summer long because that’s too much work…just when I’m preparing for a special event.

Budworms are a moth caterpillar that feed on the geranium flowers. Mother Nature controls this, so there’s nothing you can do to prevent them from getting on the flowers. So we practice damage control. If you want the least amount of damage, then use a spray of Spinosad every other week once the caterpillars start showing up. On the other hand, if you don’t care if your flowers go a couple of weeks without blooms, you can just skip it.

Rocky Mountain Red

There are a few types of geraniums that I would like to share with you. First, we are all familiar with the standard geranium, right? Of of my favorite varieties of these is the Rocky Mountain series. It grows a little bigger (both flowers and leaves) than other varieties, so it makes a nice filler in a pot. It comes in bright, bold colors (red, orange and violet). It also makes a great pot of (just) geraniums!

Americana Pink

One of the prettiest pink geraniums you can buy is Americana Pink. One thing I learned about this one in particular is that it is much less tolerant of being over-watered than most. Several years ago, it rained for about 5 days straight in the spring and I had planted a large group of these; I ended up losing every one of them! So that was a lesson I won’t forget! I had no control over the rain, but I would never use that variety on a large scale anymore.

Besides your standard geranium, there is an exotic geranium.

Exotic Geranium
Exotic Geranium

These plants have smaller flowers, but have beautiful variegated leaves which make a nice addition to a mixed planter.

A trailing geranium is one of my favorite geraniums to use in pots. It just blooms and blooms all summer long. It creates a nice filling effect too, so it acts as both a filler and a spiller.

Trailing Geranium
Trailing Geranium

Additionally, there is a scented geranium which does bloom, but it’s not a great bloom. It’s used for its lacy foliage and great scent. These are usually sold in with the herbs. They actually make a nice addition to an herb pot!

And finally, there is a perennial geranium which I don’t recommend for pots. Most of your perennials, including this one, bloom only for a few weeks and are finished for the season. If I’m going to plant something for its bloom, then I want it to bloom for a long time!

So while geraniums do add great color, they do require some work from us. In addition to the heavy feeding and the budworms, they should also be deadheaded on a regular basis. When you water them, be sure to water onto the soil and not onto the flower as the water will damage the flowers and you will have more deadheading to do.

So I know they’re a lot of work, but this is why we love them!






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