Geraniums are one of the most popular bedding plants, but they are also commonly grown indoors or outside in hanging baskets. They are a classic and recognizable flowering plant for American gardens. You’ll often see these plants lining the steps of a front entry or in groupings on a light-filled stoop. Geraniums are also extremely easy to care for as long as you give them what they need. They are simple to plant and require very little maintenance, which is part of the reason why they are so popular. By taking a few things into consideration, you too can maintain a lush, flowering garden.
In general, geraniums are full-sun plants. They do best in locations where they can receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. However, depending on where or how your grow your geraniums, their needs will be different. If you live in the warmest areas of the country provide shade during the hottest parts of the day. If you are planting Martha Washington and ivy geraniums, provide light shade when the temperatures soar, no matter the region you live in. When grown indoors, geraniums need lots of light for blooming but will tolerate moderate light conditioner. They prefer temperatures around 65-70 degrees F. during the day and 55 degrees F. at night. If your area is not full sun, don’t worry. Geraniums are highly versatile and will grow well in partial sun or shade as long as the soil is fertile and well drained.
Geraniums need to be grown in fertile, well-drained soil. Start growing your plants in spring after the last hard frost. If planting in the ground, space them between 6 and 24 inches apart. If planting in pots, don’t overcrowd the space. When planting geraniums from a nursery, space plants about 8-12 inches apart and around the same depth as their original planting pots. In planting beds, add organic matter to improve soil drainage and fertility. For pots, use a well-draining potting soil. You can also add mulch to help retain moisture.
These plants also have big appetites. Mix a slow-release fertilizer into their beds and pots at planting time. Then for flowering types like zonal and ivy geraniums, about 4 weeks later start applying a liquid fertilizer booster every other week. For scented geraniums or fancy leaf types with colorful foliage, use an all-purpose fertilizer starting about 4-6 weeks after planting and continue every other week.
With proper care and favorable conditions, your geraniums will bloom through early fall. Even more, if you plant in containers, you can bring them indoors to overwinter them.
Routinely water to keep your flowers at their peak. Water your plants early in the day to avoid standing water on leaves overnight, which can lead to disease. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings to help avoid root rot, but do not allow the leaves to wilt. If you notice wilting, do not overcompensate with extra water. This can lead to leaf drop. For the best results, stick to a consistent watering schedule.
Indoor or potted plants require repotting when they have become overgrown. You can tell when flowers are overgrown when they start to wilt between waterings. When watering, avoid overhead irrigation as this can lead to pests or disease issues. These flowers, in particular, are prone to fungal and leaf spot diseases, especially during periods of prolonged wet weather. Protect them by ensuring they have adequate air flow. However, choose your location carefully. Too little airflow can lead to diseases, but too much can break stems.
Regular deheading is also necessary to prevent fungal diseases from developing on dead blooms. Snap flower stems off at the base. If you notice fuzzy fungus starting to grow on flowers, remove any that show mold, whether or not they have opened. This prevents the entire plant from being overrun with fungus.