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Past Articles Library | Growing and Caring for Geraniums

Geraniums are an annual staple that many gardeners combine in container gardens.  But did you know that there are three different types of geraniums that can create different looks in your garden space.  To begin the discussion, we will start with the most common geranium that can be found in garden nurseries, super stores, and even grocery stores.

Zonal Geranium

These geraniums can be considered a tender perennial but in most gardens they are grown as annuals.  The zonal geranium’s growth habit is that of a small bush that is covered with blooms that appear as flower clusters or umbels) on tall stems.  These umbels contain many individual flowers that can be white, rose, salmon, cherry red, and even bicolored. 

When purchased, these plants can be found in 4 inch pots but when moved to the garden they can grow to a mature size of 18 inches in height and width.  Container grown zonal geraniums will mature to a smaller size.

Zonal geraniums are propagated through seed and stem cuttings.  While the propagating by seed will not produce huge plants, it is fun to just try your hand at growing zonal geraniums from seed.

To start your zonal geranium seeds, begins with preparing a pot or flat.  This process starts off with cleaning and sterilizing the container.  This is easily done by filling a basin with water and a capful of bleach.  Next, place the container in the water and soak.  After a few minutes, scrub the container to remove soil and rinse in clear water. 

Once the container is dry, fill with an all purpose potting medium.  Water the soil until you see moisture come out of the bottom.  Sprinkle seeds on the surface of the soil and cover with ¼ inch of soil.  Place the container in a clear plastic bag or cover with plastic.  Put the covered container in a warm location. 

In 7 to 10 days, you should see little green shoots appear.  Once this happens, open up the bag or loosen the plastic cover to allow air to circulate.  Move the container into the sunlight and only remove the plastic completely when the true leaves appear.

You can then move your geraniums to the garden space in 10 to 12 weeks.

If you want your geraniums sooner then you will need to do cuttings.  This should occur 8 to 12 weeks prior to your local frost free date. 

The process involved in stem cuttings is easy and starts with clean containers as described above.  Once you have that, fill with vermiculite and water in.

Next, take a 2 to 3 inch stem cutting from the zonal geranium at an angle.  Remove all the leaves on the stem from the cut end so that only 1/3 of the leaves remain on the top.  Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone and push down into the vermiculite.  Once all cuttings have been taken, water the vermiculite again.  Place in a sunny location.  Monitor the moisture level and only water when the top ½ inch of vermiculite becomes dry.

Move the cutting(s) to a larger container once the cutting has become rooted.

The zonal geranium looks wonderful in formal gardens or along walkways.  To maximize the color impact, make sure to arrange them in threes or more.  When it comes to planting them in a container, utilize them by themselves or combine them with other sun loving plants.           

Scented Geranium

As the name applies, scented geraniums have an aroma, which is released from the leaves when they are brushed up against or crushed. 

This type of geraniums comes from a diverse group whose mature size is around 2 feet.  The leaves are varied in shape.  They all are green but some varieties are variegated with white.  While other types of geraniums are grown for their flowers, which in this case can be white, pink or purple, this is not the situation with the scented geranium.  Yes, this plant does flower but the flowers are small in comparison to other types of geraniums. 

When it comes to propagating the scented geranium, the process is the same as for the zonal type.

Scented geraniums work great in container gardens.  When using them is this way, make sure to keep them near your home so that you can enjoy their aroma.  They can also be used in the herb garden and as border plants, which when used in the latter add a unique and delicate splash of color. 

Ivy-Leaf Geranium

The ivy-leaf geranium is one with a long stem that easily trails down the side of a pot. While older varieties have an issue with drought conditions, the European type is more tolerant to of this issue. They also produce more flowers than the older varieties.

As with any of the geraniums described above, ivy-leaf geraniums are propagated through stem cuttings is less commonly done through seed.

When propagating an ivy-leaf geranium, make sure to pull your calendar out and count back 10 to 12 weeks from your local frost free date. Take the cuttings as described previously. To encourage bushiness of the plant, pinch the top of the cuttings off at least once prior to moving outside.

This type of geranium likes a location that is in full sun but if the local temperatures soar over 85 degrees Fahrenheit then you will need to plant them in partial shade. Beyond this, ivy-leaf geraniums need a moist soil but not wet. To keep them looking their best, check the soil often and water accordingly to avoid any drought condition.

Looking for some ideas by which you can display your ivy-leaf geraniums? Well, one of the common uses for this annual is as a container plant. This can be the spiller component of any container garden design. They can also be used in a mass display in a hanging basket. In the landscape, consider planting it on top of a retaining wall so that it can decorate a boring space with color and texture. Another use is one that most people do not think of and that is using ivy-leaf geraniums as a ground cover. 

While geraniums are a summer staple in gardens, and containers, now you know the options by which to decorate your outdoor living space with simple geranium.


 
 








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